Everyone has a 9/11 story. But 9/12 is just a distant memory to most. To me, it was even more significant. I got to see people at their best and their worst and got a taste of what terrorism really is.
“You’re going to work?” My roommate questioned why anyone would go to work on this day.
I shot back, “I’m not sitting here watching CNN all day. If there’s another attack, we’re dead anyway.”
She agreed with me but advised that I throw some supplies in a backpack. We would try to get out of Manhattan together if something happened.
I was heading out a good hour late. My alarm clock was set to radio station that lost its transmitter. There was a low hiss coming out of the radio. Of course time was irrelevant that day.
Surprisingly, the buses were running down Second Avenue. I’d be in Midtown pretty soon. I didn’t cry on 9/11 and I didn't cry that morning. My brother made it out of The Pentagon without a scratch. My uncle, who’s firm lost half its employees, luckily, was on vacation that week. I felt so fortunate.
When I woke up from the little bit of sleep I got, the events of the day before rushed through my head. Stepping foot outside on Madison Avenue, looking Downtown & seeing two pillars of tan smoke. The throngs of people walking calmly north. Praying that my brother was okay. The two grey jets that were scrambled from Boston, the only objects in the sky. The idiot at Mount Sinai Hospital telling me that they only wanted O negative blood. But I didn't cry.
But I cried on that bus. We passed 60th street. There was line of people, at least three blocks long. They were lined up waiting to give blood. It was so touching to see such beauty in the face of horror.
I didn’t tell my roommate the real reason I was going to work. But she probably knew. I couldn’t stand feeling so helpless. The one thing I could do was call our clients and let them know that we were still there. The banking system was shut down as well as all the financial markets. No business could be transacted. But at least we could prevent panic so things would be orderly when everything reopened. What I didn’t know was that I would get the opportunity to help in another way.
I wasn’t surprised to find my manager and boss at the office. Both of these men had nerves of steel. The clients I spoke to were in other cities and couldn’t have been more sympathetic and kind. As I put the phone down after making the last call, someone came over to me. We have an affiliation with another company. Neither of their trading assistants were in and they asked me if I’d help the trading desk. They asked one of their own employees but she said no (??!!!). Although the markets were closed here, Europe and Canada were in operation. Also, they got in a few trades the day before that had to be worked on. It may sound cold that money managers such as ourselves were trading on 9/11 and the day after. But it is our fiduciary responsibility to protect our clients. And, if we didn’t, the terrorists would be claiming another victory.
My boss was sitting on the trading desk with one of this other firm’s traders. My boss was arguing that we got screwed on a trade in London. He really did have nerves of steel, I thought. And yeah, with the financial world coming apart at the seams, of course we got screwed.
One of the assistant traders, Tina called me, “Listen, John asked if he could go Downtown. He worked with the New Orleans police dept. I said okay. Did I do the right thing?”
This was Tina’s way of asking if I’d help her. She lived Upstate and needless to say, had no way of getting into the city. “Yeah, you did the right thing.” I was smiling to myself. I’d just be in the way if I went to Ground Zero. But I could do John’s job. I was glad that he was brave enough to head down there.
But I was slowly loosing my nerve. Few people remember the bomb scares that day. While Tina was walking me through what needed to be done we were taking calls from brokers reporting bomb scares at marquis office towers all over the city.
“Reported bomb at the GM building!” The trader Larry yelled out.
“You know they totally screwed us over there, Larry.” My boss yelled over to the trader.
“Weren’t you guys in that building?” Tina overheard Larry.
“Shit, yeah!!! What screen do I go into for the allocations?” I was getting upset but tried to stay calm.
“Seagrams building? Damn.” Larry was broadcasting each new bomb scare.
“Okay Tina, what’s next? Oh, thanks for asking. My brother’s fine.”
“Fuck! Bomb at JP Morgan building.”
My God, that’s 5 blocks away! I was trying to still myself. “Him & his buddies had on their fatigues last night. I told him, you have a desk job. But he wants to kill the mother f*ckers himself”
“I don’t blame him, man!! Okay we’re almost done. Go to the file that says….” Tina was cut off.
“Bomb at Grand Central!! F*CK!!” The trader Larry was more high strung than usual.
He looked up at me, “This is f*cking nuts!!!”
My hand that was holding the receiver started shaking. Hmmm Grand Central AND the JP Morgan Building. We were equidistant between the two. I thought I’d see glass smashing through our windows any second. I gulped hard. So this is terrorism, you scare people out of their wits.
I was relieved that Tina & I were done. I couldn’t sit there any longer. I told Larry that I was leaving. He pointed a phone receiver at me and in a low voice uttered a thank you.
There were reports of over a 100 bomb threats that day. The mayor vowed to find out who was behind them. But I don’t think the city pursued it. There were too many other issues to deal with.
In my firm, only three of us showed up. One who didn't come in complained to my manager about me helping the firm in which we had an affiliation. The work I was doing had to be done before we could do our work. I couldn't beleive my co-worker didn't realize that. I also couldn't believe that anyone could be that selfish. He knew John, the assistant trader was at Ground Zero. Again, it was a day when I saw people at their best and their worst.