D.C. Journals Below
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Author: Barry Sherwood (possibly inside one of the fish above)
Washington D.C. Journals
Stories, Ramblings, and Diatribes
My Name In Lights
Comments? Email me here.
Just want everyone to know that Gayle and I are ok. For those of you who didn't know, we are in Washington DC to meet with members of congress about ISP-related issues and are about a mile from the Pentagon (JW Marriott hotel on Penssylvania/14th). We are fine, but can see smoke rising over the buildings. The Washington Monument is between us and the Pentagon and the smoke can be seen rising over the top.
Sirens are blaring, cell phone service is down, police have the street below us cordoned off to stop traffic, limos are running over cones getting their passengers (presumably officials since the police are letting them go by).
Just heard/felt a large explosion. Don't know where it came from.
Please let all family and friends know that we are fine and that the entire city is NOT on fire (as TV reports would have you believe). I don't know where or when I'll have internet access throughout the day. I'll try to keep in touch throughout this event. We're obviously not going to be leaving this town any time soon. If anyone wants to try and reach me, call the Sunset Net office at the number below or try emailing me. I need to conserve my cell phone batteries just in case I need them later and can't recharge.
God help us all.
Barry Sherwood, President/CEO
Hi Everyone. Just thought I'd send out an update on our "timely" visit to Washington D.C. This message will likely ramble with my thoughts, experiences, and reflections of the entire trip, not just today's events. All times below are local (unless otherwise noted), so subtract 3 hours to get California time. I know you are all watching things unfold and all you see is fire, smoke, collapsing buildings, explosions, and emergency crews running around, lights ablaze. Just know that these are exceptions. The vast majority of this city is not panicked. Here's my long-winded story for the day. If you wish to reach me, I will periodically be checking email. If you wish to share this story with others, including publicly publishing excerpts, please email me first for permission.
A big THANK YOU to all of you who replied to my earlier message for your thoughts and prayers and offers of assistance. Gayle and I appreciate you all immensely and I apologize for not sending personal replies. There just hasn't been time. Hence, the following "journal"...
First of all, we came to Washington D.C. to meet with members of congress regarding a bill that, if passed, will have serious adverse effects on virtually all ISPs and the competitive telephone companies that we all depend on. We are not political in the least, but this was an issue we felt strongly about, given the impact it would have on our business and our customers.
We left Sacramento Municipal Airport (SMF) on Monday at about Noon on a TWA (now owned by American Airlines) flight to Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) with a one-hour layover in St. Louis. We landed at about 10pm local time and took a shuttle to our hotel. While riding in the shuttle, Gayle (my wife) and I both commented that it felt like we were going North on Highway 101 into SF as we passed a brightly lit building on a hill to our left (I'm at a loss for the names of either structure). I remember coming across the bridge over the Anacostia River and seeing the Washington Monument and Capitol Building towering over the city, all lit up in pale yellow and green lights over an otherwise typical dark city landscape. I'd been here once before, in the mid-80s with my friend Doug on a road trip across the US and Canada, but never saw these two landmarks in quite this way. Very impressive. I was looking forward to seeing the sights and sounds of our government and the underlying history behind it all.
We arrived at the JW Marriott Hotel, which is located on 14th and Pennsylvania. This put us about a block and a half from the "west wing" of the White House (to the east of us), and just over a mile from the Pentagon (to the southeast). From our 2nd floor hotel room in this 15+ story building, the top portion of the Washington Monument is visible to the southeast, just above the Department of Commerce and National Aquarium. We can also see the flag above the White House, still defiantly flying at full mast as I write this.
At the front desk, we discovered that our reservation was cancelled because the organizers of our trip had put us down for arriving the previous Saturday (which WAS the original plan). Therefore, we were no-shows as far as they were concerned. The hotel managed to find an empty room for us to stay for that night, but couldn't guarantee our next 2 nights. We would deal with that the next day.
Gayle went to bed at around 11:30pm and, as usual, I stayed up until just after 4am replying to email and preparing for two days of meetings with various members of congress regarding HR 1542, more commonly known as the Tauzin-Dingell bill. I woke up this morning at 6am (Eastern time), having miscalculated the time of a 9am (Pacific Time) conference call I was supposed to be on. I went back to sleep, expecting to wake up and do a little sightseeing before my first meeting with our own Congressman Herger at 2:15pm in the Rayburn building at the US Capitol.
We got up at about 8:45am and the first thing I did was call our trip coordinator, Isabella, to find out what we should do about our hotel room situation. She was very nervous on the phone and put me on hold. She returned a few moments later, saying "I'm going to have to have you speak with someone else". I thought her tone was a bit sharp, but assumed that she was very busy managing the upcoming events and dealing with a hotel room situation was not high priority. A gentleman came on the line and asked if I had been watching the news. I hadn't, and he let me know that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center and that Isabella was upset because her brother-in-law worked there. OK, so now I understood her demeanor and told the man that I'd be happy to deal with the room situation myself.
For the next couple of hours Gayle and I sat in the hotel room with the TV on, watching everything transpire. I remember watching the live footage of the 2nd plane heading into the towers, and with the same feeling you get when you are watching someone else play one of those newer skiing/snowboarding video games with the huge screens, I was leaning to one side in the hopes that I might somehow persuade the plane to miss its intended target. No joy. Gayle was feeling sick to her stomach and wishing she were home with our kids, so we called home to let Grandma Jolene and our 2 young boys know that we were all right and not to worry. Of course, given the fact that it was before 6am back home, Grandma was half asleep I suspect, and had no idea what I was talking about. I asked her to let everyone know we were ok and told her I didn't know what our plans for returning home were at this time. We certainly wouldn't be flying, and the airports would be jammed or closed regardless.
Looking out the window, I saw fellow ISPer Sam Visger on the street with his camera in hand. He's walking around taking pictures and "experiencing" the event firsthand. These pictures (and some subsequent ones he took while we were all walking around the D.C. area later in the day) are available at:
We then called the front desk to find out if we would be able to keep our room in light of the current events, knowing that we were likely to be here for a while. They told us we must check out and then call the front desk in a few hours to see what the situation is. We go downstairs and see fellow ISPers Tony Cappelli and Mariana Horta, who are going to go for a long walk about town to see what's happening. We need to do something with our "stuff" since it appears we will have no place to stay as yet. Others in our group have rooms for the next few nights and volunteer to share their rooms with us, so we headed back to our room, grabbed some essential "stuff", and moved the remainder into one of our friends' rooms, and headed downstairs to figure out how we are all going to get the hell out of dodge, so to speak. When we get back downstairs, the front desk tells us it will now be no problem to stay in our original room (whew!).
We ask about rental cars. No dice. Trains going west? Nope. Donkey rides? Need to get further west for that. Being a biking enthusiast, I even contemplated a long-distance road trip. Nah. Except for the Rockies, the trip would be too boring, I convince myself. I had been planning to buy a new car anyway, so the current thinking is that we'll head out to a car dealer tomorrow and buy our transportation home. 3 days on the ground just feels safer than 6-7 hours in the air right now - statistics be damned! Several members of our California group said they would be up for that kind of road trip, so I might be buying a rather large bus. I am also in Rotary, and I found out that they meet on Wednesdays at Noon. We might just drop by and find out if any of them can render a little assistance with a car rental or purchase or ideas on what we should do. Besides, they probably serve lobster at their meetings. Don't want to miss that!
We caught up with Sam walking through the hotel lobby. I mention that it doesn't look like we're going anywhere anytime soon (bridges and roads are pretty much at a standstill), so perhaps we should ask if we can help out in some way. I had heard calls for blood donations and have been giving blood for years, so with the help of the concierge, we found the address of the local Red Cross and decided to head over to donate. None of us has eaten since the night before, so we decide we had better have breakfast first.
While waiting in line to be seated, we met Arline Hetland (sic), who was evacuated from the State Department, by herself, and concerned about the welfare of her friends and co-workers. We had heard rumors that the State Department had been hit by another plane or a car bomb, and that fires were burning out of control in that building. None of these appeared to be true, so far as we can tell. We invited her to have breakfast with us, and she broke into tears. We all joke about "needing a hug", but that was exactly what Arline needed and received. It was then that I realized how fortunate I was to be with my wife, rather than separated by thousands of miles. I could get or give a hug whenever the need arose. Being separated from your loved ones at a time like this gives you a different perspective.
Gayle had trouble finding much will to eat, so we all decided that we would stop the discussion of the day's events, which was hard because there was a television with the volume up full-tilt about 30 feet away in the bar part of the restaurant located inside the hotel. We turned the conversation to talking about last week's tubing trip on the Sacramento River (yee-haw!). We omitted the part about all the trash, the traffic, and the wet t-shirt contest, and managed to have an upbeat conversation to distract us while we forced ourselves to eat. OK, you caught me. I made 2 food trips and one dessert trip. But I was about to give blood. I didn't want the person getting my blood to feel hungry. And poor Arline had to listen to three geeks from the west coast drone on and on about how unfair the phone companies can be with their monopolistic stranglehold (one of my favorite catch phrases by the way) on resources we need to stay in business.
Sam, Gayle, and I finished eating, left Arline to find her way home, and started heading toward the Red Cross center, about 15 big city blocks from the hotel. Along the way, we peered past the blockades and past the police and secret service agents surrounding the White House. Shotguns, rifles, and machine guns were very much on display, letting everyone who passed by know that "none shall pass". The national guard darted through traffic in front of emergency vehicles, motioning to cars and pedestrians to move out of the way. The citizenry themselves showed a remarkable calm amid the clamor. If you took the emergency vehicles and personnel out of the picture, it would look like just another day in a big metropolitan city. People looked like they were just on the way to work, not running for their lives or worrying about our nation's security. Generally, however, civilians moved to the North, and emergency personnel moved to the south.
To further prove that life was moving on in spite of recent events, many small stores remained open for business, the homeless still had their hands out, the addicted still crowded park benches, and anti-preneurs offered radios, cameras, and bottled water at dubiously dear prices. As we walked, we analyzed how this all could have happened, how it was done, why certain flights were chosen over others. In the end, it was all like a surreal Hollywood movie post-production with the three of us trying to edit or re-write the script or at the very least, figure out what the original writer was trying to say. I wish we could have edited out certain key scenes before they were shot, if you know what I mean.
We made it to the Red Cross center, but were courteously turned away because that was not the place where donations took place. They also informed us that we should try to donate tomorrow because the donation centers were piled high with volunteer donors and they didn't have the supplies necessary to handle everyone. We decided to go over to the actual donation center anyway, and found a line stretching around the building with people waiting to donate. They told us it would be at least 8 hours if we decided to stand in line, and that they were likely to run out of supplies to get the donations before the scheduled shut down at 7pm. We took donation applications and decided to head back to the hotel. Our return route led us closer to, and past the north side of the White House.
Everything we saw, or read, or said, took on special meaning. The Washington Times morning edition (prior to this morning's events, obviously) had headlines like "Russian Warplanes Harass U.S. Craft Over Pacific" and "Pentagon Staff to be Trimmed by 15 Percent". And on the bottom half of the front page, a smallish article with the title "Bush's Tilt to Israel Provokes Arab World" with these words in the first paragraph, "...that has sparked anti-Americanism..." No one knows (yet) who is behind all of this, but you have to admit that these headlines and quotes certainly sound prophetic, no matter your political or religious persuasion.
Our hotel vantage point allowed us to witness President Bush arriving by helicopter (I saw 7 helicopters landing altogether), returning from Florida via Omaha (?). 14th Avenue seems to be a major arterial roadway, given the amount and rush of cranes, excavation equipment, huge spools of cables, and telecommunications vehicles heading toward the Pentagon to help with the cleanup, rescue, and service restoration operations.
As I sit here now (9pm as I'm writing this part of my anecdote), the scene is quiet. Several joggers are heading down 14th Avenue, running past (not through) barricades which replaced the yellow caution tape strung across access points to the White House earlier in the day. Small groups and couples walking about (tourists I would imagine, since the lack of downtown housing would indicate that most locals live elsewhere. There are some, but not many, "civilian" vehicles on the roads, and except for the occasional roar of fighter jets moving through the night sky, or the drone of military helicopters ferrying VIPs to and from the White House, the city looks and sounds quite peaceful. May it become exactly that for all of us quickly.
Gayle says she felt (and still feels) more sad than afraid. This was palpable each time a new "event" occurred. Each plan crash, each crumbling building, each new piece of video footage yielded a heavier sigh of disbelief from both of us. Long held breath was released in bursts of disbelief, our mouths agape. When I looked at Gayle's red and baggy eyes, I could tell this was sickening her, literally. We wanted to be with our kids, whom we had contemplated bringing for the educational aspect of our visit. Yet we were happy and relieved to know that they were safe, at home, with family, in our little hometown of Chico. Where the biggest local fear right now is that the Sacramento River might have to sustain a trashing by another 20,000 sun worshippers, paling in comparison to today's events.
Truth be told, I'm actually excited about being here. Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't wish this tragedy on anyone. But it HAS happened, and I just happen to be at ground zero. People always say they "remember where they were when...", but few of us "are THERE when...". This is one of those "whens". Right along with the other big disaster I witnessed firsthand, the Bay Area earthquake of 1989. This is an event I will carry with me forever. I should probably feel dread at the thought of being so close to so much concentrated government and military targets. In fact, I don't. When I'm just walking around and watching everything and talking to people, I feel quite normal. It is only when I see the TV coverage that I feel dread and uncertainty about our collective future.
Well, it is shortly after midnight as I write this final paragraph. A few more emergency vehicles with lights ablaze and sirens screaming are passing by on the street below - moving away from the Pentagon this time. Included in the entourage is a bus with untold cargo on board. Injured innocents? Crash evidence? VIPs? We don't know. Police still man the barricades as a few people still walk the streets, a few cars still move about, and another jet passes overhead. I'm about to go to sleep, knowing that our country is still standing, as tall and proud as the flag that still flies defiantly over the White House. I hope that this message finds you, your family, and your friends, all safe and well. Take care of each other. We'll be home soon.
Sunset Net Internet Services and CallAGuru Technical Services
This chapter of Barry's Washington Journal will be a montage of observations, philosophy, musings, reflections and hope. I finished writing this well after midnight (closer to 4am on Thursday morning, actually), but all events discussed occurred on 9/12 unless otherwise noted. Times are local (Eastern) times.
Wednesday morning. I wake up at about 9am and groggily head for the computer to check email. As I'm doing so, my cell phone rings. It's Randy Zachary from Y105 radio in Chico. He has been getting my email messages and would like to know if I can go on the air in a bit to let local listeners know what it's like here in the Capitol today. "Sure! No problem.", I say. I grab a quick shower and wait for his call. In the meantime, I look out the window to decide exactly how I'm going to describe the situation. The day before, I gave him a live report from my cell phone, and I admit I was getting a bit choked up at the end. It's one thing to absorb these events. It's quite another to try to convey them to others in a meaningful way without getting caught up in it emotionally yourself.
I can see that the barricades from the night before have been moved to one side. The police cars are much more sparse, as are their occupants. Traffic is light and moving along nicely. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and all looks right in the world. But it isn't. The American Flag that was waving defiantly at full mast the day before has been lowered to half mast, defiance replace by acknowledgement of the mounting numbers of those who have lost their lives.
Y105 is a Christian radio station, and I ponder the recent events and how (and whether) I should interpret them. I am not a pastor, a priest, or a rabbi. I am just an American human being, who happens to be closer to a cataclysmic event than most. I recall listening to people on TV describing their experiences in getting out of the towers, looking for loved ones, and searching through debris. I think to myself, what is MY story? What insight am I going to provide to the horrible timeline that we are experiencing? What reassurance can I offer the folks back home that will have any meaning? Am I supposed to start quoting chapter and verse? Am I supposed to lead or be led in prayer? Randy and I have talked about this before, and he knows that I struggle with the concept of religion and God. And, like everyone else who will be listening to me in a few minutes, I think, my place in the universe. Randy says the call-in conversation has been full of thoughts of "the end days". Just like Oklahoma City, and Teheran, every war and skirmish ever fought, and even the Millennium, I muse. Just once it would be nice to have someone get on the radio and say something like "It's so beautiful outside, I think the rapture is coming". But we live in a Jerry Springer world, and comments like these don't sell 30-second spots.
Randy calls, and as a song finishes up, I hear him ID the station and say "... and before that was Lee-Ann Calhoon [blah, blah, blah]". Lee-Ann and I went to High School together in Roseville, California and have been working together for nearly a year planning our 20th-year reunion slated for next year. It seems so odd to hear a familiar name precede my own time on the air, but it's oddly comforting, as if I'm not so far away after all. I give my report and tell them exactly what it looks like. Just another day in a big city. I find myself wishing that Y105 still had their live 24-hour internet broadcast going (which we were providing for them before BMI and ASCAP licensing issues forced them to turn it off). I wanted so badly to hear what followed my call. I wanted to hear comments from the local people - my people, not the media or anyone directly involved in New York or Washington. I wanted to know what they had to say after I hung up. Alas.
On a day that should have been filled with visits to members of congress, exercising our right to meet and confer with our elected representatives, we find ourselves wanting nothing more than to simply get home. Our options are to rent a car (if we can find one), buy a car (if we can decide on which one to buy, find a dealership within a reasonable distance, and work out terms that aren't insane, or wait for air travel to resume. Our original plans included a return flight on Thursday at about 3pm, but with air travel suspended indefinitely, we can't count on anything at this point. Facing that fact, we opt to look into ground transportation options.
I remembered looking up the local Rotary Club upon arrival to see when they were meeting. Turned out to be today. Since I originally had a full schedule planned for the day, I blew off any expectation of making it to the meeting to do a "make up" since I missed my local meeting which started just about the time I was taking off from Sacramento. Now, however, I thought of Rotary as an excellent resource we could call on in our time of need. Perhaps someone would be able to help us rent or purchase a car to get us on the road home. As luck would have it, the meetings take place at Noon just across the street from us at the Washington Hotel on 15th and F, directly across from the US Treasury building, behind which lies the White House. It's late morning, and we decide to wait for the meeting to eat.
In the meantime, we speak with Sam, who has already been out and about this morning, even taking in a White House tour. He mentions that the tour is short and sweet, no cameras of any kind are allowed to be used, and visitors are given a small version of a uniting force in our country right now, The American Flag. He also takes with him the distinct impression that a conversation he "overheard" between a pair of security guards may have been just a tad rehearsed. "Hey, Phil. I think I'll get in a round of golf later today." "Oh yeah? Maybe I'll join you and we can make it a duo, huh?" "That would be great!" (yes, this is hearsay). I comment that it would be interesting to go on the tour twice to see if they re-run the conversation like the animatronics at Disneyland.
Our other friends Tony and Mariana call us to say they are going to make the best of their visit and meet with as many representatives as they can find. They have at least one appointment in the afternoon, and invite us along. I tell them I'll try, but in reality, I have other priorities occupying my mind at this time. Reuniting my 2 sons with their parents, and reuniting ourselves with the rest of the family and friends anxiously awaiting our return.
I call Congressman Herger's office to tell them (as if they didn't know) that I missed our Tuesday appointment. Cherstyn, who arranged our original meeting, offers to have one of the staff meet with us later in the day if I would like. She even goes out of the way to tell me that it's business as usual at this time, that Mr. Herger himself will be in and out of the office during the day, and if he happens by during my visit, she will do what she can to see that I get to meet with him personally. I thank her for the offer, but decide that congress is more involved (rightfully so) in other matters at this time and that anything I may have to say to him today will be overshadowed by the events unfolding around us. I tell her I'll contact Fran Peace back in Chico to schedule a meeting with Mr. Herger the next time he's back home in California.
Having contacted everyone, we head over to the Washington Hotel to attend the local Rotary Club, only to find out (not surprisingly) that the meeting has been cancelled. Gayle is hungry (a good sign, I think to myself), so we head to an upscale sandwich shop / bakery called "The Corner" that we saw the day before. The place is filled with autographed pictures of Washington correspondents, all wishing the eatery the best of luck. I groan as I read Katie Couric's handwritten note which says, "I hope you make lots of dough". I shake my head and smile. I kneaded to have a little humor in my day. The food is excellent, and the combination of blues and jazz playing in the background offers an interesting audio backdrop to the urban movement outside the restaurant window. I refrain from prodding Gayle with my usual music trivia interrogation. I don't think she's in the mood for my (often annoyingly) playful "Who's this?". We grab a copy of the Washington Post on our way out.
We return to the hotel room and decide to first check out one-way car rentals, even if we have to pick one up many miles away from here. Checking on the internet is difficult because we are not familiar enough with the surrounding area to know how to pick a starting point for our journey. Of course, entering starting points of DCA, IAD, and BWI (Ronald Reagan, Dulles International, and Baltimore-Washington airports, respectively) get us nowhere. There are NO one-way rental vehicles in the immediate vicinity. Calling the reservation numbers gets us messages like "Due to extremely high call volume, all agents are currently busy. Please try your call again later". We can't even get put on hold for the next available agent at this point. Doing a few end-runs on the system finally gets me to a reservations agent, who helps me determine that there MIGHT be a car available in Hagerstown, Maryland. That's about a 2-hour drive from our location and the agent says we can't be sure the vehicle is actually there until we go there and check in person. We opt not to bother.
We then decide to look into buying a car to get us home. I've been interested in getting an SUV of some type for quite a while now, so thought it might be a good time to start looking. And quickly. A call to our credit union back in California disappointed us. They would be unable to offer us a loan for a car purchased outside of California. Come to think of it, would our insurance company cover a cross-country trip on an as-yet-unregistered vehicle? We'd deal with that later. If we had to, we decided to purchase the car on credit cards and then refinance it after we got back. We didn't have enough ourselves to cover the cost, but relatives offered to help us out with their credit lines if we needed it.
I subscribed to Consumer Reports online and started my barry-esque search for the perfect vehicle. The virtual sticker shock didn't faze me (much). I was only interested in the specs. I would deal with costs later. After picking out a few models to get serious about, we went to cars.com to check availability and pricing. After a while, the search not only got old, but seemed silly. My heart was just not into "shopping", no matter how fun the "new toy" would have been.
Gayle seemed to be in better spirits, and thoughts of taking a flight back to California seemed less menacing, so we called the airline (TWA, now owned by American, which owned 2 of the 4 planes involved) to see when we would be able to fly out. The agent said that the current thinking was that flights would resume at Noon Thursday, so our 2:50pm departure should allow us to leave at our normal time. I asked what would happen if that flight was cancelled or we missed it or air travel was still grounded. She indicated that the next available flight back would be on Monday the 17th. I was going to play it safe and book a flight on the 17th just to be safe, figuring that I could always cancel it and get back our refundable fare of $333 per ticket for the one-way flight (our original tickets cost us only $188 round trip each). She said that flights on the 17th would likely still be available on Thursday, so we decided to roll the dice and see how the next day transpired.
For the next several hours, we watched the news. The most amazing development all day, as far as we were personally concerned, was the revelation that the White House was likely the original Washington D.C. target (or one of them). Up until then, I was thinking how fortunate I was to be so close to the action without being PART of the action. Now I know how close I really came to being even more directly involved in this country's history. I'm going to be very curious to see what the flight path was of the plane that hit the Pentagon. Did it pass over our hotel? How many times? What was the intended path? What if they overshot or undershot their target? What was the target of the plane that landed in in Pennsylvania? I have a lot of questions, but fortunately for me, they are nothing but "what if" scenarios at best.
Sam stopped by our room to have me upload some more digital photos of his trip around the town, which you can view at:
He thought the picture labeled DCP02363.JPG was most poignant and I had to agree. If you've never taken a trip to the Capitol and/or don't ever intend to, you can print some of them out and stick them in your own photo album and tell yourselves things like "and here we are at the Smithsonian!".
When we had seen enough of the same old doom and gloom, we watched "The Brady Bunch Movie". You know how you will sometimes watch a show and find striking parallels to current events going on around you? This was not one of those times. Not by a long shot. It was a silly diversion, plain and simple. Later, after Sam left, "Band of Brothers" was playing on HBO. In the "American Way" in-flight magazine I read on the way out here, I read about this 10-part series depicting the 506th Paratrooper Company that was sent in to Normandy as part of the D-Day pre-invasion preparation. However well produced it appeared, it was still about war and that was not likely going to be very entertaining or morale-boosting for us right now.
We're getting pretty desensitized to the whole event. We've seen and heard so many emergency vehicles pass our hotel that we've long since stopped rushing to the window to see how many there are, what markings they have, and where they are going. It's just before midnight now, and a large fire truck and an ambulance pull silently up to the front entrance to our hotel, rather than passing by as usual. We know they've stopped here because the muted reflections of the emergency lights continue to play across the windows and structure of the building on the other side of the street. Gayle is on the phone with one of our boys, who are no doubt getting ready for bed (or not). I hear her reassure them that we are fine and will be home with them shortly, but she looks apprehensive. Our oldest son, Steven, tells Gayle, "I hope those bad guys don't get on the plane because if they did, I would cry all day at school". Stated in the only way an 8-year old can. Direct, straightforward concern. No hatred. No vengeance. No politics. He's just letting us know that he loves us and misses us by expressing his raw, selfish, innocent feelings. The feeling is mutual, buddy.
I now know why Gayle is looking a bit tense. Punctuating the presence of the emergency vehicles are two black SUVs, the type that have been shuttling around secret service agents and other official-looking personnel. They are just sitting there, lights out. Knowing that today's events yielded a raid on the Westin Hotel in Boston, and searches through various other residences and buildings around the country, Gayle's concern that a person linked to the terrorists might be in our hotel reveals itself in her red-rimmed eyes. We decide to go downstairs to see what's going on, if only to reassure ourselves that all is ok. When we get there, the security guard casually tells us it is just a standard medical problem, probably with one of the guests. The SUVs are probably just regular cars owned by regular people. Everything becomes a symbol, a warning, a red flag. We elect to return to the room and call it an evening.
I'm going to sign off for the night now. I am hopeful that tomorrow will see me boarding a plane heading west, having a safe trip home, and hugging the crap out of my kids when I see them, ensuring that our schools don't become places for our children to cry. I'll drift off to sleep with echoes of the conversation my wife had with our younger son, Justin, when she spoke with him earlier this evening:
Justin: Mom? I got something for you.
Gayle: What do you got?
Justin: smak smak smak smak smak smak smak smak smak smak...
Gayle: Are those kisses?
Justin: ...smak smak smak smak smak smak smak smak smak...
Gayle: Ohhh, I love you too!
Sunset Net Internet Services and CallAGuru Technical Services
We just found out that our original flight home, scheduled for 2:50pm this afternoon, has been cancelled. We are now scheduled to leave on Monday, Sept. 17th at 2:50pm. So, it looks like we're going to become tourists for the next 4 days. We had been too stunned to really consider looking around D.C., but there's really nothing else we can do right now, so we plan on making the best of the situation and attempt to do something other than hang around our hotel room. The hotel is reducing their rate by more than half for us, which is nice of them. Further, the organization that sponsored our trip is volunteering to take care of any additional expenses, which is nice as well. Our thanks go to everyone for their understanding and help in this situation.
Once I learned that the White House was possibly the actual target of the plane that hit the Pentagon, I wanted to find out exactly where it went. Here is a link showing the flight paths for all 4 flights. Very intriguing.
Here is a map of the area we are staying in. Be sure to check out both the aerial photo and street map (tabs). Pennsylvania Avenue slashes through the White House from the upper left down to the lower right. Our hotel is located one block to the southeast from the "figure 8" looking building to the right of the White House. This link may be too long to simply click on. If so, you will have to cut and paste each line in the address field of your browser. I will try to publish these pictures on the web soon as well.
As an alternative, go to http://www.mapquest.com and enter "14th and Pennsylvania" for the address, "Washington" for the city, and "DC" as the state. Click on "Big Map" button in the upper right of the map area. Then click the 4th zoom bar from the top (zoom located on right side). Click the "re-center" radio button on the bottom and then click on the tidal basin to the south of the White House to pretty much give you the best view of the area.
Sunset Net Internet Services and CallAGuru Technical Services
Hello everyone. After several plan changes (rent-a-car, buy-a-car, take-a-train, walk, et al), it looks like Gayle and I will be heading back by airplane tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Unless a problem arises, we should be back in Sacramento by 1pm, Pacific Time.
All is fairly quiet here. They put the barricades back up across the street. I took a few photos of a line of military "humvees" that were parked across the street along the barricaded road entering the White House. This was during the President's visit to New York. We saw the President's helicopter leaving the White House. Unfortunately, we didn't have our cameras at the ready to get a picture. Got some others that should be interesting, however.
Yesterday was mainly a shopping trip for us. Needed a few supplies and a change of clothes. We're going to head out to some tourist traps now. Talk to you all later.
Sunset Net Internet Services and CallAGuru Technical Services
Gayle and I are back in California. Our whole family (it seems) was waiting for us at Gayle's sister's when we got back. My youngest son, Justin, just about squeezed my neck off with his hugs, as he threatened/promised. My 8-year old tried to hide it (ah, the trials of being a big little man), but I could see in his eyes that he was pretty relieved and happy to see us. There was a nice computer banner on the garage welcoming us back, and our boys made us some nice handwritten cards letting us know they missed us and loved us.
We've been travelling all day, having woke up at 2:15 to catch a 3:15 shuttle to the airport, so that we could be there 3 hours early. Glad we did. Those who only gave themselves 2 hours to check in had to be pulled from the big line (and I mean BIG LINE), expedited, and rushed to the gate. Their baggage is still not here.
One interesting anecdote. I am probably now on someone's "list" for possible airport security risk. While browsing through the newsstand, an alarm went off at the x-ray machine. Probably just someone who forgot about their Swiss army knife in their carry on luggage. Several security people descended upon the hapless traveller to start the questions and examine the luggage more thoroughly. I thought "Hey, this is pretty exciting" and whipped out my digital camera to snap off a quick shot of the commotion. Bad decision. An unmarked security dude walked up to me (before I took the picture) and said I was not allowed to take a picture of the security systems. I said "Sorry, no problem", capped my lens, and turned off the camera. I was feeling pretty silly and returned to looking at the magazines when a marked security dude approached me and asked me what it was I was doing. I explained that I was going to take a picture of the commotion and the other gentleman warned me that this was not allowed. He wanted to see my camera, so I let him browse through all of the pictures on the camera (about 200 of them at this point). He was satisfied that there was no picture of the security system on it (I did have some pics of the check-in area, which is ok I guess since he didn't have a problem with them), but asked me to go with him for a security check, leaving Gayle at the newsstand, probably shaking her head in disbelief. We walked over to a "secure" area where 3 Maryland troopers, 2 airport security agents, a "regular" police officer, and 2 more nondescript but stern looking people blocked off any exit I may attempt. I was asked to produce my id and then asked if there was anything I wanted to tell them before they ran a check on my name. I started thinking very quickly:
1. Paid all my taxes? Yep.
2. Commit any capital crimes? Nope.
3. Sleep with any interns? Nope (but that probably would have helped me, being so close to the capitol and all)
4. Any ties to militant/extremist/zealot/terrorist groups? Nope.
5. Ever run an ISP? Oh God. I'm screwed.
I said "No, go ahead", hoping that I had neither forgotten skeletons in my closet nor shared nom de plumes with wanted criminals.
After a several minute wait, they said I could go. I walked back to the newsstand where Gayle was still shopping. (Hey, there must have been a shift change). She's so nice. Didn't even shake her head once in disbelief. (Was that guy in the newsstand the last time I was here?) What a gal! (Why isn't that other guy holding any carryon baggage?) We made our purchases and headed for the gate we'd be departing from. (Are those two young men following us?). I think I'll stop and take a peek at that window display. (Ha! They walked past us. Looks like I shook 'em!). Those T-shirts are too pricey. (I bet the man and woman behind us aren't even together). You get the point. In this heightened level of security, when you mess up like I did, you get the distinct impression that you're a marked man.
The rest of the trip went very smoothly. Took off from Baltimore, stopped briefly in Little Rock to pick up more passengers, then laid over in Las Vegas. Now this is interesting (ok, maybe only to me). I'm going to be returning to Las Vegas in about 3 months (internet geek convention). So, I'm scanning the skyline with one thought in mind... Which building is highest? Looks like Mandalay Bay from my vantage point on the tarmac. Guess I won't be staying there. The Cozy-8 in Kingman, AZ is looking pretty good about now. Maybe we'll go camping and just drive in each day.
Well, enough reflections for now. We hopped our last leg back to Sacramento and had a simulator-perfect (er, sorry) landing. Our luggage arrived a couple of hours after we did, so we'll "swing by" and pick it up from the airport on our way north to Chico. Then it's back to as normal a life as we can all muster after this past week's events. I don't know what our collective future holds, but whatever it is, I think we're going to be a much more solidly unified country, and beyond that, a more unified world. I hope that the 4-way test we use in Rotary is considered in times like these. It will be VERY easy for us to lose our heads right now. George Bush Senior called for a New World Order. I think it is upon us. Maybe not exactly the way he intended, but the way we view our world has just been fundamentally changed. Let us show the world that we are a nation that desires peace for all, freedom for all, and respect for all. And woe be unto those who would deny the world any of the above.
I will stop clogging your mailboxes with my diatribes after this message. If you wish to continue getting them, send me an email message asking to be added to a special distribution list and I will be glad to accommodate. Thanks for putting up with me and keeping me and my family in your thoughts these last several days.
Sunset Net Internet Services and CallAGuru Technical Services