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A Sept. 11 Reflection

1:35 PM -- Light Reading never closed.

That's really my memory of Sept. 11, 2001. My colleagues in the Manhattan office, just a few blocks from the Twin Towers, a few blocks from those suffering at the center of Hell; I was a thousand miles away in Texas with two TVs on and a radio in my ear trying to figure out what to do next. Every morning since I hop out of bed a little earlier than I used to and I listen to the news.



My friend and former editor Paul Kapustka was in Atlanta on Sept. 11 covering, of all damn things, the Networld + Interop conference. With planes grounded and air travel halted over the next few days, Paul filed a couple of stories, said, "screw all," rented a car and pointed it toward his Burlingame home. For five days it was just Kaps, a Mazda 6 and a lot of open road.



If you happened to see our website that horrible day -- and the next, and the next -- you saw that the Light Reading team, including those in downtown Manhattan, kept writing. We kept commenting. We kept answering the phones and passing along anything we helpful we could, even though we were (and still are) woefully ill-equipped to be offering perspectives on national security threats.



I took a couple of calls that day that started with people crying into the phone. No hello. No "How dare you say that about my company!" Just sobbing. One call wasn't from a friend or coworker, just a reader who knew where our headquarters was on Leonard Street, feared the worst and needed to say something to someone. And my phone was still working.



Throughout Sept. 11 and the days that followed I spoke with Steve Saunders and Peter Heywood -- the founders of Light Reading -- and Scott Raynovich -- Light Reading's last editor-in-chief -- about what had happened and what should happen next. I never thought for a second that Light Reading would cease operations. And if I've never said what it was like working with that group during that strange time, here's the short version: When the world was at its worst, they were at their best. Period.



So, anyway, we never closed and though we couldn't bring you the images, video and visceral coverage that other outlets could, we do have a modest list of articles, newswires and a special column you should read, if you're so inclined to relive some part of Sept. 11, 2001.



It struck me how, a decade later, the message board -- the 400-plus comments readers left following our first post-attack story -- is still a raw nerve. This site was the first to let this industry speak its mind and that feistiness, that water-cooler vibe, is preserved in these stories. Fair warning: We didn't patrol the boards that carefully on that horrifying week. Be aware there might be some salty language and some real donkeys in that message pile. But there are some gems in there, too, and those mean a lot to me because they came from you, the ones that keep us going.



My hope is that you'll use this board or one of the ones attached to the stories below to say hello and, if you were reading this site on that day, remind us what you did that day and share whatever you like. (Well, within reason. No donkeys, please.) If you have never left us a video comment, we'd love for you to do that, too. It is nice to put a face to the name.



What kept me going during the eerie, soul-crushing weeks that followed Sept. 11 was the connection to some purpose. Then, like now, the obligation to help you get through your day is what helps me get through mine. It's a joy as much as an obligation and I'm glad I'm here and that you still consider us a valuable part of your day.



It hurts to look back. But I'm glad we never closed.

— Phil Harvey, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:54:09 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Hell. We even have the D Block 700MHz spectrum ready. Although part of me wonders if Sprint's Network Vision plan with push-to-talk on CDMA is an effort to finally clear the Nextel airwaves and finally sell that to the goverment as a known reliable public safety network.

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:54:12 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Dan, Kaps -- Definitely a great point. Our elected reps have let us down in terms of shoring up the comms infrastructure. We have the technology to do this we just lack the political will. 

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:54:13 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

MMQos,


Thanks for sharing and I've never heard of a Texas trooper letting anyone off with a warning. How could anyone blame you for speeding home? Great story and do say hi next time  you're stuck in Texas.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:54:16 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

I was actually working for a publication called ComputerWire at the time, uptown from Leonard Street on 21st and Broadway. I saw -- or rather heard and felt -- the second plane thunder over and I knew it was way too low and this wasn't going to be a normal beautiful fall day in NYC.


We also worked that day although I have no absolutely no memory of what I wrote, if anything. It was good to have people around and a working phone line though.


I have a few stray memories. We climbed onto the roof of our offices to get a view of what was happeing at the towers as there just wasn't enough real information, lots of other office workers were already up there. I remember that the guy standing in front of me groaned and collapsed in horror as the first tower fell. It was literally unbelievable to me that it could even happen.


In the evening my then-girlfriend and I walked down to NoHo to meet a friend who was starting to get scared to leave her apartment. We ran into a ladder company of firemen, still covered in dust, drinking shots to the tens of comrades they'd lost.


I couldn't grasp the human dimension -- beyond sheer horror -- until then.


 


 


 

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:54:16 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Dan, not so amazing when you consider how some political "professionals" have so thoroughly polluted the system so that even something as simple as bill that asks for an accurate tally of how much spectrum we have in the U.S. and who has control of it is currently being blocked because... a senator thinks it would be a waste of money.


And since it's such a wonky topic the general public just can't care. And so we go on waiting for the next disaster or attack with disparate systems that can't cross-communicate. But campaign contributions continue apace, and there are no leaders with guts in the FCC or NTIA or anywhere else to make anything happen.

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:54:16 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Dan, not so amazing when you consider how some political "professionals" have so thoroughly polluted the system so that even something as simple as bill that asks for an accurate tally of how much spectrum we have in the U.S. and who has control of it is currently being blocked because... a senator thinks it would be a waste of money.


And since it's such a wonky topic the general public just can't care. And so we go on waiting for the next disaster or attack with disparate systems that can't cross-communicate. But campaign contributions continue apace, and there are no leaders with guts in the FCC or NTIA or anywhere else to make anything happen.

joset01 12/5/2012 | 4:54:16 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Phil:


To your point about communications infrastructure.


Amazing that ten years on we still don't a nationwide public safety wireless network in the US isn't it?

MMQoS 12/5/2012 | 4:54:17 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Phil:


Interesting that you were in Texas at the time.  That is where I was able to get a flight to San Francisco, maybe the only flight out of DFW that day which was the 14th.  I too was at N+I in Atlanta presenting on 10G Enet in the morning sessions.  I remember first hearing about some plane running into the building while getting on the shuttle bus to the show and then seeing the CNN live video on the screens on the floor.  Everyone was confused and so our session went on anyway.  Not the most attentive audience I ever spoke to but most sat through.


Getting to Texas was interesting as three others and I somehow found a van for rent on the 13th planning to take that LONG drive back to No. Calif. driving 24 hr/day.  When we crossed the Mississippi River and realized that it was going to take a long time plus we had already gone thru all of our CD's (remember those?) someone got smart and tried calling all of the airlines.  Somehow we got lucky and booked reservations on a flight the next day (9/14) from DFW.


As a kid I had driven with my parents across Texas and remembered what a big state it is so as it got darker, I got bolder driving faster and faster.  Outside of the Texas cities you can usually get away with driving fast but on the outskirts of Dallas I was pulled over by a Ranger while doing 110 indicated on the speedo.  I did not want to miss that flight early the next morning so I told him that we had been in Atlanta, that we had snagged a reservation and that we all had to get back home to our California families who were terribly shaken.  He pulled out his book and started writing but to my surprise he only gave me a warning and told me to slow down.  I still have that warning in a scrap book.


In the terminal we watched as most of the flights pending were cancelled but again with luck on our side, ours boarded and we got out of there.  Great to get home.   


It speaks to the bond in our community that you would post this story and have people remember the event so well.  It also spoke to the quality and integrity of our networks that systems continued to transmit data (including allowing us to make a successful flight resevation on the cell system).


 

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:54:17 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

Appropriate response: Thanks for the post, Kaps. It was weird how time stopped for a few days. No planes. No traveling. No planning anything. Just, you know, do whatever you could do.


Light Reading response: If I were in the middle of Kansas I'd cry, too. 


ph

kaps 12/5/2012 | 4:54:17 PM
re: A Sept. 11 Reflection

After getting over the fear that we all might be sitting ducks -- there were rumors that day that CNN, whose HQ is next door to the convention center, was also a target -- there was a feeling of sad helplessness of all the industry folks "trapped" at the show. The thing that brought us together that week -- N+I -- became inconsequential in the face of everything else going on. Almost everyone there wanted to *do* something but basically couldn't since they were cut off from their homes, offices, and communities.


So getting home became priority #1, and there were many inventive methods -- van rentals, bus rentals, car pools -- I was lucky enough to reserve what I think was the last car available at the Hertz location at a Buckhead hotel (since the airport was closed). Three things I remember most about the drive back -- breaking into tears somewhere in the middle of Kansas when I heard the radio broadcast of the Battle Hymn of the Republic played at the national ceremony; hearing planes overhead for the first time in days as I drove through Salt Lake City; and a biblical thunderstorm on the plains of Colorado that I rode out in a Denny's, just beating the rain to the door.


But to Phil's point, all during that first day I never forgot that I was reporting for Light Reading -- as tangential as that might have seemed to the larger events, it somehow meant a lot to keep what order we could. So yeah that meant going down in the basement of the Atlanta CC while there was still uncertainty in the air, to see how the events affected N+I. As you can tell from the brevity of the post, I didn't stick around very long. But it did seem important to keep doing what we did.

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