9/11: When the Rules Changed Forever

Friday - 9/9/2011, 2:01am EDT

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday.

Monday, the day before, I had spent some time walking through several federal agencies. I think I went into Interior , GSA and had lunch at the FDIC dining room.

Walking through the buildings, I checked out bulletin boards, peaked into offices and nodded to a couple of people who looked familiar. Normal day. I had finished the column and was just getting the feel of the workplace. I did it a couple of times a month. Sometimes joining a friend, sometimes eating alone at the OPM cafeteria or in some other federal cafeteria. I did it for the atmosphere, not the food.

I'll never be able to do that again.

Wish I could but I won't because I can't.

Getting into a federal building these days is tough. You need a government-issued ID, you need to walk through a metal detector, you need an escort. You might expect this at the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon or the National Security Agency. They never messed around.

Places like the Social Security Administration headquarters, or the Census Bureau (think of all those files, numbers and data), not to mention the Internal Revenue Service headquarters, have always been well-guarded. For good reason.

But now, getting into almost any federal facility is a federal case. For good reason.

If you lived through that day, especially here or in New York City, you were probably too scared, stunned, angry or all of the above to realize it was a historic game-changer day.

My oldest son was on the other side of the Pentagon, trying to get a ride, when American Airlines #77 slammed into the building at 9:37 a.m. It went 310 feet inside the building before disintegrating. Although it made a hole two stories tall and 75 feet wide, it could have been worse. That side of the building had just been reinforced by the late David O. "Doc" Cooke, director of Washington Headquarters Services. He was called the Mayor of the Pentagon and he and his crew saved a lot of lives that day.

My youngest son was at Dulles Airport when AA Flight 77 took off. I had friends at the Pentagon. Maybe you did too. I also knew people at the Capitol, the CIA and the State Department, which we thought, at the time, were targets. Or falsely reported as hit.

So most of us didn't have time for serious reflection as to what the attacks did to us. And the impact they would have on our lives a decade later.

There were 100,000 (at least) heroes that day. Civilians, military people and the heroic fire, police and medic crews that risked and lost their lives doing their jobs.

A few weeks after the attacks a major corporation, involved in communications and security, made a film about the World Trade Centers. I got to see it, thanks to a friend inside. In addition to hearing the sirens and people yelling, you could hear a distinct "thump" every few seconds. After about the tenth one I asked what it was. What was making the noise? Turns out it was people, human being mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and spouses — jumping from the WTC to escape the flames from 40 and 50 stories up — that made the thumping sounds.

Later on, when I saw the film, the thumping sounds were gone. They had been edited out because the corporate officials thought they might be too graphic and too disturbing for some people! Maybe that was a good call. The right thing to do. But I'll never, ever forget that sound.

Email Mike at mcausey@federalnewsradio.com.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

The terms "slush fund," "chock-a-block" and "cut of your jib" all originated as naval or nautical phrases, according to Phrase Finder. For example, slush was the name sailors gave the grease left over from boiled meat. While not exactly a delicacy, the ship's crew would sell it on land, netting them enough money for a "slush fund."


MORE FROM FEDERAL NEWS RADIO

Will weak economy make buyouts ineffective?
More agencies are offering buyouts and early retirements, as they try to deal with smaller budgets. But at some point, if not enough people voluntarily quit, some employees might not have much of a choice.

DHS St. E's project on budget chopping block
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said the project to develop the new Homeland Security headquarters will be put on hold in the short term to deal with budget constraints expected in 2012 and beyond.

Federal News Radio to launch new website
FederalNewsRadio.com is getting a facelift in the coming week. Find out about the new features we're bringing to you.