It was twelve years ago to the minute.
I worked as a graduate on the control systems for Australia’s DVN – digital video network – for your classic Aussie, battle-hardened technical boss. He’d personally designed or built much of Australia’s media infrastructure to that point.
I recall walking into scene of open mourning in our office in Melbourne’s CBD.
Half the floor were IT consultants from the USA – huddled around PCs refreshing CNN.com and nytimes.com manically. Searching for news of friends, family, anything.
Most of us locals had been up all night too, transfixed by the images you’ve all seen and that don’t need repeating.
We had nothing we could say to help out these grieving souls from across the Pacific.
I remember overhearing their local Project Manager tell them they could go home for the day if they needed to – an empty gesture as (like most consultants) they were all living out of hotel rooms. Even more, they needed each other’s company & support to cope with what they were witnessing.
So they almost all stayed. Standing around in group-shock. Staring, slack eyed, at little CRT & LCD PC monitors.
Into this muddle of semi-catatonic disorganisation strode my boss.
With typical dispassionate precision, he began directing his team to relocate our video-monitoring gear, our data projector & screens, our spare chairs into the main conference room.
Cables were run. Pay TV services were requisitioned. Switches & high-speed Internet was deployed. The conference desk was dumped out in the open office, replaced with banks of computers to run MSN & AIM & other comms tools of the era.
Our conference room became the main meeting place for all of our American cousins.
I still get emotional thinking about that day and the weeks that followed. I still picture them there, staring at CNN on the projector screen, crying on each other’s shoulders, ordering in pizza, praying with each other, sleeping under desks.
I’m not really sure if there’s a point to this story.
I just really wanted to document the experience of an Aussie nerd feeling the human pain of my colleagues.
And to say that it’s the response to a crisis that determines the person it turns you into.
From my boss, who had appeared a technically gifted but unmovable man, we saw the human side. I don’t think he was ever thanked for what he did, and honestly doubt he cares for thanks.
But it made me respect him more. So I thank God for Frank’s example.