Where were you on 9/11?

Everyone remembers where they were during significant historical events for some reason. Ten years ago today I was in Memphis at the USDA cotton classing facility. We had put in a conveying and testing system about a year before and were adding a third level of retest conveyors for Zellweger-Uster. I remember someone coming in and saying that there seemed to have been some kind of accident in New York City but there wasn’t much detailed information yet… it was a little after 8am in Memphis. We all went into one of the engineer’s office and got online to look for news on what had happened and the pictures were horrifying. As the morning went on more information started coming out. We went to the local Applebees for lunch and watched the news and by then most of the information was out that it had been a terrorist attack.

Being a government facility security started moving along pretty quickly. By that afternoon there was a guard at the entrance to the parking lot and everyone was issued photo I.Ds for the facility. before that it was really much like any other lab or industrial plant with just a receptionist, but over the next year I watched the security improve on a weekly or monthly basis. I don’t think that the USDA’s cotton classing facilities were very high on the list of terrorist targets, but like everything else at that time things were taken very seriously. I’d like to think that in some way we all came together that day, whatever our political beliefs or backgrounds, even if just for a little while.

End view of the conveyors at USDA

Of course there was never an attack on the cotton classing facility but a couple of years later someone left a cover off of a motor belt, some cotton got wrapped up in it, caught on fire from the heat of the motor, fell into the under-floor cotton waste return and caused $750,000 damage to the system. I don’t think the automated system is even in use anymore, some things are probably better off done manually.

Manual Load/Unload Section

More information on this system is covered in this application.


Electrical Engineer and business owner from the Nashville, Tennessee area. I also play music, Chess and Go.