I had an 8:40 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays that semester. OR&IE 350, Financial and Managerial Accounting, with Professor Callister. I think it was in Olin Hall. That class went just like it always had. Back then, however, technology wasn't what it is today. With the smartphones of 2011, word of the terrorist attacks would have spread like wildfire. But on that day, nobody seemed the wiser as the events unfolded, nor did anybody rush in and break the news. When I walked out just before ten o'clock, it was still a normal day to me.
350 was my only class on Tuesday, so I worked in the Campus Store from 10:30 to 5:30. Between class and work, I made a quick detour to Uris Library to check my e-mail. I logged into the telnet application, and got my first indication that anything was amiss - bone-L, the trombone section e-mail list, had blown up. Still, since I didn't have the background, a lot of the e-mails seemed cryptic to me. I brought up the CNN home page...and then I knew.
I took a couple of minutes to digest the enormity of the situation, and then headed for work. We were two hundred and twenty-five miles to the northwest. There was nothing that I could do right then. And I didn't know anybody who worked in any of the affected sites, so there was no checking up for me to do. As I arrived at the store, the North Tower was collapsing, and that's when the full force of these attacks truly began to resonate. For the next seven hours, I continued to watch events unfold on a giant television screen on the store's second floor, as I served the customers, who were themselves in varying states of disbelief and shock. When I got done with work, I'm sure I ate dinner, and then got home and turned on the coverage again. I watched it late into the night. I don't recall whether the scheduled band rehearsal was canceled, but even if it wasn't, I didn't go.
I'm not going to rehash what happened to me subsequently, having already written about it here.
Here's what I wrote here two days after 9/11. Upon looking it over again, it seems my caution was warranted. A couple of days ago, I was alerted to this piece by Reason's Jesse Walker written ten days after the attacks. Walker laid out six options, and we chose number five - the "Caesar" option, a long war. I recently watched the 2000 movie Deterrence, and I recall one quote from Sheryl Lee Ralph, playing the National Security Advisor: "Now the thing about jihad is, you know when you've lost the war, you just don't know when you've won." So it is with the War on Terror. Many will point to the death of Osama bin Laden on my last birthday as a clear victory in this war, and a major step toward ultimate victory. But there's a very convincing argument that that milestone is a Pyrrhic triumph. We have made the payment of liberty about which Benjamin Franklin warned us, but whether that sacrifice has brought us the security we sought is still highly debatable. The entrance of the phrase "security theater" into our lexicon is Exhibit A of that. It will take more than the simple withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan to bring this long campaign to a truly successful conclusion. Not until we fully roll back the "9/14 presidency" will we actually and finally win.