On the Road: Adventures in Consulting on 9-11


During the many years Lee Copeland has been a software consultant, he's logged quite a few travel miles and amassed numerous tales from all over the world. This story, originally published on StickyMinds.com in November 2001, takes place during and after the September 11 attacks.

When the editors suggested reposting my article, “On the Road,” on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, they asked me to add a few comments.

I first wrote the story of my travels simply so I wouldn’t forget the details of that experience. Those of my generation remember where we were when JFK was shot and what we were doing when Neil Armstrong said “That’s one small step for man …” and, later, “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky,” but the details often fade from our memories.

Reflecting back on the ten years since that tragic day, our nation seems more divided, more angry, more frightened, and more intolerant.

Now, our government protects my fellow airplane passengers by confiscating my spray starch (a product that the National Institutes of Health rates as being of “minimal” danger on health, flammability, and reactivity scales), and requires me to remove my shoes and my non-metallic belt. Last week, they required me to state my name, apparently to see if I knew what was on my state-issued ID.

It’s been a challenging ten years for me personally—a house fire, the deaths of two children, finding and losing love. But, there is also great joy—the successes of my children, the smiles and giggles and hugs of my grandchildren, the love that our family shares.

“On The Road” was a chronicle of my own personal experience. Far more important was our nation’s experience. It is vital that we remember those we lost that day. Anna Allison was a passenger on American Airlines flight 11. She was the founder of A2 Software Solutions and a member of our testing community. She had spoken at the STARWEST testing conference the previous year on the subject “Is Software Improving?” Sadly, I think the answer to Anna’s question is still no.

You may know others who died that day. Keep them in your minds and hearts. Share your memories of them. Live to honor them. Love those who are still with us.

Since then, I’ve added this signature line to my outgoing emails—a personal philosophy I share with you all: “Life is short. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh deeply, and never regret making someone smile.”

* * *

For those of you who are more accustomed to riding on airplanes, let me give you some basic information. Our Greyhound bus will be cruising at an altitude of thirteen inches, with an average ground speed of sixty-five miles per hour. Don't bother buckling your seat belt or putting your tray table in its upright and locked position. You haven't got one. And you can put your seat back in any position you want to at any time. The toilet's in the back. Don't drink, smoke, do drugs, or swear on the bus. If you do, I'll throw you off."

That's when I knew I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Actually, I was in Louisiana. I had flown to New Orleans on Monday, September 10, 2001, to teach a course for Software Quality Engineering. The flight from Salt Lake City was uneventful, the rental car was ready, and Mapquest.com had given me excellent directions to the client's location, the hotel, the closest ATM machine, and Frank's Famous BBQ. What more could a professional consultant need?

Tuesday, September 11 the class began at 8:30, but it was soon interrupted by vague news reports brought into the training room by people passing by. At our first morning break we found a phone line, connected to the Internet, and clicked on CNN.com. The words on the screen made no sense. By noon the class was canceled


User Comments

Sanat Sharma's picture
Sanat Sharma

Touchy article.

We all faced the after effects of 9/11, directly or indirectly. Two of my friends also lost their life on that day. But this is life. We should be ready for worst to face. Our personal lows make us more hard and strong in life.

God bless all who suffered 9/11 accident.

-- Sanat Sharma

September 14, 2011 - 11:25pm
Naomi Karten's picture
Naomi Karten

What a wonderful column – a special mix of poignant and funny. I empathize with the sorrows in your life and am gladdened by the joys. And I appreciate you for mentioning Anna Allison. I thought about her all day yesterday. ~Naomi

September 12, 2011 - 5:04pm
Gerard Miller's picture
Gerard Miller

Thank you for writing Lee.

My condolences on the deaths of two children.


September 12, 2011 - 9:32am

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