Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11th, six years ago

Okay, so I'm sitting here debating whether or not I want to start a new post, and what should I write about, etc.... And then I notice the date. So I guess that settles that.

I had already written most of this on another website, and when today came I was just going to copy it. But the other website is still down, so that sucks. I will try to get it all down again. I think a couple of you might have already read the original or a shorter version of it.

I had rather an odd 911 experience. Not as odd as some. We were not stuck in another country, and we were not stuck in an airport. And we did not work for the military or an airline. And we did not have to worry about any family being stuck somewhere. I did have some concerns about a pilot, but I was pretty sure I would have heard if something had happened to him.

In 1999, my husband got a job as a traveling photographer. He'd been a traveling photographer for a while, but this particular company sent him out to other states for months at a time. He took the job over my objections, but in 2000 and 2001 I ended up taking a sales position with this same company so that I could travel with him.

We had been away from home for several months and had spent the summer in Maine, New Hampshire, and finally North Carolina. Instead of trying to get home for a week or so before our next job, we drove to the ocean and did tourist stuff on the Outer Banks before heading to our next job in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Leavenworth has a few prisons and a military base with some kind of school. People from all over the world attend this school. I don't have a clue what it's for, just that all the students are in somebody's military. Anyway, the company was hired to take the pictures for their school yearbook.

We arrived on the evening of September 8th. On September 9th we drove to Kansas City and went to the Renaissance Fair. We had been there the year before, because of this same job, and we'd met a few people. We asked someone if she wanted to have dinner with us while we were in the area, and we made plans for the next weekend.

On September 10th we had to go back to work. This is a big account for the company, and this is the main time of year that we work with other people. We had only seen one of the other salesmen about five months before that. And we had only been to the main office once that year. So that day was unusual for us just because we saw all of these people that we hadn't seen in a long time.

The motel we stayed at was just across the street from the entrance to the base. Once in a while someone will stop you and ask what your business is and stuff like that. That day they were doing some sort of inspection and had everyone stop and state their business while they had a look around the cars and such.

Then we were told where we would be working and set up our equipment and such. It was in a nice new building, and I was much happier with the place compared to the building that they had us work from the year before. At the end of the day, the sales were disappointing, but I was just so glad to get all the set up work over with and know that I didn't have to deal with that again for at least a month.

Most of the time we had the 2-8 shift, and at this place we had the 3-9 shift, except on Saturdays. So we tended to stay in bed late and watch TV and such. So when we woke up we turned on the TV and flipped the channels a bit. The world was all very normal at that point. Then we watched a tape of something that was on while we were at work the night before.

Then stuff started to get weird, but we didn't notice for a hour or two while we were watching this video tape. After the tape was finished my husband called the main office to tell them Monday's numbers. And then he had an odd conversation, cause he was talking about one thing, and the lady on the other end of the phone was talking about something completely different.

She said something like that's just terrible. And my husband says something like it's not great but I wouldn't call it terrible. And the conversation went like that for a bit and then it really didn't make any sense, because my husband was talking about sales figures and the lady at the office was talking about something she'd seen on TV. So then we turn the channel on TV so that we can see what she was talking about.

You already know what we saw on the TV.

So after a bit we got what was going on and decided to stay at the motel for a bit instead going to do whatever it was we were going to do that morning. So we had a couple of sodas and I went downstairs to get some ice.

There was a scene outside that looked like a movie or something. There were cars as far as the eye could seen in both directions. Everyone was trying to get onto the base. Some weren't allowed on the base, and the rest of them all had to stop and be searched. So all of these cars were just lined up like that for hours.

So I guess if they're not letting people on the base, we don't have to go to work today.

We called the office to tell them what was going on outside. But they just said something dumb like we'd better get an early start if there's a long line. You don't get it. There's a long line, but it's not really moving and they are turning people away. I don't think we should try it.

But the lady on the phone seemed to think that we should still go to work as usual, because no one had called to cancel their appointments.

Do you think that maybe they have other things on their minds and maybe they forgot all about appointments to get pictures made?

But she didn't seem to believe us. It took about two hours later before they could get through to someone and confirm that as far as we were concerned the base was closed and we would not be going to work that day.

Now the office is ticked off that they had to "pay" us to sit around and do nothing. In fact, we were not "paid" anything except for the motel room and meals. Somehow they always seem to think that is the greater problem than the fact that we're stuck in the middle of nowhere and not making any money. At least the people at the office were in their own town and still collecting a paycheck.

The next day was pretty much the same. The people at the office thought that we should just try to go to work as usual, while I'm looking out at all the cars inching by. The usual five minute drive took almost two hours, if you really were one of the people allowed onto the base. But the people at the office wouldn't officially give us the day off until they had talked to someone on the base, and that didn't happen until like one or two in the afternoon.

The next day the main office has been told that we will not be allowed onto the base for the rest of the week. We might be allowed to get on with the job next Monday, or it might be cancelled or postponed. They're just not sure yet. So we can either stay at the motel for a few days, or we can go home but we might have to come back on Monday or Tuesday. The office thought that since we didn't know for sure that we would be working the next week that we should just go home rather than waste money on the motel room.

I said that if I made the trip all the way home to Texas, I would not be coming back. And the company equipment could just stay where it was and someone else could pick it up later. Maybe someone on the base could just bring me a couple of things that were my personal property. Or the company could keep paying for the motel room and such and I'd be happy to go back to work on Monday.

The office didn't like that, but they finally agreed to keep paying for the motel room at least until Monday.

So we decided to drive to Kansas City for the day and go to KC Masterpiece and do some shopping and such that we would normally do on our day off on Sunday. The restaurant still had a bit of business for lunch, but the rest of the places we went were nearly empty.

The lady from the ren fair was just too upset over the whole thing. She cancelled our dinner plans for the weekend and decided not to go back to work at the fair that year.

It was odd how some things had all but shut down, and other things were business as usual. No one wanted to go shopping, but the big haunted houses were open.

Monday came, and we were told to go back to work. But it wasn't as easy as that.

They were afraid that someone would try to blow up one of the buildings. So half of the parking lots were closed. And they didn't want us working in the nice new building were we had originally set up our equipment. So the first thing that we had to do was go to the nice new building and pack up our equipment and take it someplace else. Only this is one of those places that no one allowed to park. So we had to park somewhere else and walk. Packing the stuff up takes about an hour, and then we still had to get it into the truck. So my husband went to get the truck while I waited with some of the equipment. And he parked it someplace that really wasn't a parking space, but we weren't going to be there very long. So he went to get some of the equipment, and he got back to the truck to find five guys with guns looking at the truck, trying to decide if there's a bomb inside. So they finally figured out who we were and guarded the truck while we got the equipment inside so we could take it to the other building.

The other building was that awful place where they had us work the year before. It used to be a gym but it was going to be remodeled and used for something else. Half of the building was already fixed up and being used. Those other people in the nice half of the building did not play well with others. There was a lot of arguments about locks and they had the restrooms blocked off and stuff like that. So it was not a pleasant time at all.

There were some other really odd things that happened. Since a lot of people couldn't park where they would normally park, they decided to park outside the base and walk a few miles. The really odd thing was that a lot of them we walking to the nursery with strollers.

So it's not safe for the military people to bring park their cars because there might be a terrorist bomb, but it's okay to bring your kids to the nursery as usual?

On the other side of us was a small shopping center with a Subway, two pizza places, and a bunch of military recruitment offices. And a there's a 7-11 right next to the recruitment places. So while all of this stuff was going on, someone put a bomb in the 7-11. And the bomb-squad came with the little robot thing and they blew up the bomb in the little metal box thing.

I few weeks later I slipped and fell in the Burger King parking lot. I had to go to the hospital and get X-rays and such as that. And they gave me the wrong phone number for the guy that deals with the insurance claims, so I nearly ended up suing Burger King. Anyway, that's another odd thing that happened that wouldn't have happened if there wasn't a terrorist attack, because we would usually eat at the Burger King on the base. But it was just too much trouble to get onto the base, even when it was right across the street, and we just decided it would be faster to drive to the one on the other end of town.

So I did not go to work for a few days. We were not making that much money, and my arm really hurt even if there was not a big enough break to show on the X-ray. We were leaving that Saturday. Someone was putting up these big concrete barricades, and we were told that if we were not out by 5:30 on Saturday we would probably not have room to drive the truck out and we would be stuck there. We did not care if people bought anything. We did not care if they thought that we were rude and complained to the office. We were not doing any retakes or anything special. We were going to get everybody's picture taken in time to get out before 5:30 and we didn't care if they liked it or not.

One of the unhappy people asked if I was proud of my attempts at customer service. Let me see, I've worked for three days with a busted arm, I'm getting no commission at this late date, I'm working someplace where I've been treated like I'm suspected of some criminal activity, I've been told to get everything finished by 5:30 today, and so far I am on schedule and today I've haven't started swearing yet.

So, yes, I'm proud of my attempts at customer service. I'd appreciate it if you could move along now.

So we did manage to do our work and get the equipment in the truck and drive out before the concrete barrier people blocked that end of the street.

We went home for a couple of weeks and then we had a job to do in California. While we were on the road we saw signs up at the travel centers and the motels and such saying "Thanks for traveling." My husband joked that they might as well have put our names on them, since most of the places we went we mostly had the place to ourselves.

We went a few days early so that we could go to Disneyland and such. There were no lines at Disneyland.

I was going to quit the job anyway, and in fact had tried to leave six months earlier. After California I was fired. One of their complaints was that they had to pay for me to have extra vacation time during the week of 9-11.

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