I was in Farnborough, England, at my desk at Computer Science Corporation (CSC), in a telephone negotiation with a Washington D.C. lawyer on a South African banking software deal. The attorney for the bank was still at home; she was going to fly that afternoon to another client's site. Her husband yelled at her from the kitchen to put on the TV, and she then described to me what was happening. We agreed to stop the negotiations for the moment.
The president of my financial services division ran in and said to come to his office. We watched with horror the second New York tower being hit and people jumping out of windows. At that time I was a very visible leader in the Democratic Party in the United Kingdom, and he asked me to go home with him that night and not return to my home (I lived alone). I thanked him but didn't take up his offer.
I was called at my office by the BBC (I had participated in panels on TV and radio because of my role in Democrats Abroad) and gave my comments to them. Two days later BBC Berkshire Radio called me on my mobile phone when I was at a very empty Heathrow, as I was walking to the Irish terminal area. It was surreal: getting on an airplane, giving my opinions for a British audience, without being in NYC or for that matter not being in the U.S.
I told the BBC that America should take care in its reaction to terrorism. Those of us living in Britain had experienced many random terrorist incidents (and many of these incidents funded by ignorant Americans): the IRA indiscriminately bombed, maimed, destroyed innocent victims for their "cause." I said that one had to be measured in one's response and ensure that the terrorists didn't gain by limiting fundamental liberties.
I recall loathing the Bush administration's reactions at the time. I still believe that madmen's terrorist acts should not deprive anyone of his or her civil rights, and I certainly did not countenance an unfettered reaction from hysterical politicians who fed the ignorance of the general public. I still hold to that opinion.
Los Palos Circle
Return to Sept. 11 remembered