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Ten Years Gone: Reflections on 9/11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Here we are, ten years after that fateful September day when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked by terrorists hijacking commercial planes. Like millions have done today, I took time to think about the events of 9/11 and where I was (both physically and figuratively) in my own life. I also thought about how a significant date becomes a marker in time for annual reflection.

On September 11, 2001, I was working as a Web Developer at my first technology job, an eLearning start-up. My morning routine consisted of arriving at work shortly after 9:00am, reading a bit of news, grabbing an almond vanilla coffee, then doing research or web programming until lunch. The first website I would launch was Slashdot. I typed their URL into Mozilla (yes, I was an early adopter of their fledgling browser) and waited for the website to load. Sensing something was wrong with our servers (given Slashdot's established uptime reliability), I asked a co-worker if our company Internet connection was having issues. He said a plane or missle had hit the World Trade Center and rumours of it being a terrorist attack was causing extreme Internet congestion. Slashdot eventually loaded with some brief snippets of news about the attacks. Google's home page was the only other online source for small tidbits of news. Every other major website was down.

For the previous five years, the eleventh day of September had a different meaning for me than most people. My Mom died on September 11, 1995 after a short battle with cancer. For the next five years, I would wake up on that date with thoughts of her heavy on my mind. I would lose concentration throughout the day reflecting on my life with her in it and the gaping wound her absence had created.

But now, the bastards had stolen the date from me.

The bastards stole it from thousands that day. They created grief and loss where it didn't have to exist. Family members were lost in the attacks when they should have come home that night. Kids needlessly lost their parents. As David Letterman put it (during his first Late Show episode after the attacks): "if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any goddamned sense?"

There was no stopping the cancer that took my Mom from us. It was heartless, savage and unrelenting. It proceeded with one goal in mind - to destroy life. When medicine gave up, my Dad stepped in and did everything he could to stop the cancer. There were a few successes, but eventually she lost the battle and we were left to pick up the pieces.

The people that suffered during (and after) 9/11 shouldn't have had to endure the same sense of loss and tragedy as myself and my family.

Humanity is capable of such amazing things. In 2008, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was directed to photograph the Phoenix Lander during its descent onto to the Martian surface. This is what we're really capable of accomplishing.


Creative Options in Waterloo, my location during the 9/11 attacks. I returned here today to grab a photo.
10-22mm, handheld HDR, f/8.0, ISO 100

Long Way Around

Friday, July 15, 2011

Starting tomorrow, I'm beginning a road trip that's been in the works for a long time. It will take me on a round trip journey across Canada, down the Pacific coast, and back home across the United States.

The route for the trip can be best described as planned spontaneity. Over the course of a month, I'm going to follow those red arrows on the map with an improvisational spirit. I'll be loosely following each arrow with a plan to avoid major highways as much as possible.

Impetus

The source of inspiration for this road trip is two-fold - one part family and the other part documentary.

The primary inspiration comes from my Dad. He instilled in me a real thirst for travel. I often saw him devouring information about geography, history and travel which had a natural influenced on me. We often talked about the places he had been and the places he wanted to see. He was especially a huge fan of the Canadian landscape and had covered most of the country before his death ten years ago. We had taken a few solo trips together before my Mom died, but once she was gone, I became his full-time travel partner. The last road trip we did was to Atlantic Canada. We were planning trips to the Yukon and Newfoundland shortly before he died. In many ways, I'll be experiencing this road trip through my father's eyes.

The other inspiration is a documentary I've discussed with many people - Long Way Round, featuring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. In 2004, they rode motorcycles around the world and documented the entire adventure for the BBC. I bought the extended DVD set in 2006 and have watched it from start to finish a few times, never getting bored of the crazy adventures Ewan and Charley have on their trip! I've always wanted to do adventurous traveling, as opposed to touristic traveling, and seeing the Long Way Round series really gave this desire a kick start.

He's Got Legs

The road trip can essentially be broken into three legs. The first leg will last approximately one week and take me from Toronto out to Alberta. After spending a week or so bouncing between Calgary and Edmonton visiting family and friends, the second leg will take me to San Francisco via Vancouver. I'll be spending a few days in the Bay Area geeking it up with photography and technology, then I'll head home on the third leg of the trip, weaving a path across the United States until I'm back in Toronto. I'll write about each leg of the trip in separate updates in the coming days.

Clean Diesel, Baby

I'll be doing the road trip in my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel (long enough title, eh?). I bought that car because of its perfect combination of eco-friendliness (it was rated as the 2009 Green Car of the Year) and power (2.0L Turbo Diesel). I've been able to reach 960km on a single tank of fuel, which is amazing considering the power of the engine and size of the car. My goal is to reach 1000km on a tank of fuel at least once on this trip.

Shortly after I bought the car, I told fellow explorer Keri that "it's going to take me around the world". It may never leave North America, but the sentiment was there. ;)


28-135mm, 1/500 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100

That's a brief overview of the trip. I'll be writing, photographing and posting video of the adventure on all the usual social media suspects[1], as well as here on the website. Stay tuned for updates!

Update (Monday, July 25th): Readers can follow along with posts about the trip by viewing the Road Trip 2011 category tag.

References

1. Social media presence: Twitter, Google+, Facebook Page, Flickr, 500px

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