Thought Leadership

And where were you?

By Colin Walls

When I was growing up, I would commonly hear people discussing their recollections of a momentous event and where they were and what they were doing when they heard The News. At that time, the event of note was the assassination of John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963. I was just a kid then and it really had little impact on me. I recall the slightly fuzzy TV pictures and I even think we may have been allowed to see some of the news at school, but, thinking back, that seems unlikely. I confess that I even needed to look up the date [but I did remember the year correctly].

I am sure that nobody needs to be reminded that we have a key anniversary of another momentous event coming up soon …

It has been a long 10 years since 11 September 2001. The world has changed a lot over that time. I have certainly seen enormous changes in my own life. Technology has marched on, which has affected all of our lifestyles, but our attitudes and approach to the world and to traveling around it has changed even more. Frankly, I always felt rather uncomfortable by the lack of security at US airports, particularly for domestic flights, but I would never have wanted my discomfort to be justified in the way that it was.

So, where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news of “9/11”? I would be very interested to hear your stories and thoughts by comment or email.

I was in the office [in the UK] that afternoon. I was attending a meeting, which included some colleagues visiting from the US. We were in a meeting room that had large windows onto the outside office space. I could see a bunch of people congregated around a computer, clearly all interested in something, but they were mainly young guys and it could have been any number of things that distracted them. I slipped out of the meeting to check some information. I sat at my desk, opened my browser and saw the home page, which had a news feed. It was a while before I returned to the meeting, which I interrupted to share the news.

Our American colleagues ended up staying in Europe for quite a lot longer than planned, as a result of the closing of US airspace. I later heard that some of my west coast based colleagues were similarly stranded in Boston. Apparently some of them had been staying in the same hotel as one of the hijackers. I am not sure why I find that fact so scary.

When I arrived home that evening, I found my daughter watching TV. She was 10 at the time. She asked me: “Why do they keep showing it?” She was referring to the footage of the second plane crashing into the tower. For the TV news folks, that must have been the video capture of a lifetime – having the cameras pointing in the right direction at exactly the right time. I am sure that the people planning the attack had this in mind. My daughter was quite traumatized by seeing it over and over. She was only a little older than I had been back in ’63, but she knew exactly what she was witnessing: the instant, violent death of several hundred innocent people.

I am sure that we will all spare a thought for those who died on that fateful day. But senseless deaths occur every day, whether my accident, avoidable sickness or at the hand of other human beings. And every death is a deep tragedy to those left behind. So, use this anniversary to give a thought not just to the victims of 9/11, but to all those who are no longer with us. I have been writing about memories and it is in our memory that our loved ones live on.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at