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Scott Matteson
IT guy, writer, husband, father.
IT guy, writer, husband, father.
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15 years ago today I drove to my job as a network administrator at Appleseed's in Beverly, MA.

As I prepared to exit 128 N, I observed a single-engine plane (Cessna) descending to land at Beverly Airport and it crossed 100 feet or so over the highway. "That plane seems to be coming in a bit low," I thought. Perhaps an inexperienced pilot.

Work proceeded as usual. My boss Jim McKenzie and I were running network cable in the server room when we heard a report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in NYC. We said something like "Oh my gosh, that's too bad!" and kept working. As I recall, I envisioned something like that Cessna I saw earlier that day; a freak mistake or accident. Probably minimal casualties. Maybe one dead pilot.

Then someone told us a second plane was involved with a collision into one of the Twin Towers. At that point it became evident that the proverbial shit was hitting the fan. The TV in the kitchen was on and live coverage was well underway. Work basically stopped.

Being an IT guy, I prefer to get my news via the internet. I accessed to find out what was going on - tried to, anyhow. Their systems were literally overwhelmed with traffic, in what amounted to a DOS (denial of service) attack from people trying to find out what was going on. I kept getting the dreaded HTTP 500 error, and it reminded me of the last time I tried to buy U2 tickets online the moment they went on sale.

News filtered in through the day, largely by TV. literally couldn't keep up with it, even if I could get connected. Four planes, two of which took off from Logan which made it especially personal for us in the Boston area. The South Tower collapsed at about 10 AM, then the North Tower about a half hour later.

It will always haunt me for the rest of my life to know that some people had to jump from the Towers to escape the inferno after the planes hit (no, this was not televised, but came to light later).

I didn't feel concern that terrorist attacks were springing up all over the country. As I recall, I think we were told we could leave if we were concerned, but I felt what was going on was an obviously orchestrated attack against financial, cultural and political targets. My wife was working; we had no kids at the time, and my mantra is "keep on keeping on," so I stayed at work.

As I drove home that night the skies seemed eerie and malevolent, even though we'd been informed by that point that all air traffic was grounded. For the first time in several decades, there were no planes in the air above the United States, except military.

You guys who lived through it know the other details as well as I do. The heroism of the police and firefighters who ran into the Towers when everyone was running out. The vile conspiracy theories that came about after (full disclosure: I didn't vote for Bush but would never believe he knew about this and let it happen or even orchestrated it). The politics that formed over the event which threatened to turn the tragedy into a tawdry rope in a game of tug-of-war.

There will never be another day like 9/11/01. At least, we can hope in our hearts. But the takeaway I got was twofold:

1. The horrible actions mankind can commit against itself

and (more importantly)

2. The beauty that can arise from people helping one another, giving of themselves and building a stronger community and nation as a result.

This latter is what I choose to find solace in fifteen years later. As always, I firmly believe you will find that 90% or more of the people are good, honest, upstanding citizens committed to making the world better. I look at my community of Tyngsboro, MA and the people we know (200+ families) and we all share the same goals and community spirit.

But one final thought: you can argue ARE we stronger with this never-ending political fighting? Maybe we can tone that down and remember we're all Americans and on the same side?
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In the wake of the Brock Turner case, I want to talk about an episode my teenage friends and I encountered when we were 19 or so (1990) and camping in Canada, where the drinking age was 19.

We went on a campout, several guys and a couple of girls. One of the girls drank too much and passed out. Concerned, we wrapped her in a blanket, tucked her into her tent, made sure she was on her side so she wouldn't choke on vomit, and checked on her periodically to see if she needed medical help (in our amateur view we thought she was OK since she was sleeping peacefully and not restless nor distraught).

The girl seemed safe and fine and we went to bed in our own tents later after making sure she was OK. Yeah, she should have been more moderate, but that was up to her to work out the next day. Our goal was to ensure safety for all camping participants.

We were all totally shitfaced off our rockers at the time, out of range of any law or authority. We did what we did not because we were heroes or looking for acclaim, but it was the right thing to do. Period..

The girl survived and went home none the worse for wear, other than with a headache the next AM.

I tell you this story because it shouldn't be a rare thing. It should be the norm. And I think it IS the norm. But I have no patience for criminals who say "Alcohol made me do it." Alcohol will NEVER make a good person do something evil. Alcohol amplifies what's there. A good person might do something dumb while under the influence (dumb as in foolish or careless to themselves like climbing the B.U. Bridge, ahem, ahem, but not putting another person at risk), but only a bad person will do something evil in the same circumstance. Brock had the rape possibility in him from day one. Alcohol didn't put it there.

I'm not expecting any credit for a tale focusing on an episode 25+ years ago. I don't want it if it's offered. I'm telling you that this is what society should be about: people helping one another, guiding each other past mistakes rather than preying upon those who make them. We owe it to ourselves and society to make sure everyone is safe and well-cared for.

Goddamn Brock Turner for making the world a shittier place, with more suspicion, fear and hostility. Actions like that are what chip away at the social foundation we're all working so hard to promote and fortify. And I know karma as always will rule over all. As frustrated as I am that this wasteful so-called human did what he did, I'm grateful he was exposed. And will serve as an example of what to watch out for and work against.
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Happy 17th Anniversary to my wonderful wife Wendy, the foundation of everything I hold dear. I am the ship and she is the lighthouse.
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Save money and repair, rather than replace, that broken smartphone
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