Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My second day of "infamy", Dec. 13, 2001

Day of “Infamy”

Thursday, December 13, 2001, was a gray cold day in Minneapolis with snow grains. I arrived in the office about 8 AM and saw the HR head enter the boss’s office. She greeted me.

At exactly 9 AM, I was logged on to the network and to a GUI application, talking to a user to resolve a problem. The Intranet interrupted me with a warning box, saying “Your account has been disabled. Please log off.” At first, I even thought it was a usual disk space warning. I kept talking about three minutes and stayed in the Powerbuilder application. After I logged off, I did try to log back on, and found that I could not. I called the corporate help desk and reported the problem.

Actually, a similar thing had happened about 5:30 PM the day before, Dec 12, and security had fixed it. I just thought it was a glitch. That night, I had watched Nightline talk about the Enron debacle. In the morning, I had Windows ME (that is what I had then) crash my Sony PC with the blue screen of death. That often happened in AOL.

Around 9:10, a manager was in my cubicle, and he said, “Bill, we have a meeting.”

We went to a corner office. I had already figured out the severance, and I was right on the money. I was relieved to have eight months plus severance and to be able to start retirement pension payments immediately. Given the economy and situation, then, I was a lot better off than a lot of people. In fact, I looked forward to the “vacation.”

I went up to the cafeteria for the company Christmas dinner. People said “is it OK?” Fourteen people got axed that day on our floor. But no one expected access to be cut off immediately, without warning. Usually, people had been given a couple months notice that they would be severed, and be given targets to meet to get severance. Not this time.

That afternoon, some coworkers helped wheel some of my books down the Skyway to my apartment in the Churchill. That night, I went to a favorite spot on Lake Street for supper. But before leaving, I had to watch Osama bin Laden boast about his glee in watching the towers fall on September 11, way beyond his expectations. Even the news commentators talked about his gloating.

My job lasted exactly 92 calendar days after 9/11. From the time my IT career started on Feb 16, 1970, I had never been unemployed due to involuntary termination. I was now 58 years old.

I have not had a full corporate logon with full network and mainframe access since. A lot has happened from home, with interim jobs, and with my web domains and blogs. But on that day, it was “as the world turns.” Or maybe “Days of our Lives.”

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