September 11 2001: How We Helped Columbia University

September 11, 2001

Lori’s mother’s birthday started out just like any other day.  I was just getting up, Lori was already getting Kristen ready for school, Sunny (our currently 11 year old yellow lab who now has a tumor that is scaring us) was bouncing around as only he could do.

Lori had the TV on.

Suddenly, she yelled to me….”Mike…a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center”. Yikes!  We were just there the month before and took the picture shown below from the Ferry from New Jersey.

I thought to myself all the things that might have gone wrong.  I decided it was possible.  But then, as I watched, a SECOND plane barreled into the other tower!  OK, I read too many spy novels not to know what happened: terrorism.

In addition to having family in the New York City area, I also had ton of friends and colleagues.

Maybe I can help!  I turned on my computer in the study and started working.

Internet-based video conferencing was in it’s infancy in 2001.  We were still slightly less than 3 years away from announcing it as a service.  But it works, now….maybe we CAN help.

An email came in from a colleague at Columbia University asking for help to connect to the outside world.  I sprung into action.  It was “easy” for us at that time to connect virtually anyone with a decent Internet connection to anyone else via video (and audio).

I shot an email back telling Columbia University that we can help.  See this link and scroll down to 11:23 AM…I was the FIRST.  

I can do this.  ESnet can do this.  I called the people at Accord (at the time they were our MCU-multipoint control unit) and spent time figuring out how exactly to get done what I knew could be done.

We did it!  Yes!  We were ready, and all Columbia needed to do was use ESnet video conferencing to make telephone calls if they needed it.

The days passed, our family members were all safe, and I experienced an immense sense of loss (and un-real-ness) that I had not felt again until Sept 18, 2010 when we lost Carol (that day the horrible feeling of loss came back….1000 times worse and remains to this day).

These are very tough days.  I am not looking forward to the next week or so (Sept 9 (60 years), 11 (10 years), 18 (1 year)).  Now Sunny. Our world can calm down…please…Update on Sunny (9/12/2011):  His thing burst this weekend and he feels much better!

911 taught me that in an emergency: telecommuting works and so does video conferencing via the Internet.

Drive Safe!  Never Forget.



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