Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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September 11th, Ten Years Later

An earlier version of this post exists here.  I’ve since updated it with new information, perspective and thoughts.

I’m certainly one of the lucky ones.  I’m still here today.  I flew, I landed and made it home.  I went on to get married (eventually divorced), have two amazing children, love again and make a life.  I was fortunate, no one I knew suffered any tragedy that morning.  This has always stopped me in my tracks.  The majority of my family lives in or works in New York.  To escape that horrible day, otherwise unscathed, is a miracle.

Frankly, when I look back on September 11, 2011 I marvel at the events.  That morning, I left the house, kissed my girlfriend (she’d later go on to be my wife) goodbye and got into a cab headed for Midway airport.  I boarded a Southwest flight from Midway airport with my great friend and colleague Reed Roussel. We were both headed to Ft. Knox Kentucky for a full day worth of meetings with our United States Army client. When we landed in Kentucky, the first plane had already met its fate by flying directly into the twin towers.

We were oblivious to everything that had transpired as we hopped into our Enterprise rental car and started the 45 minute trek to Ft. Knox. During the ride over, little did we know, plane #2 had also crashed. This was 2001 and cell phones weren’t exactly in high use or even reaching mass adoption levels. The behavior of having it practically glued to your hand just didn’t exist. I did notice a call from my wife and Reed noticed a call from his mom, but we ignored them both.  Cell reception in the Ft. Knox, Kentucky area was spotty and we didn’t want to incur the wrath of roaming charges.  They were well aware of the tragedy and were trying to reach us to make sure we were both OK.  I’m still amazed that their calls made it through.  If you remember, nearly everyone was receiving the “all circuits are busy” message that morning and throughout the day.

When we arrived at the post, there was something off. The vibe was all wrong. An hour into our visit (55 minutes of which were spent waiting for the client) we finally learned from our client that 2 planes had flown into the twin towers and it was to our “advantage” that we leave the post immediately. Why? Because, in about 10 minutes the post would be on lock down and all non-military personnel would be placed “under suspicion.” To be honest, we were still confused about the situation, but we had no desire to be locked up on the post.

Reed and I hopped in the car, called the airline, learned all flights were canceled, then called Enterprise and explained we would not be returning the car to the airport. Instead, we would be driving to Chicago and returning it there. If I remember correctly, she informed us there would be a incremental $150 charge, or so, since we hadn’t intended to return the vehicle out of state.  The fee was irrelevant, we just wanted to get home to see our families.  So, we hung up the phone and started the journey from Ft. Knox to Chicago. The roads were strangely empty. Keep in mind, at this point, while the rest of the country was transfixed to the television coverage, we hadn’t seen anything. With no smartphones, our only real option was the radio. The irony, was, the only radio station that was coming through was the one carrying Howard Stern. Crazy, right?  There was no XM, no Sirius, no internet streaming, just your FM/AM tuner.  That meant for the next 2 hours we listened to Howard Stern. He was our connection to the outside world and was the one who brought us up to speed on what had happened. It wasn’t till we stopped for lunch, that we saw our first visual. We were awe struck. Stunned. It’s hard to put into words the emotions running thorough me. I’m a born and raised New Yorker; this hit hard.

I’ve always traveled for work.  It’s just part of the job.  But, travel for me changed after 9/11. I paid more attention to my surroundings.  When someone got up to go to the bathroom, I stopped what I was doing and took notice.  Those were simple things. They were things that I think many of us did.  But, what really changed for me was something that I still do to this day.  I make sure to let the ones I love know I’m leaving…I try to call them, just to hear their voice…just in case.  And…I always let those loved ones know I landed…same thing, I try to connect live if I can….though these days, I rely on text messaging because of convenience.  You value the people who matter the most to you, just a little more, when you realize that flights aren’t as routine as we’d like to think they are.

10 years ago, I learned about 9/11 via the radio. I learned about operation Desert Storm via television. When Sadam Hussein was captured, I learned about it via the web. The death of Osama Bin Laden was shared with me via text message first, then Twitter. The text message I received instructed me to check out Twitter, not turn on the TV. After reading the news, I found a TV and saw the president’s speech. As I watched his delivery, I couldn’t help but think about how we’ve evolved as a society…how our sharing has changed…how our means for connection have evolved. We operate in a real time and always on demand society. I think this was the first real moment where that wasn’t just rhetoric, for me, but a truly shared experience.

I’m so thankful for technology and how it’s evolved…how simple it’s made keeping in touch with those who matter most.  Texting, Facebook, foursquare…hell, even the ability to simply make a phone call from anywhere; these are all things we take for granted, not unlike the people in our lives who matter the most.  A good friend of mine shared this with me via twitter last year:

Life is largely fleeting. A series of momentary intersections with other people. It is truly incredible to find someone of permanence.

My experience on 9-11 reminds me of that concept every day.

Dancing In The Rain

A good friend of mine, who I recently realized was in fact one of those great friends, sent me this sentiment last night:

Good stuff and very true!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I’ve alway wanted to have a neighborhood bar to call my own.  Every great TV show has one.  It’s that place where, when you walk in they know your name, your drink and what you like to eat.  The Paramount Room, home of the $9 Kobe Burger has become that place for me.  Only a couple of blocks from my place, this little hole in the wall (literally), is a low key, great service, sweet potato fry making bar packed with regulars.  And I am now one of them.  Day 3, of the 1 Photo A Day project is in the books.

Merry Christmas 2010

This is what Christmas is all about.  It’s not about $600 purses, new cars, jewelry from Tiffany’s, expensive bottles of wine or any other material items.  Nope, this is what makes Christmas amazing…seeing these two faces after they’ve made sure Santa ate some cookies, drank his milk and shared the carrots with Rudolph.

It’s the little things that are the big things.  Merry Christmas.

A Little Nostalgia

Found this photo while digging through old baby photos.

It’s a picture of my Grandfather, an avid fisherman hanging out with me on his farm in New Hampshire.  I can only imagine the advice he was imparting on me.  You gotta love these candid moments.  I’m so glad my dad was there to capture the moment.

Gone Fishing

I’m off to Mexico for a week long vacation.  It’s been way too long since I took a vacation or any time off.  Hell, last year I didn’t take a single day of real vacation.  I love Mexico, specifically Cancun.  I’m hoping to relax, recharge and find myself.  Yes, that sounds a bit hokey, but honestly if 2009 was awesome; 2010 has been nothing even remotely close to that.  There’s been a lot of bumps, bruises, mistakes and problems.

I’ve got a plan though.  Yeah, I always have a plan.  By, the end of the week that I’m spending in Mexico I’m hoping to come back with clarity about 3 key things.  I’ve got a pretty good idea about them, but I think the time away is going to help me make sure I’ve got it all figured out.

I’m sure you’re wondering what those 3 things are.  No, I’m not going to share those things with you right now 🙂  But, I will share them once I gain that clarity.

The photo above was from my last trip to Cancun in 2008.  Gotta love that water.

Looking Back

One of the things I never do is look back. It gets you nowhere. The perspective is often distorted, just like when you look into a mirror. Memories are never perfect and fade over time. I’m also not a believer that history is a predictor of the future. I’m more of a Blink kinda guy.

For example, when I’m interviewing a candidate I rarely, if ever, look over their resume. The resume only tells me what they think they did. I need to know if they can do what I need them to do. The same holds true for when I inherit a new team. There’s no value in looking at someone’s previous performance reviews. All they tell me is what someone else thought of them. What if that manager was just a bad manager and unable to get maximum potential from their staff?  Well, if that happened, the performance review is tainted.  Nope, when I inherit a team, everyone gets a fresh start.

Like so many things, I follow the same mentality in my personal life that I do in my professional life.  There’s just no value in looking back.  Well, there’s no value in looking back if you want to look forward.  If you’re focused on what can be, instead of what was, there’s no value in looking back.  Looking back is dangerous.  It holds you back and keeps you stuck in neutral.  Life is no fun when you’re in neutral.

Don’t you want to be going somewhere?  Well, if you do, my advice to you is stop looking back and start plotting your course forward.  Oh and grab yourself a navigator; going forward is a hell of a lot more fun when you’ve got someone to take the ride with you.