Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

We had just completed our early leadership meeting, and I happened to pass by my Creative Manager's cube.  She was sitting there with a radio on her desk, with a weird look on her face.  Normally, she'd be hard at work on something and enjoying the KQ Morning show in the background.  But this was different.  She was not working, but instead staring at her radio.  It was tuned to a news station.   

"What's up, Steph?" I inquired.  She replied that a plane had just struck the World Trade Center, and details were sketchy.  I immediately thought it had to have been a light aircraft, hopelessly off course and likely lost in a cloud bank.  Tragic, but not life-altering.  I asked that she keep me posted and headed off to my office.   

I immediately dialed up the news sites on the internet, and they were extremely light on information.  Everyone had it covered with a  BREAKING NEWS banner, but all that was being reported was that a plane had crashed into one of the towers.  My curiosity piqued, I kept flipping from news site to news site until I was able to find one that was serving a live feed of the accident.   

Immediately, I knew that what had hit that tower was not a nice, little plane.  

I went to my boss' office, and already a small crowd had gathered to watch his TV.  I took a seat on the floor in the middle of the group, and watched the news feed.  We were talking among ourselves, speculating on what was happening, when the second plane hit the second tower.   

It remains the most shocking thing I've ever seen.   

By now the news cameras had gotten closer, and we could clearly see the fires raging and people jumping.   

And that's when I thought of my brother.  

My brother at this time was an investment banker headquartered out of San Francisco.  While I had no reason to place him in New York, let alone the World Trade Center, I also knew that he had been there in the past, and it was not outside of the realm of possibility that he was there that morning.  I immediately bolted from the room and went to my desk to try my brother on the phone.   

The phone rang four times, with my heart falling with each subsequent ring.  Then my newly awakened brother answered with a groggy "Hello?"  I quickly replied that "I have never been so happy to hear your voice in my entire life."  "What's up?" he quickly asked.  I replied that there was an attack going on and that the WTC had been hit.  I just wanted to make sure he wasn't there and was safe.  I told him to turn on his TV and headed back to my boss' office, which was now overflowing.   

I squeezed my way to my previous spot on the floor, as the discussion continued.  Shortly thereafter, we watched in horror as Building #2 collapsed.   

At this point, I was fearful for the loss of life, and went back to my office to see if I could determine the amount of folks working at the WTC by searching on the web.  My answer was over 50,000.  I said a prayer at my desk for the souls at that scene.

At this point I stayed at my desk, getting updates from the web or from folks stopping by.  The Pentagon.  The second tower.  Flight #93.   

Eventually, our CEO called us together in our cafeteria, and gave this speech:   

Most of you are not old enough to remember JFK, but this is your JFK moment.  You will never forget this day.  It will stay with you forever.  We cannot know who did this right now.  There's a lot of speculation, but I'd ask you not to do that.  We'll find out the truth in due course.  You may not feel like being at work right now, and I understand that.  However, I'd pose that is the exact reaction the people that did this wanted.  The best thing we can do is to continue on the best we can.  By all means, if you have family in Washington or New York or you feel you really need to leave, please go.  But for the rest of us I'd encourage us to stay here and do our work.  

It was an incredible speech given by an incredible man.  I've often thought back to that speech and wondered if I would have the ability to say something so insightful and reasoned in a similar situation.  I don't think I ever could.  What an outstanding leader.   

I did finish the day, left work, drove into my garage, got out my flag, and put it out on my front porch.  My neighbor later told me she watched me from her window, and that she cried.   

Our world had just changed, never to be the same again. 

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