On the morning of September 11, 2011 I boarded a Southwest flight from Midway airport with my great friend and colleague Reed Roussel. We were both headed to Ft. Knox Kentucky for a full day worth of meetings with our United States Army client. When we landed in Kentucky, the first plane had already met its fate by flying directly into the twin towers.
We were oblivious to everything that had transpired as we hopped into our Enterprise rental car and started the 45 minute trek to Ft. Knox. During the ride over, little did we know, plane #2 had also crashed. This was 2001 and cell phones weren’t exactly in high use. The behavior of having it practically glued to your hand just didn’t exist. I did notice a call from my wife and Reed noticed a call from his mom, but we ignored them both. They were well aware of the tragedy and were trying to reach us to make sure we were both OK.
When we arrived at the post, there was something off. The vibe was all wrong. An hour into our visit (55 minutes of which were spent waiting for the client) we finally learned from our client that 2 planes had flown into the twin towers and it was to our advantage that we leave the post immediately. Why? Because, in about 10 minutes the post would be on lock down and all non-military personnel would be placed “under suspicion.” To be honest, we were still confused about the situation, but we had no desire to be locked up on the post.
Reed and I hopped in the car, called the airline, learned all flights were canceled, then called Enterprise and explained we would not be returning the car to the airport. Instead, we would be driving to Chicago and returning it there. We started the journey from Ft. Knox to Chicago. The roads were strangely empty. Keep in mind, at this point, while the rest of the country was transfixed to the television coverage, we hadn’t seen anything. With no smartphones, our only real option was the radio. The irony, was, the only radio station that was coming through was the one carrying Howard Stern. For the next 2 hours we listened to Howard Stern. He was our connection to the outside world and was the one who brought us up to speed on what had happened. It wasn’t till we stopped for lunch, that we saw our first visual. We were awe struck. Stunned. It’s hard to put into words the emotions running thorough me. I’m a born and raised New Yorker; this hit hard.
10 years ago, I learned about 9/11 via the radio. I learned about operation Desert Storm via television. When Sadam Hussein was captured, I learned about it via the web. Last night, I learned about death of Osama Bin Laden via text message first, then Twitter. The text message I received instructed me to check out Twitter, not turn on the TV. After reading the news, I found a TV and saw the president’s speech. As I watched his delivery, I couldn’t help but think about how we’ve evolved as a society…how our sharing has changed…how our means for connection have evolved. We operate in a real time and always on demand society. I think this was the first real moment where that wasn’t just rhetoric, for me, but a truly shared experience.