Sunday, September 11, 2011

5 Years After Five Years After 9/11

Today's 9/11 remembrances have given way to football (save for the slew of prime time specials on the stations not carrying NFL games), but I thought I'd post my Sept. 11, 2001 memory anyway.

Here's the entry I did in 2006, back for the now-defunct AOL Journals product, part of John Scalzi's "Weekend Assignment" series. This will be an edited version, removing dead links and adding a few annotations:


Remembering 9/11

I'm going to use blogger John's Weekend Assignment #128, 9/11, Five Years On as the starting point for this entry, then keep it going.

It starts out a little self-indulgent, hope you don't mind.

Now, I've don't think I've ever blogged about my memories of 9/11. Five years ago, I was the AOL.com home page programming manager -- I did the content for the www.aol.com main page. Back then, there wasn't much content on the main page (compared to now), but it was still enough to keep one guy -- me -- busy.

I was getting ready to leave my house at around 9am, when I got a call from Gina, one of my co-workers. She'd asked me if I'd been watching the news. I hadn't, so I turned on CNN.

One of the towers was smoking, and the caption said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I let out a laugh of disbelief (there's a Soul Coughing song, "Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago," that starts with the lyric, "A man, drives a plane, into the Chrysler building" -- it was all I could think about).

I told her I was on my way in and turned off the TV. To this day, I'm not sure if I'd just missed watching Flight 175 hit the South Tower, or if it has already been hit. Either way, I'm glad I didn't see it happen live.

The office was just about 15 minutes away. I listened to the news on the way in. Like most people, I'd thought it was some small plane that had hit; as I kept listening, I realized just how wrong I was. I started driving faster.

I pretty much skidded into the parking lot and ran to my desk. I had to get the home page updated -- there were two autofed My News top headlines, but I needed to get the promo spot, as tiny as it was -- as 63x63 graphic with a few lines of text -- updated.

Now, the Internet Archive has some versions saved of AOL.com from back then (here's 9/14/01 -- you'll need to turn off Javascript, or it will redirect to the current site).

(The Archive shows the non-signed in view of AOL.com -- back in 2001, we focused on AOL members who were coming from inside the AOL client software, or who signed on from the Web to check their Webmail. Since we were concentrating on members, when we took the other advertising off the page, we left a big honkin' [for its time] billboard ad up on the non-signed in view. That's what shows up in the Archive, of course.)

Anyway, the photo department folks were on the ball, so I was able to publish my promo quickly. I guess I knew that this was important, so I saved a local copy of the page (screen shot below):
We later pulled off all the advertising, including that "Sign on a Friend" text promo, but that hadn't happened yet.
A short time later, we got the word to evacuate and go home. The parking garage was chaotic, and after a few minutes, I just decided to stay; I wasn't trying to be stoic -- I just didn't see the point of going home (sorry, Jeff K.)

I headed up to the AOL Newsroom, found a empty cube with a view of the TV and set up. Looking back, I was just glad to be keeping busy, even if it was ultimately just updating a few lines of text and some photos on a Web page. It kept me from staring at the events on the TV.

I remember at one point, Steve Case came in; he called us all into the News conference room, thanked us for being there and told us keep doing our jobs.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. We were hearing all kinds of stories -- car bomb at the State Dept., the USA Today building had been hit (it turned out to be smoke from the Pentagon across the river).

Eventually, I went home. I didn't sleep well.

The next few days were all about trying to keep up with the flow of information, and to get it out there. This included a request from Pentagon public information folks to add contact info to the main page, which we did, gladly (the Pentagon is only about 30 miles from here -- lots of folks who work there live in the area):


Like I said, it was just pushing words and pictures around, but I later figured out that a few hundred thousand folks, maybe more, had clicked through to the news and help resources that we'd linked to. Sure, they would have gotten it from somewhere else, but it made me feel less useless.

When the weekend came, I went with a friend of mine to a temporary Salvation Army distribution center that they'd set up in Alexandria to help support the rescue and recovery efforts at the Pentagon. We just wanted to do something concrete, even if it was just taking shopping bags of donations from people and putting them in the right spot in a warehouse so they could be packed up and shipped out.

There were more a lot more people than they needed, people who just wanted to help. They didn't turn anyone away.

I knew what I was doing was just busy work, but it was gratifying to see so many people who wanted to help, and so many people who were donating stuff. That's one of the things that I want to remember most -- people wanted to help.

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I think that for this 5-year anniversary of 9/11, there's a reemphasis on remembering what happened that day. Maybe it's because of the movies that have come out recently, or the troops abroad at war. Here are a few things that are going on around the Web and blogosphere:

* The 2,996 Project is a tribute to the victims of 9/11, where volunteer bloggers are posting memorials for each one of the 2,996 victims. They've already gotten at least one blogger for each memorial, and they're going around again.

AOL Journalers participating in the project include>Andi, Raven, Gigi, Donna, Jackie, Delaine, Barbara, midmofreeper, Christine, Kathy, Nat, Cindy, Millie, Kathy; there are a bunch of others -- many will be posting their tributes on Monday.

* Al Tompkins over at Al's Morning Meeting takes a look at how some of the changes felt immediately after 9/11 did or didn't last over the long term.

* AOL Book Maven blogger Bethanne Patrick highlights some of the books about 9/11

* As I mentioned, you can use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine to search to find Web pages before, during and after 9/11 (or most other dates after 1996).

* You can remember 9/11 by donating over at Network for Good; also, you can make a pledge to help via MyGoodDeed.org (you can also check out profiles for MyGoodDeed.org on both AIM Pages and MySpace.

* Also, search for more blog content on 9/11 on blog search engines, Technorati, AOL Journals, Feedster and Sphere.

I'll be updating this entry with more links and resources, so please feel free to leave me a link in the comments.

Thanks -- Joe

1 comment:

Kathi said...

I remember reading this post 'back in the day'. so many things have changed for all of us since those days.