A look back at 2001 - Craig L. Williams

To say that this year has been interesting would be an understatement. I think this year will be remembered right along other monumental years such as the assassination of JFK in 1963 and Pearl Harbor in 1941. Not even the reenactment of George Washington's great victory over the German mercenary solders in Trenton, NJ 225 years ago this week broke unto the front page of the major papers. Washington had crossed the Delaware River (an event most of us were taught in US History) happened this Christmas Day 225 years ago in 1776. That very event helped shape this nation of ours and led to victory for George and his ragged group of revolutionary soldiers forming a new nation we call America.

Having personally watched the events of September 11th unfold before me, from the safety of a window across the hall from my cubicle at work, any review of 2001 needs to include the horrific events of that day. The news broke that a bomb had gone off in the World Trade Center. We dashed across the hall to peer out the second story window which faced Manhattan. Sure enough, smoke was billowing out of one of the towers. A few minutes later, we learned that it had been a plane that had rammed into the tower. Most of us had returned to our desks. Tuning radio stations to news broadcasts. Then we learned about the second plane. This had to be no mistake. We again looked across at the World Trade Center, now engulfed in smoke. None of us could believe our eyes. I telephoned both of my parents on the West Coast and informed them that I was safe. They immediately both knew something was going on since I rarely have called so early in the morning their time. I advised them to turn on the television and tune to CNN. Later, we heard that one of the towers had collapsed. We looked again, and to our disbelief we could only see one tower standing out amongst the smoke. Manhattan had been closed. The airports were all being closed. A co-worker was in tears because her brother worked in the Trade Center. She went home to wait with her parents for some word of his condition. Later we learned that he was one of the 25,000 that had evacuated the towers before they collapsed. Only a few hours after it had started, we could no longer see the towers through the smoke. They were both gone as were so many lives.

Now, the skyline of Manhattan has been permanently changed. From Liberty State Park you can look past the Statue of Liberty at Manhattan. Those twin towers are just gone. The next tallest buildings in the area are all 50-60 stories. No where near the 110 stories that the twin towers represented. Each of them assigned their own zip code.

The next time I flew out of Newark in October, National Guard troops were on the prowl with M16 machine guns at their side. Bomb sniffing dogs were all around. Security had seriously changed. I flew to Portland, Oregon and then the next day flew over (just for the day) to Redmond, Oregon where I visited family and especially my soon to by 92 year old grandmother. Everywhere there was evidence that our innocence of freedom within this country had forever been shattered by those events. Even today, as the first of four viewing platforms are officially opened to the public. People from around the world try to understand. Having already driven past "Ground Zero" and seeing first hand the outer shell of building just ripped away. Shrines to those lost all over Manhattan. Pictures of Firefighters lost posted on the front of fire houses. And seeing the remains of candles having been burnt to their last flicker across the Hudson from what was the World Trade Center. It reminded me of pictures from the Oklahoma bombing or of war scenes from somewhere else in the world. Not here. Not in the US. Not in New York City.

But here is where the terrorists did strike. And here is where I do now live. Or, just across the river in Hackensack, New Jersey actually. I am so glad that I had visited the observation deck of the World Trade Center last summer. Spending sometime in the mall below the towers. Riding the PATH train from Jersey. It was a beautiful and wonderful experience now never to be repeated. It is a memory of a more innocent time in our lives that I will cherish.

On a personal note, I have taken to my new position at work very well. I seriously much prefer this job assignment to my last one. I am now a Project Manager for Quest Diagnostics. Working on small and large projects of various significance to our customers, both internal and external. The major project that has occupied a large part of my time this past year, is a new web based ordering and reporting system for use within physicians offices. As with anything new, it has it's good points and it's not so good points. With 20 some laboratory systems across the country, it is our first major attempt to provide one product that works with all of our systems. It has been an exercise in collaboration, frustration, cooperation, and mutual respect on various levels through out the company. But I am pleased that the Business Unit that I am specifically working with is just finishing a rather successful beta test and will be rolling out the primary components of this product starting January 2002. I have now turned my attention to various secondary features of the product which need testing and validation.

Tiffany (my cat) is doing fine. She and I enjoyed the year in our new apartment on the 9th floor. She has a much better view west out across Northern New Jersey than she did from the 3rd floor. We can see the planes lining up for landing at Newark and can see for miles west. Having moved in early September (just before the events of 9-11), I am finally getting the apartment put together. Pictures are back up on the walls and boxes are generally unpacked. The immortal phrase LIFE GOES ON comes to mind. And it does.

Christmas I spent with friends in Manhattan as I will tomorrow for New Years. I traveled to Rhode Island, Boston, Hartford and Buffalo here in the Northeast this past year as a member of the Imperial Court of New York. A non-profit organization which raises money for various GLBT groups here in the local area. Our annual event in March is titled "Night of a Thousand Gowns" and it is held at the Marriott Marquee on Broadway and Times Square. I was also appointed the Secretary of the Pride Network at Quest Diagnostics. Our company employee diversity team.

In November I returned to school. Now attending the University of Phoenix Online working on my BSIT (Bachelors in Information Technology) degree. My first online class was very interesting and I am getting used to the format. I received an A- in the class which lasted 5 weeks on Critical Thinking. We had individual papers due each week along with team project papers and discussions online in a class discussion message board. My next class starts January 2, 2002 and is on Project Management. Gee, something that I do everyday. Maybe I will learn something new. This last class was interesting because out of the 15 of us is class, 6 were from the East Coast, 3 from the mid-west and the rest from the West Coast. Class members are from various companies and have some very interesting tales to tell from their work experience.

All in all, I had a full year. Full of life experiences that will always be with me. Full of educational opportunity and full of memories. 225 years ago, George Washington crossed the Delaware and won the battle that turned the tide of the war that eventually won the war. I feel like 2001 was my year when I crossed the Delaware. When I had fought my own battles. Only time will tell, if these victories this year, will be the turning point which will eventually led me to winning my war.

So many were lost when the World Trade Center came crashing down, but life must go on. And I am continuing to go forward with mine. Star Trek's Spock said it best, "Live long and prosper". I hope that you and yours had a Merry Christmas and I am wishing you a very joyous New Year in 2002.

May the Blessing Be