September 11, 2001
I was on a consulting assignment to help install and configure a web based software product at Caterpillar in Pontiac, Illinois. I arrived at the Bloomington, IL airport on the morning of September 10th, and was asked to visit the headquarters in East Peoria on September 11th. To save the customer money, another consultant agreed to lend me his pickup truck for the drive to East Peoria (on the other end of the state).
I left the hotel after 7 AM Central time, and was heading south on I-55, then West on I-74 towards East Peoria.
About 8:20 Central, I get a phone call from Minnesota. My wife was telling me that I had to get to a television set, and that a plane has struck the world trade center, and it's terrible. While she is talking, she stops mid-sentence, and then says it's an attack. Both buildings have been hit. If you look at the time-lines, both buildings had already been hit, but she didn't know it until that moment.
Picture this, me driving North-West along this stretch of corn-fields towards East Peoria.
I'm trying to explain that there's nowhere to pull off, there's nothing to do. Eventually she hangs up, and I find a Radio Station that is reporting the news.
Then the radio reports that the Pentagon was hit. She calls back. She again tells me that there MUST be some place where I can stop and watch a television. I'm not about to go knocking on a farmhouse door. Especially on a day when everyone is thinking of terrorists.
A little after 9:00 AM, Central time, I finally find myself in East Peoria. I park the truck in a parking ramp near the Caterpillar headquarters, and I walk towards the building.
The first thing that came through my mind is, how would a security director convince the company president that the security guards need to have Uzi sub-machine guns available. I can't imagine they went to the gun-shop and picked them up in the hour since the news had been heard, and there's no way Caterpillar is important or controversial enough to have armed guards standing outside all the time.
I cautiously walked past them towards the door, expecting that maybe I'll be challenged. I was carrying a laptop case, after-all. Then I walked in, signed in, and went up to the floor where my contact was waiting. I caught a few minutes of video of the destruction in NYC on a TV that had been set up in a break-room nearby. I spent most of the rest of the day, working on the customer's software concerns. The last 45 minutes I was there, I caught some more of the news coverage, and then I drove back to Pontiac.
My assignment in Pontiac was through the end of the week, and I had a ticket for Saturday the 15th. This happened to be the first flight out of Bloomington airport, and I've never seen such a small airport so crowded with people waiting for re-booking opportunities. I actually felt bad that the events on this day had not inconvenienced me, as if by not having been directly impacted by the events, maybe I was cheating.