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General

Dr Kramer to speak at AGL Summit in Seattle on 1/30/20

Dr. Jonathan Kramer will be the sole local government panelist at the “Muni Ordinances, Small Cell Designs and the Complexities of Density” panel this week at AGL’s Summit in Seattle.  Four industry reps against Jonathan…seems evenly balanced 😉

The day-long event will take place on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

The full introduction to Jonathan’s panel topic is:

“Wireless siting has long been a controversial topic.  With small cells, the wireless industry and municipalities have seen even more conflict.  Learn about the FCC’s rule changes, municipalities’ concerns about small cells, the public’s fear of 5G RF, and the industry’s’ response with aesthetically pleasing small cells.”    

Here’s a link to the information and registration page:

https://www.aglmediagroup.com/event/agl-local-summit-2020-seattle/

The AGL Summits are always interesting, and I recommend interested parties attend. I enjoy attending and speaking as a perceived enemy of deployment under this theory:

See you in Seattle (actually, Newcastle, Washington)…

Jonathan

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6409 General

FCC Amends Small Cell Rules per DC Circuit Court

Some commenters have described the DC Circuit’s decision in United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians v. FCC, No. 18–1129, 2019 WL 3756373 (D.C. Cir Aug. 9, 2019) as being some sort of a magic bullet 5G/small cell killer.  They also claim that the decision nullifies much of the FCC’s small cell rules, citing primarily to the personal observations of a FCC Commissioner.

I wish all that were true.

In fact, however, those commenters are only expressing their wishful, non-lawyer’s reading of the limited scope of the United Keetoowah decision.  That’s why the ten local government cases now being litigated in the 9th Circuit remain the most important fights citizens have to truly set aside the FCC’s misguided, unjustified, industry-loving rules.

Lets take a look at what the FCC actually did to respond to the D.C. Circuit’s United Keetoowah decision:

First, the FCC amended 47 C.R.R. § 1.1312 to reduce the scope of the rule.  Here’s a before and after comparison of the existing rule followed by the replacement rule that becomes effective on 12/5/2019:

Original
Text
Text Effective
12/5/2019
Text
Difference
§ 1.1312 Facilities for which no preconstruction authorization is required. § 1.1312 Facilities for which no preconstruction authorization is required. None
(a) In the case of facilities for which no Commission authorization prior to construction is required by the Commission‘s rules and regulations the licensee or applicant shall initially ascertain whether the proposed facility may have a significant environmental impact as defined in § 1.1307 of this part or is categorically excluded from environmental processing under § 1.1306 of this part. (a) In the case of facilities for which no Commission authorization prior to construction is required by the Commission‘s rules and regulations the licensee or applicant shall initially ascertain whether the proposed facility may have a significant environmental impact as defined in § 1.1307 of this part or is categorically excluded from environmental processing under § 1.1306 of this part. None
(b) If a facility covered by paragraph (a) of this section may have a significant environmental impact, the information required by § 1.1311 of this part shall be submitted by the licensee or applicant and ruled on by the Commission, and environmental processing (if invoked) shall be completed, see § 1.1308 of this part, prior to the initiation of construction of the facility. (b) If a facility covered by paragraph (a) of this section may have a significant environmental impact, the information required by § 1.1311 of this part shall be submitted by the licensee or applicant and ruled on by the Commission, and environmental processing (if invoked) shall be completed, see § 1.1308 of this part, prior to the initiation of construction of the facility. None
(c) If a facility covered by paragraph (a) of this section is categorically excluded from environmental processing, the licensee or applicant may proceed with construction and operation of the facility in accordance with the applicable licensing rules and procedures. (c) If a facility covered by paragraph (a) of this section is categorically excluded from environmental processing, the licensee or applicant may proceed with construction and operation of the facility in accordance with the applicable licensing rules and procedures. None
(d) If, following the initiation of construction under this section, the licensee or applicant discovers that the proposed facility may have a significant environmental effect, it shall immediately cease construction which may have that effect, and submit the information required by § 1.1311 of this part. The Commission shall rule on that submission and complete further environmental processing (if invoked), see § 1.1308 of this part, before such construction is resumed. (d) If, following the initiation of construction under this section, the licensee or applicant discovers that the proposed facility may have a significant environmental effect, it shall immediately cease construction which may have that effect, and submit the information required by § 1.1311 of this part. The Commission shall rule on that submission and complete further environmental processing (if invoked), see § 1.1308 of this part, before such construction is resumed. None
(e) Paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section shall not apply: e) Paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section shall not apply to the construction of mobile stations. Rule changed to limit the scope of (a) through (d) to not apply to the construction of mobile stations.
(1) To the construction of mobile stations; or

(2) Where the deployment of facilities meets the following conditions:

(i) The facilities are mounted on structures 50 feet or less in height including their antennas as defined in § 1.1320(d), or the facilities are mounted on structures no more than 10 percent taller than other adjacent structures, or the facilities do not extend existing structures on which they are located to a height of more than 50 feet or by more than 10 percent, whichever is greater;

(ii) Each antenna associated with the deployment, excluding the associated equipment (as defined in the definition of antenna in § 1.1320(d)), is no more than three cubic feet in volume;

(iii) All other wireless equipment associated with the structure, including the wireless equipment associated with the antenna and any pre-existing associated equipment on the structure, is no more than 28 cubic feet in volume; and

(iv) The facilities do not require antenna structure registration under part 17 of this chapter; and

(v) The facilities are not located on tribal lands, as defined under 36 CFR 800.16(x); and

(vi) The facilities do not result in human exposure to radiofrequency radiation in excess of the applicable safety standards specified in § 1.1307(b).

Text deleted

Then the Commission changed one small element of 47 C.F.R. § 1.6002 to delete the cross reference back to § 1.1312(e)(2).  Here’s a before and after comparison of the existing rule followed by the replacement rule that becomes effective on 12/5/2019:

Original
Text

Text Effective
12/5/2019

Text
Difference

(l) Small wireless facilities, consistent with § 1.1312(e)(2), are facilities that meet each of the following conditions: (l) Small wireless facilities are facilities that meet each of the following conditions: Deleted: “, consistent with § 1.1312(e)(2),”
(1) The facilities –

(i) Are mounted on structures 50 feet or less in height including their antennas as defined in § 1.1320(d); or

(1) The facilities –

(i) Are mounted on structures 50 feet or less in height including their antennas as defined in § 1.1320(d); or

None
(ii) Are mounted on structures no more than 10 percent taller than other adjacent structures; or

 

(ii) Are mounted on structures no more than 10 percent taller than other adjacent structures; or

 

None

 

(iii) Do not extend existing structures on which they are located to a height of more than 50 feet or by more than 10 percent, whichever is greater;

 

(iii) Do not extend existing structures on which they are located to a height of more than 50 feet or by more than 10 percent, whichever is greater;

 

None

 

(2) Each antenna associated with the deployment, excluding associated antenna equipment (as defined in the definition of “antenna” in § 1.1320(d)), is no more than three cubic feet in volume;

 

(2) Each antenna associated with the deployment, excluding associated antenna equipment (as defined in the definition of antenna in § 1.1320(d)), is no more than three cubic feet in volume;

 

None

 

(3) All other wireless equipment associated with the structure, including the wireless equipment associated with the antenna and any pre-existing associated equipment on the structure, is no more than 28 cubic feet in volume;

 

(3) All other wireless equipment associated with the structure, including the wireless equipment associated with the antenna and any pre-existing associated equipment on the structure, is no more than 28 cubic feet in volume;

 

None

 

(4) The facilities do not require antenna structure registration under part 17 of this chapter;

 

(4) The facilities do not require antenna structure registration under part 17 of this chapter;

 

None

 

(5) The facilities are not located on Tribal lands, as defined under 36 CFR 800.16(x); and

 

(5) The facilities are not located on Tribal lands, as defined under 36 CFR 800.16(x); and

 

None

 

(6) The facilities do not result in human exposure to radiofrequency radiation in excess of the applicable safety standards specified in § 1.1307(b).

 

(6) The facilities do not result in human exposure to radiofrequency radiation in excess of the applicable safety standards specified in § 1.1307(b).

 

None

 

don’t believe me? Take a look at a PDF copy of the official FCC rule changes published in the Federal Register on November 5, 2019, and effective on December 5, 2019: Small Cell Rules Changes Effective 12-5-2019 – FCC2019-24071.

Are the new rule changes a small cell killer? Sorry…No.

…a 5G killer? Not even close.

…wishful thinking? Yup.

Let’s keep our eyes on the right Small Cell rules fight, being fought in the right venue…the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

If you’re a member of the public really interested in changing fundamental concepts of wireless rules to be set and/or enforced by the FCC, then you should also fight your fight in the right venue, which is not before a local government that is obligated to follow state and federal laws, regardless of how little some may think about following the laws that exist.  Consider visiting your Member of Congress and your U.S. Senators. Only they have the power to accomplish the fundamental changes that some members of the public wish to see happen.

Jonathan

 

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6409 General

Coalition of Concerned Utilities Reply Comments in 6409(a) Petition

Here’s a choice quote from the Coalition of Concerned Utilities who oppose the wireless industry’s attempt to get the FCC to change the 6409(a) rules:

Careless requests by Crown Castle and others to relax utility construction and design standards and to experiment downward is like asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to order bumpers, airbags, head restraints and other safety gear to be removed to see whether cars can be built for less money without an increase in injuries.

If you’d like to read the entire reply comments from the CCU, please  CLICK HERE.

 

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General

Western Communities Coalition 6409(a) Reply Comments

Last night the Western Communities Coalition, represented by Telecom Law Firm PC (San Diego and Los Angeles) and Kissinger and Fellman (Denver), filed lengthy and detailed Reply Comments with the FCC in the current Section 6409(a) proceedings.

The Coalition’s Reply Comments site widespread wireless industry misrepresentations and abuses of the current process, and how those misrepresentations and abuse has can only become worse if the Commission grants the industry’s petitions.

Unfortunately, the Commission’s reply period was far less than sought by local governments and others maligned by the wireless industry. We will be traveling to Washington DC to meet with the Commission armed with many, many more very specific and damming examples about wireless industry exaggerations and outright misrepresentations perpetrated against local governments, and now the Commission.

Linked below is a copy of the WCC Reply Comments.

Jonathan

JOINT REPLY COMMENTS (19-250)

 

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General

The Western Communities Coalition FCC filing…

…will be posted here tomorrow.  Watch this space.

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General

Interesting Cell Siting RF Discussion in Thousand Oaks, California

Last night, the City of Thousand Oaks, California Planning Commission heard and acted on a citizen’s  appeal of a camouflaged Verizon macrocell cell site that was previously approved by the City’s Hearing Officer.  The Appellant opposing the approval was Prof. Trevor G. Marshall.  Applicant Verizon Wireless was represented by Kevin P. Sullivan, Esq.

The design of the proposed camouflaged cell site is as shown below (from Verizon’s design plans).

(Click on the image to enlarge it; photo simulations of the project may be viewed in the meeting video, linked below.)

Nearly 100% of the public testimony focused on RF emission issues and concerns.  The Commission, public, and staff discussions are informative.  They span health concerns, administrative process, duty of loyalty, and the federal government/local government relationship regarding RF emissions.

After nearly 3 hours of staff presentations, quite thoughtful public testimony, and post-public hearing discussions, the City’s Planning Commissioners voted to uphold the Hearing Officer’s approval of the cell site project on a 4-0 vote (one absence).

To watch the hearing, visit Planning Commission 11-18-19 Meeting and click below the screen on Item 7A.
To view the staff report, with links to all of the exhibits, look at this PDF: Item 7A Staff Report.

Jonathan

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Cable TV Operators General

Dr. Kramer elevated to SCTE Senior Member Emeritus

I’m extremely pleased to announce that the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineer–the SCTE–has elevated my membership status to Senior Member-Emeritus. Of the roughly 20,000 SCTE members throughout the world today, I’m one of only 41 SCTE members to achieve both distinctions.

Since joining the SCTE in 1979, I’ve been privileged to serve and advise the organization in various ways, including being a committee chair (WG7), and a multi-area subject matter expert.  I have lectured to the members at SCTE national conferences over the decades, and I’ve watched the technology…and the organization…advance from the ‘full dial’ days to what cable TV has become today: an integrated information platform for broadband, including video, data, telephony, and internet services.

My role in the SCTE has been unique, to say the least.  For those of you on the other side of my local government inspections, you’ll know what that means, but also what that has done to improve hundreds of thousand of miles of outside plant, as well as federal transmission standards impacting every cable system in the U.S., and beyond.

It’s been a fun 40 years with the SCTE, and I hope to annoy the organization for many more years to come.

Dr. JLK

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6409 General

We take the 6409(a) fight to the FCC

I am very proud to announce that last night, a broad coalition of local governments and government agencies that we represent filed nearly 600 pages of comments to oppose the wireless industry’s latest attempts to gut wireless siting controls from citizens and their local governments.

The name of the coalition is “The Western Communities Coalition”.

The coalition opposition by Telecom Law Firm P.C. (Los Angeles and San Diego) and Kissinger and Fellman (Denver) represent the positions and views of local governments with millions of residents. In combination with other municipal law firms also filing in the same proceedings, we’re all speaking with the overwhelming voice of many millions of concerned residents.

Our coalition members are:

CITY OF SAN DIEGO, CAL.; CITY OF BEAVERTON, OR.; CITY OF BOULDER, COLO.; TOWN OF BRECKENRIDGE, COLO.; CITY OF CARLSBAD, CAL.; CITY OF CERRITOS, CAL.; COLORADO COMMUNICATIONS AND UTILITY ALLIANCE; CITY OF CORONADO, CAL.; TOWN OF DANVILLE, CAL.; CITY OF ENCINITAS, CAL.; KING COUNTY, WASH.; CITY OF LACEY, WASH.; CITY OF LA MESA, CAL.; CITY OF LAWNDALE, CAL.; LEAGUE OF OREGON CITIES; LEAGUE OF CALIFORNIA CITIES; CITY OF NAPA, CAL.; CITY OF OLYMPIA, WASH.; CITY OF OXNARD, CAL.; CITY OF PLEASANTON, CAL.; CITY OF RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CAL.; CITY OF RICHMOND, CAL.; TOWN OF SAN ANSELMO, CAL.; CITY OF SAN MARCOS, CAL.; CITY OF SAN RAMON, CAL.; CITY OF SANTA CRUZ, CAL.; CITY OF SANTA MONICA, CAL.; CITY OF SOLANA BEACH CAL.; CITY OF SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CAL.; CITY OF TACOMA, WASH.; CITY OF THOUSAND OAKS, CAL.; THURSTON COUNTY, WASH.; CITY OF TUMWATER, WASH.

Taking this fight in this way to the FCC is the legally and policy correct manner to proceed at this time. Now that the initial comments have been filed by local governments and the wireless industry, we are preparing to write reply comments on behalf of our coalition members.

You’ll notice in our comments that we are very specific about rebutting and destroying the wireless industry misstatements, innuendos, and outright misepresentations that cannot substitute for facts the FCC may or should rely on. The light we shine on the wireless industry is startling and instructive.

Here is a link to the Western Communities Coalition comments:

JOINT COMMENTS (19-250) (FINAL) reduced size

I can assure you that the Western Communities Coalition reply comments will be even more powerful and impactful. I will post them here when they are filed.

Jonathan

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General

Fill Your Swimming Pool at the Gas Station?

There is a palpable public fear in some quarters of nascent 5G cell sites.  That public’s fear seems centered on radio frequency emissions, and are often based on Internet-spread claims of potential negative health impacts to adults, children, infants, animals, bees, trees, bushes, birds, insects…

I won’t debate the underlying question as to whether those public concerns are grounded in fact.  That’s not the point of this opinion essay.

Rather, I’m going to address a still more fundamental issue.

Specifically, the proper arena in which to fight the fight over RF safety.

Increasing, very vocal and concerned members of the public are showing up at Planning Commission/City Council/Board of Supervisor meetings demanding that local government officials deny essentially every wireless industry application to install a new or modify an existing cell site.  The public frequently argue to the local government officials that existing and proposed cell site transmissions are not proven to be safe, and must be denied.

The public testify before the government official that 5G transmissions will be worse that the 4G transmissions of today.

In the government jurisdictions the retain my law firm, once the public has spoken, the decision makers will turn to me asking about the testimony they’ve just received regarding fears of RF.

Most commonly, I’ll say something along the lines of:

‘The project as proposed has been reviewed by the City for compliance with the applicable FCC standards.  The project before you demonstrates planned compliance with those federal RF emissions standards.  As such, you are not permitted by law to consider much less act on the public testimony you just heard regarding RF concerns.  Your review of the project is regarding aesthetic and code compliance elements, not RF.’

That correct statement of the law is frequently a real trigger point for the public opposed to RF emissions from cell sites.

Side note… I am increasingly being accused by the public of being anti-public; of secretly working for the wireless industry; of receiving an industry-paid commission for every cell site I get pushed through; and other equally silly and untrue things.  This comes with the territory of being a subject matter attorney and expert witness working for public agencies. I’m used to it.

Let’s return and take a look at the key law.  The law that all state and local governments are required to follow.

The top law on point is found at 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iv). In simple and plain words it says: “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.”

Essentially, if a proposed wireless project demonstrates planned compliance with the FCC rules, that’s all the site has to demonstrate to meet the RF requirements of the federal law.  At that point, state and local governments are barred from considering RF-related public testimony, regardless of whether for or against those emissions.

Another quick aside here…

There are some very confused people out!

They seem to love to repeated claim that the FCC rules are only applicable to the wireless carriers, not to the local governments.  If there’s any distinction, it’s without a difference. Go back and re-read the U.S. Code section just above, and good luck continuing to claim it’s a valid argument to deny impact on local governments.  It’s simply a hyper-technical but clearly wrong reading as to the actual impact and reach of the FCC rules under the Telecom Act.

Okay, let’s get back on track.

So why do I take what is clearly a very unpopular position regarding RF emissions compliance for sites that demonstrate compliance with the FCC rules?  Well, it goes back to a solemn promise I made many years ago.  A promise made by every attorney.

Every attorney, upon being admitted to practice law in California, takes an oath.  The oath I took was,

“I solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of an attorney and counselor at law to the best of my knowledge and ability.”

With that frame, we’re coming to the explanation of the title of this post.

When a member of the public argues to a state or local government body that a FCC-compliant cell site project should be denied because of RF concerns, they are really asking that the local government knowingly and willingly violate federal laws and regulations (and on occasion some state law, too).  I believe in the oath I took, and what it means.  It means, in relevant part, that I can’t and won’t advocate that a state or local government act to ignore or violate federal law and FCC regulations due to concerns regarding RF just because the public assembled at a meeting demands that unlawful result.

That’s not how the law works, and not how public policy works, either.

The public is arguing their concerns in the wrong place at City Hall or the County Government Center.  Only Congress can change its “No State or local government or instrumentality thereof” rule in 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B)(iv).  Further, only the FCC can change its enabling rules in 47 CFR 1.1307 et seq.

Complaining to City Hall that the local officials should ‘take a stand to protect the public against 5G’ is asking those official to violate federal law, and likely the oaths they took upon entering their offices. It’s sort of like asking the gas station attendant (remember them?) to help you fill up your home swimming pool because your swimming pole holds liquids.  Huh?  Not really a workable idea, and potentially a really bad idea at that.

Wrong thing; wrong audience; wrong place.

If a member of the public wants to challenge the FCC RF emissions rules, they shouldn’t go to City Hall and demand a pending wireless project be denied because they’re concerned about what they’ve read or heard about 5G or RF in general.  City Hall is simply the wrong place for them to reasonably expect such a result.

You can write a letter to the five FCC Commissioners, but I think you’ll have more luck banging your head against a rather solid wall if you expect to get any real traction at the FCC.

One thing you can do is to express your concerns to three particular people who can make a difference. Pick up the phone—or write an email or letter—and let your Member of Congress and to your two federal Senators know how and why you feel the way you do.  They have the real power to prompt the changes you seek.

There’s one other venue to try and change the way the FCC repeatdly favors the wireless industry over the public.

My law firm is currently suing the FCC in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over the Commission’s small wireless facilities rules adopted in September 2018.  We are representing hundreds of west coast jurisdictions directly and through three state league associations.

A few weeks ago, at the request of the wireless industry, the FCC opened a comment period that is likely to lead to the FCC adopting even more rules further eroding local government and citizen controls in 6409(a) modifications of existing cell sites.  One of things the wireless industry wants is to prohibit local governments from requiring RF compliance information disclosures in those types of 6409(a) matters. My law firm has assembled a separate (but somewhat overlapping) coalition of local governments and state leagues to fight this latest industry attack on local rights.

Pick your battles carefully.  Then pick your battle fields equally carefully.  You can try and wage your fight on the wrong field of battle. Don’t expect to win when the real battle action is happening somewhere else.  Take your battle to the right field and use all of the real weapons at your disposal.  Only then should you reasonably expect to be closer to winning, or at least holding off the other side.

Those are my opinions.  What are yours?

Jonathan

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9/11 General

My 9/11 Story – Updated

(Note: I originally posted a shorter version of this story on 9/11/12, some 7 years ago today.  This year I add many more details to round out some of the edges. -jlk)

On this important day, like many others, I offer my ‘where were you on 9/11?” story.

I was having a quiet breakfast when I first became aware of something quite out of the ordinary.

As I recall, the main course of my breakfast consisted of a cheddar cheese omelet. On the side were home fried potatoes and stewed tomatoes. A small breakfast roll, butter and jam, water, coffee, and orange juice rounded out the meal.

I never got to finish that breakfast.

As I was eating, the overhead public address system came alive with the following announcement:

“All flight attendants to the intercom!”

A minute later, the public address system crackled alive once more with the additional–even more ominous–message:

“Chief Purser to the Cockpit!”

As you’ve no-doubt figured out, I was having my breakfast eleven eighteen years ago this morning while sitting on a plane.  In fact, I was sitting in the Business Class section of a United Airlines Boeing 777.  At that moment I and my fellow passengers were at about 35,000 feet flying from Miami, Florida to Denver.  I was headed to Denver to meet a connecting flight for the leg that would return me to my home in Los Angeles.

In fact, I was flying a day earlier than planned returning from a conference I had been attending in Miami Beach.  The conference I was attending was one I regularly attended, but I wasn’t too happy to be there that year.  On the spur of the moment, the evening of September 10th, I called United Reservations and changed my flight to early the next morning.  I’m sure that last minute reservation change received some federal scrutiny after the fact…

Right after the time of the Captain’s announcements, the seat-back GPS screen showed the aircraft to be approaching the western edge of the Florida panhandle, just where it meets the Gulf Shores area of Alabama, which was not recently subject to a hurricane watch.  Ahem.

Moments after the Captain’s twin announcements, the cabin crew reemerged into the passenger compartment. They silently started what can only be described as a frenetic meal service clearance and cabin preparation for what we all feared could be a crash landing. The flight attendants said they didn’t know what was happening. They had to do their emergency clear per the Captain’s orders.

About this same time, the giant plane began a series of less-than-gentle S-turns, first left, then right, then left again, and right again. While this was happening, the plane was also shedding altitude at a serious clip.

A few minutes later, while the plane was still making its sharp S-turns, the Captain (finally) came on the public address system once more, now directly addressing all of the passengers. The Captain told us that as we all suspected, our plane was going to make an emergency landing, but in the very same breath he made it crystal clear that there was no problem with our aircraft. The Captain continued, saying that ‘Air Traffic Control was going down all over the East Coast’ and we had only 15 minutes to get on the ground somewhere.

Anywhere.

Anywhere turned out to be Birmingham, Alabama.  The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport to be specific.  That airport was some 200 miles from what was then our present position. If you do the math, to be on the ground 200 miles away in 15 minutes would require the plane to travel at faster than speed of sound, and as good as Boeing 777s are, they aren’t that good.  It was closer to half-an-hour before we landed in Birmingham.

Why Birmingham, Alabama?

The Birmingham airport had an unusually long runway at 10,002 feet (since increased by another 2,000 feet), and a shorter runway of 7,100 feet. Because our aircraft was carrying unspent fuel to travel all the way across the country (including the safety reserves), the aircraft needed a long runway to land with its heavy load.

When we landed in Birmingham and rolled to a stop, the first thing I did was to pull down my carry-on bag and call my wife on my cell phone.

As she started talking to me, I immediately repeated out loud to the passengers and crew around me everything she was saying:

Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers…

…another plane had just crashed near Washington, D.C…

…the Air Force is trying to shoot down two more planes…

I remember feeling disembodied while I was repeating what she was telling me. I was the observer of my own person. Never before, nor since, have I felt this nearly-indescribable sensation.

The cabin around me fell silent. The faces of the passengers and crew were drained of all blood. We stared into each others eyes not knowing what to say, what to do.

It turned out that we didn’t have much to say or do for quite a while.

September 11, 2001 was the first time a United Airlines Boeing 777 had ever landed at Birmingham. United had no way to actually get us off of the aircraft. All of their air-stairs were intended for much smaller aircraft, and every Jetway was already occupied by other aircraft of all types, sizes, and livery. We ended up parking on a taxiway away from the main terminal.

About 90 minutes after landing, United was finally able to secure portable air-stairs from the UPS freight terminal at the airport. We made our way down the air-stairs with all of our carry-on bags, but we were told that there was no way for them to unload our containerized luggage. We would have to do without our luggage for the duration, however long that duration might be.

Inside the terminal, there were no TVs in operation so we still didn’t know what was happening in the larger world.

United’s small cadre of ticketing staff was furiously registering arriving passengers and handing out hotel, food, and taxi vouchers. I was so impressed to see that United’s staff was being assisted by terminal ticketing staff from many other airlines who were helping out in the process. On that day eleven eighteen years ago, terminal staff worked for the airline industry and the public, not for any particular airline.

The airline hotel vouchers being handed out were for local airport-area hotels.

It occurred to me that the no one knew what was really happening, and it might not be the best of ideas to stay at a hotel next to an airport that also happens to be a major military base used by the Air National Guard.

Having worked in the Birmingham area over the years as a cable system inspector for local governments, I knew of a very nice Holiday Inn about 7 miles and several ridges away in Homewood, Alabama. Yeah, that would work just fine for me.

After a few quizzical looks, the ticketing agent issuing vouchers gave me one marked for the Holiday Inn in Homewood.

By this time, all of the ATMs inside the airport had their metaphorical dispersing needles all the way in the red area below “E” and I only had about $20 in my wallet.

With no luggage, and only with the cloths I was wearing and my carry-on bag, I took a taxi to the Holiday Inn in Homewood. (There were no rental cars left by the time we got into the terminal. Yeah, big surprise.)

From a cash perspective, it was a good election.

Upon entering the Holiday Inn, I spied an ATM machine in a corner of the lobby. Before even checking in, I drained the hotel’s ATM to my card’s daily limit. Then I checked in.

Finally, I entered my hotel room, turned on the TV, and joined the rest of the civilized world watching the uncivilized horror and carnage of that day play out over-and-over a hundred times; a thousand times.

Backtracking a bit, before leaving the increasing hot cabin on the 777, I exchanged mobile phone numbers with several other passengers.  We agreed to say in touch while trying to get home.

And back home to Los Angeles, I made, some four days later.

Early on Friday morning, I received several call from members of the phone tree, and one from the local United agent.  They all said to get to the airport as quickly as possible to get back on the Denver-bound flight.   I did get to the airport around 8:00 a.m.

And I waited…

And I waited….

And I waited…..

Around 9:00 p.m. Friday night they had the passengers walk out onto the tarmac and identify each person’s luggage.  Then the luggage was sniffed by a police dog.  Once the dog cleared our luggage, we were instructed to carry our luggage across the tarmac to the luggage conveyor at the foot of the 777.  Once our luggage was secured in the cargo hold, we all climbed the UPS steps back on to the 777.

Hours later, after midnight, we landed in Denver.  The through passengers were issued additional hotel and food vouchers.  Another city; another Holiday Inn.

Saturday morning after breakfast, I called the United Airlines 1K reservation line.  They said that there was no possibility of me making it back to Los Angeles that day.

I did the only logical thing.

I went back to the airport.

I registered in and hung out at the 1K Lounge on the second floor of Terminal C.

Hours later, I heard my name being called.

‘There’s one seat on the only flight operating to L.A. today.  It’s yours.  Go NOW!’

I went, and made it back to Los Angeles late Saturday afternoon, September 15, 2001.

Like I said at the beginning, I was having a quiet breakfast just four days earlier the morning of 9/11/2001.

Today is a another day of remembrance for all of us on a personal basis, and on the much larger basis of uniting all against evil.

Jonathan on 9/11/19

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