Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years since 9/11/2001

A lot of people have very vivid memories of where they were, and what they were doing when the Twin Towers went down. Compared to most of my memory, which is a sequence of low-resolution bitmap images - colored and "photoshopped" by biases and time - I recollect 9/11 in HD video.

One of lab-mates was defending his PhD at 9am. Normally, like the majority of grad students at Michigan, I was somewhat nocturnal. The only reason I streamed into the department around 8:30 was to watch my friend defend.

From the moment I entered the department, things looked eerily different.

There was a small TV in the conference room, which probably would look more at home alongside the other relics encased in a nearby glass exhibit, that was turned on.

All the faculty and most of the staff seemed to be glued to the screen. It was mildly disorienting to observe a familiar environment cast in an unfamiliar light.

Despite the general confusion regarding what was happening, the defense went on as scheduled. You did not need a PhD to know what was on the audience's mind.

These were pre-smartphone days.

As soon as the talk was over, one of the faculty ran outside to check what was happening. He returned in about five minutes with the news that one of the towers had collapsed, and that another plane had struck the second tower.

People gasped.

A few short minutes later, school was called off, and we were sent home.

History sometimes happens, when you least expect it.

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