Sorry for the mess lately. Seems I had a bit of trouble recently with the blog, but it should be all cleaned up now and safe for reading/browsing. Woot.
Today, on the 10-year anniversary of that fateful day, I find more clarity, more understanding, and more emotion than I have had since.
Every year, I try to write a post such as this, to keep the memory alive. Seems like each year, I remember more details. It’s really hard to believe that this happened a decade ago. The images in my mind, the sights, sounds, feelings, emotions all seem so fresh.
I was at work that morning when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. At the time, I worked for the soon to be defunct MCI-WorldCom. We spent the morning auto-dialing up and down the east coast, “May I please speak with the person who makes the decisions regarding your telephone service?” It was a job I hated, but it paid my bills, kept food on my table, and a roof over my head.
Our system was set up such that we sat at our stations, and “took” the calls, as the dialer systems dialed up the number, the call would be immediately forwarded to whomever had an open line. I don’t recall what time it was when the dialer started failing, but the calls started slowing down, coming few and far between. The few calls we had connect were met with either immediate hang-ups (which wasn’t uncommon) or people screaming things like “Whats wrong with you?”, “Don’t you know what’s going on?”, “How dare you try to sell me something at a time like this!”
All of the folks on my team started to turn around and whisper to one another. What was going on? Some of my colleagues started getting information from the folks we were calling. Initially, we were told that a missile or bomb had struck WTC in New York. I remember discussing with my colleagues my concern about how a bomber or fighter aircraft of an enemy nation could possibly penetrate U.S. airspace. It was my thought at that time that we were at war. That an event like Pearl Harbor had just occurred.
Our managers ended up shutting down the dialers. The national communication circuits were just too clogged. We could not work anymore, and were being sent home. Everyone was already starting to panic, to worry about their family in NYC and abroad. I called Fran at home to make sure she was ok. Everything was fine, and I let her know I was being sent home. She had driven me to work that morning, so a friend of ours whom I worked with, Simone, offered to give me a ride back to my apartment.
I still remember staring out the window of Simone’s car on the way home. I remember the golden hue of the morning sun shining on the trees and houses.
When I got back to my place, Fran had already left and went back to her parents. I had to have Simone give me a ride over there, a few blocks away.
When I got there, the family had gathered there at Mom & Dad Taylor’s house. Fran was there and her Uncle Bill & Aunt Peg were there, watching the news with her parents. I remember that was when I really got hooked on MSNBC. I think that this story really made MSNBC a popular news channel.
We watched the live video that day. I remember the news reporters and their camera crews, running around ground zero. I remember seeing the video of folks jumping from the tops of the twin towers, and the sound, the loud, unnerving “BOOM” as each person struck the roof and the ground near the news crews.
I remember seeing the video of the second plane hitting the WTC. I remember seeing people running away. I remember seeing landing gears, and engine parts scattered downtown near the WTC, as folks evacuated.
During this whole process, the news cut to live video from the middle east, of people in other countries celebrating the attacks, burning our flag. It was about this time that it was announced that the attacks were taken credit for by Islamic terrorists from Al Qaeda. I remember my anger. I remember pacing around, freaking out, so utterly enraged by this. I ground my teeth against each other. I realize now, that at the time I felt a level of anger and a depth of pure hatred I don’t think I had ever felt before or since. I remember wanting so badly to see America open the silos and rain the full fury of Hell on the Middle East. I wanted to see every last one of those people eradicated, exterminated, vaporized. I wanted to render that whole region of the world a “black-glass parking lot”.
And then we saw the towers fall. I remember the video of the dust cloud roaring between the buildings, as news crews with their cameras ran away, dove into storefronts, and everything went black.
Of course, I remember seeing the news from Washington D.C., the impacts at the Pentagon. I remember hearing about Flight 93, which went down near Pittsburgh, about an hour away. We would later find out that that plane’s flight path took it right above us that morning, as it flew from Cleveland toward Pittsburgh.
I’ll never forget the sounds of the fire equipment screaming, echoing over Ground Zero in New York. The high pitched “Ereeeeah-Reeeah, Ereeeeah-Reeeah, Ereeeeah-Reeeah, chirp-chirp-chirp” of some alarms on the trucks or on the firefighters themselves who ran into those buildings that day. I remember those alarms blaring on the news for days after. I don’t know what device that was, I have never been able to find a recording of that sound to show anyone. Maybe someone in the profession can tell me what that thing was.
I remember later that evening trying to get to the gas station, and finding lines down the street, and astronomical prices for the time (which I think weren’t that much more than they are nowadays).
We mounted a flag on the antenna of the car that day or within a day or two following. That flag flew on the car until 9/11/2002. I hope to frame that tattered little flag and the newspapers from that day sometime soon.
To this day, I watch the skies and wonder, worry. I get very edgy when I see a plane drastically change course, see a contrail that turns very sharply. I live a mile or so off the end of the runways at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport and the USAF Reserve station that shares the field, and worry that one day one of these planes might miss its approach or experience an issue and land on my house.
It goes without saying that September 11, 2001 changed all of us, all of our lives forever. The terrorists really did win that day. They took from us the sense of safety, the feeling invincibility that we had as a nation. In an effort to keep us safe, our leaders have stripped us of liberty and freedom.
More than that, as I have discovered just today, September 11, 2001 served as a real catalyst that changed my life. It deepened my personal sense of dedication and love for my country. Further, it set off a chain of events that I believe led or greatly contributed to my being where I am today.
September 11, 2001 set off the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In honor of the soldiers that would be lost during those wars, I set up a site dedicated to the soldiers who died. Having that site led me to meet some of my dearest and most respected colleagues. It led to my doing work for the US Army. That work contributed experience that helped me get my last job. That job led to me going back to school and finishing 2 degrees. My time in college again put me in touch with many dear friends and respected colleagues and mentors. Having the college degree let me get the job I have now.
I will never forget that day.
Today, we honor those nearly 3000 souls who were lost that day, and the thousands of American military personnel who have been lost in the days since, working to eradicate the terrorists who struck against us that day.
Jason J. Rister
September 11, 2011
On October 1, the Ohio Turnpike stood up its new EZ-Fail EZ-Pass electronic toll collection system. The system uses special RFID tag readers at the toll plaza’s to read an RFID transponder inside the windshield of vehicles as they pass through. The idea here, is that vehicles just need to slow down enough to be read, and can pass on without coming to a full stop. The EZ-Pass transponder/account is tied directly to your debit/credit card, and maintains a pre-paid balance of 25.00 that automatically replenishes itself when your balance goes below 10.00.
I was late getting my transponder ordered, and ended up receiving it on October 1, so I had to pay the more expensive cash rates for my commute on 10/1, which were also raised about 25% to to coerce gently nudge people to adopt the new EZ-Pass system.
Anyhow, so I started using my shiny new EZ-Pass for my daily commute to Cleveland on October 5. When I got home, I checked my account online to see how it showed up, only to find that the toll transactions don’t immediately appear on the account. This made me a little nervous. Theoretically, these transactions should appear the instant they occur. Instead, they “take some time” to show up.
That being the case, I started to keep track of my EZ-Pass account as if it were a bank account. I created a new “account” in my money management software, that I use to track my checking and savings accounts, and started marking transactions every day when I got home. My toll for the 20 minute trip on the pike, from exit 209 (Warren) to exit 187 (Streetsboro), is always $1.00. This also being the old cash rate that I paid prior to EZ-Pass implementation. So, each day I pay a total of $2.00 for my commute, $1.00 each way.
The whole point of tracking my EZ-Pass account in this way, was so I know when and for how much the automatic replenishment charge would be run against my bank account (via debit card). The last thing I need is to either 1) Not have sufficient funds in my EZ-Pass, and incur penalties, 2) Have EZ-Pass auto-withdraw funds and make a bill check bounce, resulting in overdraft fees from the bank and NSF fees from wherever, or 3) have the EZ-Pass auto-withdrawal be declined, and incur penalties.
As of this weekend, I was showing a balance on my EZ-Pass of $14.00, accounting for 4 days worth of commute, and the various shipping/processing fees that were taken off the top for establishing the account. However, on Saturday, we got an email saying that EZ-Pass was about to make a withdrawal on our bank account to replenish our account to $25.00 again. The system isnt supposed to do that until the balance goes below $10.00.
So back into our EZ-Pass online account we went, and found that they had finally generated an account statement. To our disbelief, we found that our EZ-Pass was showing a balance of $6.00, and that I was charged a whopping $8.00 for my commute to work on Tuesday, October 6. We were in shock.
Upon closer examination of the account statement, it showed that at 8:32 a.m. I simultaneously entered and exited the turnpike at exit 209, with a toll of $0.00. The next transaction was at 8:53 a.m. showing that I exited the turnpike at exit 187, but the entry point was showing as Exit 2 (Westgate/IN State Line), and a toll of $8.00. It also showed that I simultaneously entered the pike at Exit 2 and exited at 187, both, at 8:53 a.m. I’m pretty sure that defies the laws of physics, and dont remember doing any teleportation lately. This $8.00 charge was apparently the result of the “Illegal U-Turn/Lost Ticket” policy of the turnpike, where if you cant prove where it was you got on the pike, you get charged the fare from the most distant toll plaza (which in my case was Exit 2 at the Indiana State Line).
So, we tried to call the Turnpike’s EZ-Pass Customer Service Center on Saturday…closed. Tried again on Monday (10/12)…closed for Columbus Day. Tried first thing this morning to call, sat on hold for 20 minutes, and decided to try again later. While we were waiting to try back, I logged into our account and pulled up the “live” transaction register for our account. This listing also showed the lane numbers for each entry/exit.
So, as I looked at each transaction, I started to notice a pattern. Entry lane numbers are numbered 1-10, exit lane numbers 11-20. Upon closer examination, I saw that on my entry/exit at exit 209, it showed me entering lane 2, and exiting lane 12, at the very same moment. It was at this point it dawned on me.
The toll plaza at Exit 209 has only 3 lanes, and the center one is switched from an entry (in the morning) to an exit (in the evening). Meaning that this same lane was both lane 2 and also lane 12. That further leads me to the conclusion that, as I passed through the center lane of the toll plaza, the entry RFID scanner read my tag as I entered the toll plaza, and then the exit RFID scanner read my tag as I passed through the gate on the other side of the toll plaza on my way out to the pike. For whatever reason, both RFID readers were active, when the “exit” reader should have been disabled since the lane was being used for entry that morning.
Thankfully, we were able to get ahold of the Customer Service center, and when we told them the date of the problem, they immediately said “yep, I see it” and submitted an audit to have us credited the $7.00 difference. When asked what the problem was, the rep confirmed my findings. Granted, they said they had to audit the account, so it would take a few days for the credit to appear, but its in work, so I am pacified, at the moment.
Over the weekend, I saw an article posted online from Toledo, that indicated there were already a number of investigations underway by the Turnpike Commission regarding overcharges. It stands to reason that the problem I had is fairly widespread. Hopefully, they will get this error resolved and prevent it from occurring in the future.
In the meantime, I’m shooting for the rightmost, one-way toll lanes so I can avoid this mess.
If you find yourself in the same boat I was in, get in touch with the Ohio Turnpike EZ-Pass Customer Service Center at:
E-ZPass Customer Service Center
PO Box 460 – Berea, OH 44017
Phone: 1-88-TURNPIKE (1-888-876-7453)
Fax: (440) 891-3523
Representatives are available from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding state and federal holidays.
You can also find out more about the Turnpike and EZ-Pass at the Ohio Turnpike Commission website
If you haven’t watched the news in the last couple of weeks, an Air France Airbus A330 airliner disappeared a week or so ago out over the Atlantic, after flying into a thunderstorm about 600 miles off the coast of Brazil. Aboard were 228 souls, all lost to some unknown accident, and committed to the depths of the mid-Atlantic.
(More info can be found here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6461994.ece)
The discovery of the aircraft’s vertical stabilizer (this being the vertical part of the aircraft in the rear that contains the rudder, etc), whole and intact, yesterday is leading some experts to the conclusion that there may have been a condition just before the plane crashed, where the computers received erroneous data from the aircraft’s pitot tubes, due to clogging of the tubes by ice.
The pitot tubes look like whiskers that project from the fuselage of the aircraft, and point a hollow tube forward intot he airstream. The tubes sense the airspeed of the aircraft by measuring pressure differentials in these tubes. Given how cleanly the vertical stabilizer appears to have separated from the fuselage of the plane, it is believed that the pitot tubes gave false airspeed readings to the airliner’s flight-control computers, which in turn limits the range of motion for the tail rudder. The flight systems increasingly limits the range of movement the rudder has as airspeeds increase. The current theory holds that the pitot tubes, being iced over or otherwise clogged, fed the flight systems an airspeed that was lower than the actual speed the aircraft was travelling, in turn allowing the rudder to over travel, and causing catastrophic drag (possibly shearing the vertical stabilizer clean off) and loss of flight control, which would have resulted in loss of the ship.
Ultimately, this catastrophe may have been caused by 1) not knowing the real state of things, and 2) an over-reaction on the part of the rudder. These bring me to my next thought.
We experience much the same type of scenarios in life. We sometimes find ourselves experiencing a storm (figuratively speaking) or some crisis, and we find ourselves blinded by some of our circumstances. For whatever reason, we just don’t see the whole picture, we don’t quite grasp all of the variables of the situation; our instruments are giving us erroneous data. As a result of not looking at or not quite seeing the whole picture, we make a rash, drastic, or “knee-jerk” reaction that has catastrophic results. Sometimes these decisions lead to a “loss of the ship” or a loss of self, maybe physical, but more often mental or emotional.
It is important to consider the whole picture before making a decision. Are you really seeing the whole picture? Do you have all of the information? What effects might the decision you are about to make have on those around you? While you think you are doing the right thing, consider whether it’s right for you (alone), right for others, or right for everyone?
Just some food for thought.
I will wax Seinfeldian for a moment here to ask the following:
Whats the deal with all these “czars” being appointed? Seriously? Are we that hot on the idea of being a socialist country that we want to copycat everything that Russia has done in the last century or two? Need a leader? Appoint a czar!
I’m tired of hearing this word in reference to modern leaders. Whatever happened to proper titles like “Secretary of Defense” or “Secretary of State” or “Director of the [insert your favorite 3/4 letter agency here]“?
If you want to be a Russian or a Communist/Socialist, move to Russia, Cuba, or China. As long as the stars and stripes fly here, this is America, and American’s use the right name for things! Make sure you get that through your heads, your new Fuhrer/il Duce/Emperor’s head, and any of the scumbag media types who are happy to thrust the country headlong into the dark ages.
And so the journey comes to an end. Friday marked the final episode of perhaps my most favorite science fiction tv show, Battlestar Galactica. It was actually rather sad to see it go, being one of the very few reasons I subscribe to cable service in the first place. History repeats itself once again.
Its unfortunate that these days there is very little worth watching on tv. And it seems like once in a great while a really outstanding show comes along, and then is snuffed out before its time. So happened with BSG, as with Jericho, and SG-1, and Space Above and Beyond, and a host of others before them.
Its a shame that all the really good content on tv gets replaced with things that lack any real creativity or value, such as “reality” tv. I find “reality” tv far less realistic than most other shows on tv which are quite clearly fictional and fabricated. But so much of the garbage that people fawn over these days is so utterly and completely stupid, that it makes me ill to hear of someone watching them. And worse, how many seasons of [insert show here] can you really stand to watch? Each show is just a re-hash of the last, same formula: take a dozen normal people, throw in 2-3 mentally unstable people, and add midgets, pornstars, washed up child-celebs, etc to taste. Stew for 3 months in a controlled, fabricated “real” environment, and watch the fireworks happen! THATS ENTERTAINMENT FOLKS!
It burns me to no end to see a really outstanding show like Battlestar get canned. Yes, granted, it was a re-do of a previous show, and had a beginning and an end, but it could easily have been made to run for quite a while. The folks that wrote and produced the show are some really talented people, and the sets and CG were well beyond their time. The cinematics of the show were so perfect that the first time I saw the space action sequences it nearly made me cry at just how BEUTIFULLY DONE the show was.
And now its gone.
What a miserable world we live in. I fear we are well on our way to shows like “Ow my balls!” such as in the film “Idiocracy” (which is getting really scary for how dead on it was). There are already plans in the works to manufacture “Brawndo”. 95% of TV these days panders to the lowest common denominator of the American public.
Anyhow, I’m done ranting for the night.
Interestingly enough, I’m posting something today in hopes of making this a little more frequent event.
Anyhow, this evening I took the final for an 8-week long course on Formal Logic. Discussions of things like the Modern Square of Opposition, Venn Diagrams, Categorical Logic and Syllogisms. A reasonably interesting course, to be sure, however, by and large not skills that I can yet identify as particularly useful. We did discuss things like common falacies that exist in the world and in advertising, politics, etc. That might come in handy, particularly for future writtings.
Alas, nonetheless, formal logic is something that is LOST on most individuals, or at least a great many I have had the displeasure of encountering. For example, if one does not want some particular morsel to be known by the entire world, why then must one post said same morsel on the World Wide Web, in a social networking site, nonetheless. Further, what business does such an individual have (or others around them) to berate anyone they know from reading the information which they have just so helpfully broadcast? This dosent quite flush.
I would attempt to create a categorical diagram of such a thought process, but alas, any attempt would be more or less futile because unfortunately, we didn’t have adequate time to cover how to unravel such insanity.
Words of Wisdom: If you post it on the Internet, it is known by all, seen by all, and can never, ever be taken back.
I need sleep. Tomorrow is yet another day and I have some important business to take care of.
I can still remember where I was, what I was doing that fateful morning seven years ago.
I was working for the phone company (MCI Worldcom) that morning, doing outbound telemarketing for their long-distance service. I remember the call center getting eerily quiet that morning, as the automated dialer systems started failing due to the national phone networks being overwhelmed. I remember the last couple of phone calls I took that morning before we shut down the system, people just hanging up, others screaming “What’s wrong with you!?? Don’t you know what’s going on?” and then hanging up. Of course we didn’t know what was happening, not yet.
We began getting information, from management, from others whose customers told them what was happening. We were told that we were under attack. Some said that bombs hit the WTC. Others yet said that strike fighters breached American airspace, and attacked the WTC. Finally, we found out that an airliner hit the first tower.
Because the phone networks were overloaded, management shut down the center for the day. Nobody could concentrate on the job in our center, and nobody we would have called wanted to talk to us.
I remember the drive home, with a friend, that morning. Being afraid, angry, and in shock. I met up with my fiancee (now wife), Fran, at her parent house, where everyone was glued to the TV. When we got there, we found out the second plane had hit the second tower, saw video someone got with a camcorder or a cellphone of the plane impacting the tower. I remember seeing video of the middle east, where crowds of people were celebrating the attacks, and I remember my fury, my desire to see the entire middle east reduced to a black glass wasteland.
Then we saw the towers fall.
We saw the strike at the Pentagon, and the failed attack that came to an abrupt end in a field not far from here in Pennsylvania. We later learned that that plane flew right over us that morning as it was turned around to return to D.C.
I remember watching the rescue efforts for days after, as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames, and save the lives of those trapped inside. Then the months long recovery and identification process.
Within a few days, we had a little flag that we mounted on our car antenna. That flag stayed on the car until 9/11/02, when we took it off and put it in a safe place.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years. The events of that day, still so vivid in my mind, feel like it was just yesterday. These memories that each of us hold of that day, will remain with us forever.
September 11, 2001 was a turning point in the history of America. We thought we were untouchable, we felt that we were invinvible, but all that changed that day. That day, we learned that we are just as vulnerable as the next guy.
Today we remember the 3,000 whose lives were lost that day, and the thousands of soldiers who have died in the pursuit of terrorists worldwide since then.
Well, it came with fury and now it’s finished…the wedding that is.
It was a pretty stressful day up to the afternoon, however, once the ceremony started, it was smooth sailing from there on out.
Honeymoon comes next week, barring any technical difficulties with the vehicle.