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Jeff's Journal

For the memories.

It has been said that the shuttle disaster was the JFK of my generation. Indeed, I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard about the shuttle blowing up (freshman in high school, standing at my locker when the guy with the locker next to mine told me about it). Why do I need two of these kinds of events in my life?


I was at IU/Bloomington. We were having a working meeting of members of the OSCAR core group. September 11th was the second day of the working meeting. We had worked until about 10pm the night before, and I had gotten in to the conference room a little early that morning to write some notes up on the board, outlining what we had decided the nigh before, etc.

A few minutes after 8am (Central time), the first of the others walked in the room and said, "Did you hear the news? A few minutes ago, a plane slammed into the World Trade Center in New York."

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, the rest of the OSCAR group came in and each had a new bit of information: a second plane slammed into the second tower. Rumors of a plane hitting the pentagon. And so on.

Brian came in during this time with the router so that we could all hook up our laptops and start surfing the web to find some concrete information. Unfortunately, as it was happening, there was little information on the web. News sites were hard to reach; cnn.com was especially difficult to get to. It took quite a while to get hard details from the web, and rumors abounded (sensationalistic journalists didn't help, either).

Since we had limited time together, we tried to work through the day, and tried to not surf for news except during our breaks. Reports of the towers falling down were met with initial disbelief (comments like "I can't believe that that's true"); it took quite a long time before concrete confirmations were available on the internet.

Several of the OSCAR group members were federal employees (they're researchers for the federal labs), so they got updates from their home offices via cell phone and e-mail fairly regularly. Most of them had closed for the day, and/or gone to higher alert statuses. Notre Dame closed. IU didn't. Brian mentioned that he was glad that he wasn't at Sandia; Sandia is physically located on an Air Force base -- the security there (particularly since they do Secret stuff at Sandia) must be super-tight.

Some of the OSCAR folks had driven to IU, so they had no problems getting home. Others had flown in from far away; they had to drive back home because all the flights were canceled. Luckily, they all had rental cars already, so they at least didn't have to fight to get a car.

There were oodles of IU students hanging around in lobbies and hallways watching TV's with shocked looks on their faces. Most were spellbound. I have to admit, that I kinda envied them on the ability to just sit back for the entire day and soak it in -- we had to work through the day, and it was quite distracting to think of the tragedy unfolding; work seemed rather trite at some points during the day.

Heading home after the meeting, I was walking off the edge of the IU campus and saw a lot of film cameras and TV gear. I saw some guy doing promos for a special episode of "America's Most Wanted" for this Saturday evening. Why the AMW crew was in Bloomington, I have no idea. But apparently there's going to be some special episode (about the WTC attacks, of course) this Saturday evening on FOX. There you go...

I had only about a half tank of gas; it takes roughly about a half tank of gas to get from Louisville to Bloomington with the AC on. So I figured that I'd have to stop at a gas station on the way out of Bloomies. I turned on the radio (it was still tuned to Bob-n-Tom's native station in Indianapolis) and head more updates on what had been happening during the day (remember: I had pretty much been limited to internet information all day). I heard Bob (from the Bob-n-Tom show) talking about it, and reporting on various effects across the country.

He mentioned about how there was already some price gouging on gas going on in Indianapolis and how there were really long lines in some places. He strongly said (paraphrasing), "Look folks, there's no need for this. Getting gas is not going to help you. The prices are not going to go up, and if they are, it's temporary greed."

Sure enough, all throughout Bloomies, there were lines at all the gas stations. The prices seemed normal, though.

"No problem," I though. "I have to drive through a lot of nowheresville, IN. Surely there will be a gas station in one of these small towns that doesn't have super long lines." So I headed out of Bloomies and started on my normal back roads way home.

Amazing. Even in Nowheresville, IN, there were lines. At the first 3 gas stations that I passed in random small towns in Indiana, big lines. One of them had prices over $2.

I finally found one with no lines. So I pulled up behind someone, waited for them to finish, and then drove up to the pump. The station had some kind of problem with their pay-at-the-pump system because my credit card failed to work twice in a row (even though it worked for the woman in front of me). By this time, lines were starting to grow. Amazing.

So I went inside to pay and saw that, indeed, their credit card system was down. So there was a long line to pay as well. I heard some interesting conversation while in that gas station in good old, rural Indiana. Suffice it to say that I consider most of what I heard to be uninformed, racially- and anger- motivated, and generally completely ignorant. I won't even dignify repeating what I heard here.

I finally drove out of there (fortunately, I had cash) and drove the rest of the way home without incident.

I found out more information from the radio than I had gotten all day from the internet (granted, much more time had now elapsed, and there was generally more information available anyway). Tracy's day had been similar to mine -- she didn't find out until sometime after 10am (Eastern time), but they pretty much tried to keep working throughout the day. TVs were on, but people tried to keep working.

Lots of companies (including GE) have made today an "optional" day, and GE has organized a blood drive here in Louisville. I'll probably wait for the lines to die down a bit and head over (might actually be tomorrow) because I have O- blood, which is the universal donor.


So that's my story. I just put it here for posterity.

God Bless America.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 12, 2001 3:12 AM.

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