Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today, Amy called and woke me at about 7am Pacific time and told me to turn on the television.  After staring numbly at the images for a moment, all I could say was, “This looks like a movie.  This looks like Die Hard or something.”  
I rode the bus into work early and noticed everything, as if my senses had been turned on for the first time. The brightness of the sunlight, the colors of the EMP building, the sounds of cars, the silence in the sky due to all the airplanes being grounded.  

I worked then at RealNetworks in the Broadcast Network division.  ABC News was a client of ours and did streaming through us.  It was the very early days of streaming video over the internet and all we had were postage-stamp sized video boxes that played at 56Kbps (kilobits per second) and 256 Kbps--so definitely not broadband.  But we all worked like crazy to keep the streams going and divert all our servers to keeping up with the demand on the system.  The number of hits to the live ABC News feed was astronomical--a double digit multitude of hits of any average day.  Many people around the country who couldn't be in front of a TV set wanted and needed to know what was happening.  I realized on that day how powerful the medium of streaming video was and despite how helpless I felt about what was going on in New York, DC and Pennsylvania,  I knew could do this one thing.   To help people stay connected to the news was what I could do. I monitored the feed all day and wave after wave of horror washed over me. I finally had to turn the sound down on my computer.  But the master stream stayed up all day and we like everyone else in the country braced for the dawning of a new era.

Having lived in Europe for a year in college prior to 9/11/01, I saw how other countries lived with the possibility of terrorism at any moment.  America became a member of that sad fraternity and became vulnerable--like every place else.   Things were no longer so shiny any more.  Not that there couldn’t be happiness or good things in life after this but things would always be marked by this event.  Total safety had always been an illusion and living with an edge of uncertainty became the new normal.  

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