Western Perspective

11/09/2001 Seven years on and my how the world has changed

By Rob Anderson, in , posted: 11-Sep-2008 07:29

Seven years today! It's not a day many people will forget. It stands out in my mind due to a member of my team being in New York while it happened. This was my experience:

I was a program manager for a telco/cable company in the UK. I had a team of project managers and engineers building a huge IP network throughout the UK, with PoPs in Europe and the US. On the 11th of September 2001, I was attending a PRINCE2 course (Projects in Controlled Environments) and it was really tough going. I was doing a practice exam and of course had my phone switched off. When I got out of the exam I had a voice mail from one of my project managers, sounding very concerned about Ziya. Ziya was a very talented and experienced IP engineer (the Sultan of Cisco he was known as), who we had sent to New York to build a data PoP in a Level3 facility, and hook it up to a peering point just across the road from the twin towers.
Matt (project manager) said that he had been talking to Ziya and there was some serious shit going down in New York - jet fighters swooping between buildings and the like. They were then cut off - we found out later that the cell phone network in New York had crashed (or been turned off - still not sure about that).
I went through to reception, where there was a big TV and saw what was going on - wow!!
We all tried repeatedly to get through to Ziya, directed to voicemail every time. We contacted Ziya's wife, but she had no news either.
I had a very anxious evening, unable to concentrate on my course work or anything else for that matter. You can imagine my releif when Ziya called me later that night.
He had been working at the Port Authority building (on 34th St I think) and realised that something was happening. When his phone went dead he thought "that's it! I'm out of here". He threw his tools into our cabinet in the colo, picked up his laptop and followed the throng of people heading off Manhattan Island. Not bothering with his gear in the hotel, he walked off the island (no trains were running and all the roads were full of people not vehicles) and found a bus station in Jersey. He bought a bus ticket for Chicago where he had some relatives, and a phone card. He called his wife and then me. Ziya said to me "you know Rob, I do look a bit like an Arab", being of Pakastani descent, yes he did, but it was not something I had ever considered before. Ziya later told me that that bus ride was one of the most scary and tense journeys he had ever taken - nobody spoke, everyone was glancing sideways.
We got Ziya back in the UK about a week later, and it was hugs and tears all round!

On a slightly lighter note, Ziya also had some issues on his further travels - riots in Moscow; Ziya was there for a job interview, plane crashes in Queens (New York again); Ziya and another engineer were in New York .
In the end, the running joke around the office was: find out where Ziya is going and go somewhere else!

I would be interested to hear of anyone elses experiences or tales from that tragedy.

Other related posts:
The deep deep South

Comment by sbiddle, on 11-Sep-2008 21:33

I went skiing on Mt Ruapehu for the day and drove up from Wellington. I woke up about 4:30am and went to cnn.com to have a look what was happening in the world, to see a temporary page saying that the WTC had collapsed. My initial thought was that somebody had hacked the site! A quick check elsewhere and I realised it was no joke.

I do remember the skiing was fantastic that day! :-)

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Rob Anderson

Ex Telecom Radio Technician, still in the industry working for everyone except Telecom.

Had enough of the cold, upped sticks and moved to Perth, WA.
Now working for NBN Co on Australia's largest infrastructure project ever.

Samosa lover.