I remember working in downtown DC, right off McPherson Square, three blocks from the White House, when a friend sent me a message on AIM that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.

I assumed it was a small plane like the Cessna that hit the White House 7 years earlier almost to the day (9/12/94).

Then, after a few minutes, they said a second plane had hit the South Tower.

I ran downstairs and let others know and one of the lawyers turned on the TV to CNN and there it was.

Like the rest of the world we were transfixed, glued, some folks listening to radio or watching another channel in another office, reports of planes everywhere.

And then a noise we’d later find out was Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon 3 miles away.

Phones stop working. There’s no getting calls in or out of DC. I’m back on AIM messaging friends to call my family and my girlfriend and make sure they’re OK.

Is my brother at the Pentagon OK?

Responses from friends: Family’s been trying to call me worried if I’m OK.

*Side note – 9/11 is when the internet really came of age. It was a lifeline for areas where phones just stopped working. Landlines and cellular were useless, jammed, busy.

The internet was key, real time information, and the aftermath was blogging, citizen journalism, etc.

Curiosity about what was happening at the White House sent me outside with one of the secretaries.

Looking back it was a terrible idea, heading toward what could very well have been the target of Flight 93 which would ultimately be brought down in Pennsylvania.

The streets were chaos. Traffic was locked. Sidewalks were packed. We got within a block of the White House before police started yelling at people to get back, they were blocking off up to two blocks from around the building.

And then a moment that was ultimately nothing but is etched.

A boom.

A mass of people panic and cry out and want to run but where do you go?

That moment of chaos and momentary mass hysteria left a mark.

It was a sonic boom from the passing F-15s scrambled to pass over DC. But at the time, it was another plane crash, a car bomb at the State Department, a helicopter crashed on The Mall, it was an attack and there was nothing anyone could do.

We went back to the office to find the South Tower had collapsed.

We watched as dust and debris and smoke settled on New York City.

Pops in the distance. Canisters from a worksite where the Pentagon had been hit going off, but at the time no one knows that.

We watch.


The North Tower collapses.

News is a mess. Reports start coming in that despite all flights being ordered grounded there are a handful of planes unaccounted for.

That one or more planes are headed straight for DC.

We move. The whole office grabs and goes, one of the partners offers his place for those who can’t go anywhere else and many of us end up there, a house only a few miles away, but away from the center of DC, away from any targets.

Lunch is Church’s Chicken while we all just watch, glued to the news, worried, wondering what happened, who did this, is it over?

It’s nearly 3pm before I can finally get a phone call to go through to family and friends and make sure everyone is OK. I’m OK. And that I’m coming home.

A long, quiet ride on a nearly empty Metro because everyone else who needed to got out earlier. I’m met at Springfield by my girlfriend.

And we hug and stay like that for a while.

After would be strings of chaotic reminders.

Passing the still smoldering Pentagon on the commuter bus just days later.

The anthrax scare just months later and mail handled every day coming from the Brentwood facility at the heart of it.

Suspicious packages in the park almost every other week.

Unease at any car awkwardly abandoned or left idling in odd locations.

Noting where the nearest bomb shelter was.

Having multiple routes planned out to get out of DC depending on what and where something happened.

But also a coming together. That this wasn’t going to stop us. That we would still go about our lives and not live in fear because that’s what they wanted.

We were all in this together. We were all Americans.

Hard to think that was 19 years ago.

That for so many it’s not even a memory because they were so young or not even alive at the time.

And how truly defining it has been for a generation now.

My experience isn’t unique. Or all that special, really. I’m not nearly as impacted as so many others, people who had friends and family that died that day, were themselves just at or supposed to be at or near as it happened. 23/

But everyone who remembers that day has a story and an experience and that shapes us. There was a before and there has been an after.

Never Forget

And be safe. Be kind. Know that while there is evil in the world there is so much more good. Know that a few don’t define the many.

And know that there are so many who can be their very best when things seem at their worst.

Coronavirus: Day 122

22 days since the last update and what’s changed? Virginia’s entered into Phase 3 of reopening and numbers are starting to tick up. States that reopened without mask mandates are seeing record numbers. Even states with mask mandates are seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, people are debating whether or not our kids should be in school in the fall despite there being no vaccine and social distancing 6 year olds is a joke.

On the flip side, mass homeschooling isn’t a reasonable alternative for so many families where parents work (you know, most of them) or for families that may lack the steady resources necessary for online coursework – internet, computer, time.

By no means an easy decision no matter how hard someone screams about it on Facebook.

On Note Taking and Task Management

Tim King’s post really speaks to me:

Welcome to the Note Taking Apocalypse

The choices you have to select from are incredibly vast. From uncomplicated apps like SimpleNote with tiny footprints, right up to the immense behemoth that is Microsoft OneNote, there are plenty of options.

The hardest part for anyone remotely interested in a solution among this immense array of software is that each and every note taking app developer to date has decided to reinvent the wheel every time they’ve turned on their compiler. It gets even worse once you open the door on purpose-specific note taking applications.

I’m constantly on the hunt for better apps, page layouts, systems, whatever to do a better job of taking and organizing my notes and to-dos. There’s an entire industry dedicated to this kinda stuff, and going down the rabbit hole can be exhausting.

This isn’t so much replacing my note taking as much as my task list, but lately I’ve been using Notion.so to organize some of my longer term projects. There are a million templates and varying layouts, but what’s best for me is being able to build out a spreadsheet and then see it in calendar format with the flip of a switch. It also has a bookmarking feature that I like, but I haven’t replaced Pocket yet since Pocket will also let me easily reblog a link to J’s Notes via IFTTT.

For notes, it’s still trusty ol’ pen and paper. I’ve become a big fan of the TUL discbound notebooks for the ease of moving stuff between notebooks and the quality of the paper. I’ve put together a custom dashboard for my weekly schedule and tasks, but that’s kinda gone out the window the last few months because of the plague.

There are probably better systems and apps out there and, believe me, I’m gonna find and try them. But Tim King’s point above shows the biggest limitation: having to start over just to try something different is a pain. But also the nature of the beast.