Monday, September 12, 2011

On November 21, 2008, I stood in a building overlooking the World Trade Center site and took this picture of the construction work going on where the Twin Towers once stood. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the site since 9-11, but it may have been the first time I had a camera with me.
The next day I was in New Jersey visiting my daughter, and she took me to the September 11 memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation. Although it doesn't show up well in this picture, the memorial has a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline. A skyline that is missing its once-defining twin feature.
For me, September 11, 2001 began in a conference room in Chicago waiting for the weekly management meeting to start. As usual, we had a video hook-up with our New York office, located only a couple of blocks from the World Trade Center. It was around 8:00 a.m. Chicago time when the manager of our New York office asked if we had heard anything about a plane crashing into one of the Twin Towers. At the time, everyone thought it was a small, private plane that had strayed off course.

A few minutes later, Joe received a message, said that the building was being evacuated, and left abruptly. The New York staff got out safely with no physical injuries, but they spent months in temporary work quarters before being given the okay to return to the building.

Our building in Chicago was evacuated, too, because of its proximity to the Sears Tower. I got home just after noon and sent an e-mail to my family assuring them that I was not in New York on business. But it wasn't until I got a frantic call from my daughter, who was away at college, that I realized I should have used the telephone rather than just sending an e-mail.

My company used to hold two Board meetings a year at Windows on the World at the top of Tower 1, and I usually went. I even got stuck on an elevator on my way up to one. I sometimes browsed the shops in the concourse, and I had recently purchased a trench coat at a Banana Republic store that vanished with the towers.

Of course, it wasn't the loss of the buildings and the stores that made the day so tragic. Bricks and mortar and steel and glass can't feel, and they are alive only in a metaphorical sense. The tragedy comes from the 3,000 people who died and the countless others who lost a friend or a family member or their sense of security

Still, the amazing thing about 9-11 is not how many people died but how many lived. Cantor lost about 800 of its 1,000 employees (the other 200 apparently weren't in the building), but Morgan Stanley lost only a handful of the almost 4,000 employees working in the middle floors of Tower 2.

Let us remember the living and the dead and all who were touched by the events of September 11, 2001.

I, for one, will never forget.

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