It's Your Fault!

Before I began my illustrious career as a secretary, I managed the E-911 database for a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC). Three times a day, any new customers we brought onto our network, any address or phone or name changes, were submitted to our vendor. who sent the information to the satellite database that 911 calls route through, which would then transmit the location of the caller to the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), which would then begin sending out the first responders while they gathered information about the nature of the emergency.

Every time we transmitted information to our vendor, their system would kick back addresses they identified as errors. Sometimes it was because of an error on their end - sometimes it was because it was a new house and the address hadn't been entered into the satellite database, so it came back as nonexistant. There were a lot of things that could go wrong. My job (or at least part of it - just fixing the errors was not a full-time job) was to fix the errors, resubmit the record, and confirm that our customer's information was accurate and in the database.

I took this job very seriously. It was a life or death matter. In New England, nearly every town has an Oak Street, a Broad Street, a Main Street, a Maple Street. If you sent information to the database that put someone in the wrong town (which was not difficult to do, depending on the system your company was using), that could mean death for the customer. A customer of a different CLEC, in East Hartford, CT, had a house fire, and the fire department was taking forever to get to them. That's because their CLEC had submitted them to the satellite database as living in Hartford, not East Hartford. Thankfully, no one died because of this, but certainly the fire damage was worse, and the people who escaped from the fire had to wait longer to be treated.

Thankfully, I never committed a grievous error. Sometimes, though, a record would slip through with a problem, and that person would have to call 911 before you knew there was a mistake. I was lucky in that the few errors I got (and I did get very few - I spoke to several people at the PSAP who were very impressed with the reliability of our data) were never for serious problems, and never resulted in first responders being sent to the wrong address.

When I did get one of these errors back, I would fix the problem, and I would talk to my boss, Paul. Paul is the best boss I've ever had (and likely the best boss I ever will have). A genuinely great guy. My co-workers and I agreed that we wished Paul was a member of our family so we could see him on birthdays and holidays. One thing Paul would not do, and he always got disgusted when other people (usually golf-playing rich kid managers), in the company did it, was play the blame game. This is not to say he didn't think people should take accountability for their mistakes - he certainly thought it was important to take responsibility. But his first priority, when there was a mistake of some kind, was to find out HOW it happened, and then make sure it never happened again.

I wonder if we will ever reach that point with 9/11. So far, it seems like the Bush administration doesn't give a shit how 9/11 happened. It's just disgusting to see that instead of listening to a guy with 30 years of experience, a guy who, in hindsight, was a guy they should have been paying a lot more attention to from Jan 01 forward, they are engaged in a battle to smear him.

They are the golf playing, rich kid managers at my old company, the ones who only worried about who was going to take the blame instead of wondering how this happened, and how can we make sure it never happens again. It is clear from the actions of this administration that they just don't care, as long as they don't have to take the blame.

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