– Heroes of 9/11 and Tech

Police at WTO Riots in Seattle, 1999

Police at WTO Riots in Seattle, 1999

Original post:  23 May 2008
Life is full of coincidences and crossing paths on the journey of life.  I had such a set of coincidences this week.  On Tuesday night I had a couple glasses of wine with an acquaintance of mine, Gino Menchini, who was in town to keynote a conference.   Gino was CIO of the City of New York for a few years early in Michael Bloomberg’s administration.   I first met Gino at a “Large Cities CIOs” conference he hosted in NYC in 2004.
Tonight (May 22nd) the move “Battle in Seattle” kicked off the Seattle International Film Festival.  This film purports to depict the WTO riots of 1999, which gave Seattle a huge black eye in the media, but also helped galvanize us to improve our preparedness for disasters.
Sunday morning, May 25th, a team of employees of my department – the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) of the City of Seattle, will give up a good chunk of their Memorial Day weekend to upgrade the major telephone switch serving Seattle’s City government to the latest release of the switch’s software.   Many of these are the same folks who helped put the technology into the City of Seattle’s new Emergency Operations Center / Fire Alarm Center (see my blog entry from May 18th).
What do these events have in common?   Just why are they a “coincidence”?
Just this:  Heroism comes in many flavors.   September 11th, unfortunately, created many heroes, most of which are still with us.  Those are folks who supported the City of New York (and also Washington, D.C.) during those difficult days.  Gino was one of them – although he was working as an account executive for Cisco Systems on September 11th, he ran TOWARD the World Trade Center, and “collected” (appropriated?) a lot of technology from Cisco to allow the City of New York’s Emergency Operations Center to be up and functioning within 24 hours of the disaster.   He stayed on duty for weeks after that, helping to direct Cisco’s resources toward the recovery from that disaster.  
Similarly, the WTO riots here in Seattle created a number of heroes, including Assistant Police Chief Jim Pugel, who was a police Captain and in command of the police officers on  the street during that difficult week.   Jim is one of the most caring, unassuming people you’d ever meet.  But he took care of his officers and protected the people of Seattle despite terrible planning by the City (thank you Paul Schell) in preparing for the event.  
In their own ways, those DoIT employees coming in on Sunday to upgrade a telephone switch are also quiet heroes.  While many people are enjoying their Memorial Day weekend, these folks will be in downtown Seattle working.   The City of Seattle’s phone network is up and available over 99.99% of the time, which is really important in disasters and emergencies, because it WORKS when the public telephone network will be overloaded.  As I mentioned, these are the same folks who worked many long hours to install technology in the EOC to make it quite prepared to weather and manage future disasters.  And on September 11th, 2001, they stayed on the job in a skyscraper in downtown Seattle, keeping City of Seattle technology operating, when all the employees of banks and private companies left those skyscrapers and went home in fear.
These are different levels of heroism, but they all require commitment to keeping the people of the United States, the City of New York and the City of Seattle safe.  And these are the quiet heroes, not the folks who get a medal or have their name on the front page. 
I am so proud to know and work with them.

1 Comment

Filed under 911, Sept. 11th

One response to “– Heroes of 9/11 and Tech

  1. I think you may well like the film “Battle in Seattle”. While it does show some law enforcement roughness, it shows the anarchists too, and in general, gets into the very human components behind events like that – on both sides. Those who were actually involved may pick apart the ways it doesn’t reflect their recollections -pretty common for a fictional film based on a real event- but the film puts forth a good effort at showing the complex human factors at play during such highly-charged events. Th e movie opens in Seattle on September 19, 2008.

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