“I walked by a newsstand and saw an orange fireball on the front of the newspaper, and I asked somebody what happened and they looked at me like I was a Martian,” said the 50-year-old Robinson. He emerged from the Continental Divide Trail in Silverthorne, Colo., on Sept. 12, 2001, saw flags flying at half-staff and didn’t know why.
Others were stuck in libraries, working on research papers. A college kid who partied hard the night before rolled out of bed at the crack of noon. An American couple with an apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, within sight of the World Trade Center towers, wandered the streets of a small town in France near Nice on a long-overdue vacation.
In a technology-saturated world, would it be possible today to remain oblivious to such a shattering event for hours, or even days? Mobile tech was just coming into its own. Facebook and Twitter weren’t even glimmers in the eyes of consumers, let alone iPhones, tablets or widely available Wi-Fi.
In early 2002, 64 percent of U.S. adults owned not-smart cell phones, 16 percent had pagers and 11 percent had some kind of PDA, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project. Today, 83 percent have cell phones, including 42 percent with smartphones.
According to a May survey from Pew, 29 percent of cell owners said they had turned their phones off in the previous month for some period of time just to get a break from using it.
Robinson does that sort of thing, then and now, with his phone, and that’s how he missed Sept. 11. The former Silicon Valley engineer chucked his 17-year career in 2001 to become the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails all in the same year. That’s 7,400 miles in a sport that takes participants from one end of a trail through to the other.
When he emerged from the Colorado wilderness after the attacks, it had been several days since he bumped into any other hikers.
Robinson, of Monterey, Calif., recalled a sponsor had given him a satellite phone during his quest for thruhiking’s “Triple Crown” back in 2001, but he couldn’t recall whether he had it with him in those few days leading up to Sept. 11, and likely wouldn’t have had it switched on anyway.<< previous 1 2 3 4 next >>