I was working for an engineering company in West Palm Beach, FL and was on my way to work listening to Power 96 (a Miami radio station). The typical light-hearted morning show banter was quickly interrupted by the radio host Bo Griffin saying “something bad has happened in New York City,” words I will never forget. Through the rest of my drive to work, there was no music, no chatter, nothing but utter seriousness as her voice quivered as she attempted to narrate what was happening.
I pulled into work shortly before 9:00am and found people lined up outside the IT room door saying “I can’t get on the internet – I think it’s down.” The internet was in-fact not down, all news sites were overloaded by people trying to find out what was happening.
Executives, receptionists, and people I had never met (again) lined up outside the IT room saying “I can’t call my family in NYC.” The phones were also in-fact not down. All long-distance carriers overloaded by the sheer volume calls to friends, family and business associates in the North East US causing the “All circuits busy” message to be heard.
A quick word on 2001 technology… In 2001, we had a few T1 lines for internet and a bunch of expensive long distance carriers. This technology was considered leading edge and extremely expensive then. That didn’t matter, the speed and ability to communicate today were drastically different back then. Additionally, there were little emergency communications channels or priority circuits, so everyone (friends, family, government and first responders) were all trying to communicate at the same time and priority.
We could not get [timely] information. I called up a friend at home who turned on the TV – all stations were reporting the events of that day. He put the phone next to the TV, turned up the volume; we put that audio on speaker phone as our ONLY source of information.
Shortly before lunch someone had got a TV from their house, and we managed to rig up an antenna to get a local TV station. The fuzzy reception showed a smoldering lower Manhattan with the twin towers missing and the Pentagon on fire.
Not much work was done that day. I remember driving home from work shortly after 5:00pm and looking at a sky filled with nothing. Not one plane in the air – it was a day I will never forget.