Sunday, September 11, 2011

Early May

I wanted to write something about today, but words somehow fell short as they often do when faced with something much bigger than oneself. So on a subject that is much heavier than this blog, I will let the words of my cousin Doug do the talking.


As news of Osama bin Laden's death began rippling its way through various news pipes late last night, many were surprised to learn that the ever-elusive terrorist leader had been holed up not in a far-flung, desolate cave, but in a nice house in a well-to-do suburb outside of Islamabad.

I'd been asleep when the news broke last night but my wife woke me up early this morning as she was getting ready for work, saying, "They killed bin Laden." She said it with relatively little inflection, as was appropriate. (More on See photos of bin Laden's family album)

When your last name begins with two A's you have a tendency to turn up towards the top of many an alphabetical list, and my family has the cheerless honor of claiming the top spot on the list of September 11th victims.

Osama bin Laden killed my cousin, Gordy.

So my wife said bin Laden was dead, matter of fact-ly, because she knows that I don't like watching, hearing or reading news about this subject. I especially can't stand when 9/11 rolls around every year and all the news outlets run faux-patriotic remembrances, showing footage of the plane hitting the second tower directly where I always imagine my cousin was standing as his soul left his body.

I knew I'd be expected to tie some sort of technology angle into the story today and as I've never actually written about 9/11 or bin Laden in a professional capacity, I spent most of the morning devising ways to avoid covering the subject entirely. "This has nothing to do with technology," I've been telling myself. And it doesn't, really, but news is news and I have to drag big news into my wheelhouse when possible, whether it affects me or not.

I've always loved technology. It's been an interest, a hobby and a career—the career part is still surreal to me. Technology's always been somewhat of a crutch, too. If I want to relax, I'll read about technology. If I want to blow off some steam, I'll play video games. If I want to create something, have fun, find a solution to a problem, look up an old friend—I use technology. And just like an old friend, it's always been there for me. (More on See the top 10 defining moments of the post 9/11 era)

So in an odd way, it's fitting to me that bin Laden's last moments may have been brought about by his decision to distance himself from something I love so much. He stopped using satellite phones years ago, and even his reliance on video messages eventually became audio-only affairs.

Then as TIME reported early this morning, intelligence officials were tipped to bin Laden's suburban mansion hideout "after noting the compound had few electronic links to the outside world." And in a world submerged in technology—some of which is only affordable to people who live in suburban mansions—that had to be a big, bright red flag.

I take no joy in bin Laden's death. It is what it is. The world may be a safer place because of it or it may not. If it is, that's good. My aunt says this brings finality and closure, too, which is important since she and her immediate family are most directly affected by all this. And I apologize for making myself a part of the story—that's generally a big no-no—but I took the liberty of hiding it under a dull headline half-hoping people would skip over it as I'd skip over it myself, albeit for different reasons entirely.

Here is a link to the article you just read:

*Doug is a contributing writer to Time Online and writes primarily for their "Techland" Page. He would probably cringe at how I am describing what he does, but I know he loves it, so you should check it out. He's incredibly talented, I promise you that.


  1. I'm glad Doug took time to write this, sorry for the family's loss, and glad bin Laden is dead.

  2. Thanks for sharing your cousins story. I can only imagine how some thing like that feels. Sorry to hear about the loss of a family member.

  3. I can only echo what Kirk and TM said. I hope bin Laden's death brings some closure for the family.

  4. Hope to see you back at the desk soon sharing tales of the water.

    By a stroke of fate I was 15 miles west of NYC that day. I was working out of my home office on an early conference call. I could just as easily been at 55 Broad; WTC was my subway stop.

    My losses that day were not as close as yours. And like most Americans the greatest loss was to my feelings of security, and safety and hope for the future.

    Those concerns have faded with the passage of time but I still chose not to relive each moment of the horrible morning by watching the documentaries and such. I honor the day simply. At church. In my own thoughts.

    Gordon will be in my thoughts and prayers going forward.

  5. Thanks guys for all of the comments. It means a lot.