9/11 turns 20 september 11, 2021…

9/11 Memorial in New Jersey – my photo.

Time waits for no man and no woman. This is the year that is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

As I have said before, there is more that unites us versus divides us, and we learned that from 9/11 and that it’s hard for us to see it sometimes. We are still a country divided. We can’t remain a country divided and this somber 20th anniversary is the best example why.

The news is full of stories of families who lost people on 9/11. Children who grew up without parents because they died on 9/11. This is unimaginable loss, and all of these people have gone forward with their lives which has to be so hard at some moments. Graduations, weddings, first days of school and more.

Again for this upcoming 9/11 I am also going to pause and remember two men I went to college with. I’m not going to be some kind of weird death hypocrite and say I really knew them or they were my close friends because they weren’t. They were both people I met a couple of times, but people I never really knew who were close to people important to me to this very day. They lost their lives in 9/11.

Doug Cherry worked for AON. I remember when I found out that he had died in the trade center because I worked for then Wachovia Securities, and AON had a large office literally across the hall. Someone I knew from that office had oddly remembered I went to Ohio Weslyan. So they told me when they learned the names of those who had died in their company. But that wasn’t on 9/11 that was in the days that followed. I remember afterwards the days that followed when you started to see the roll call of names of people lost. I remember when I heard about Doug I kind of felt old and felt my own mortality for the first time. He was my class, and although he wasn’t a close friend or somebody I even really knew back then, we went to a small school so you remembered the faces even if you didn’t remember the people. That was the case with Ted Luckett. He was the class ahead, and again somebody I didn’t know but remembered. But I remembered back then is he liked to sail — there were a lot of guys who went to Ohio Weslyan who were amazing sailors. Even on America’s Cup crews.

I remember when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. It was at this moment I was pulling into my garage back then where I worked for then Wachovia Securities in Conshohocken. I was listening to the radio. I remember the tears just starting to roll down my face because I knew, I knew they (terrorists) came back because I had walked out of the World Trade Center shopping concourse in 1993 when they blew up the garage. And when I say when, as the bomb detonated I was standing on the sidewalk outside looking at Century 21. If life has been different I might still have been working in New York City on September 11, 2001.

I also remember as I walked into my office that fateful day in 2001, and all the brokers were riveted to television screens in their offices and their computers, at that point in time most people didn’t believe those were terrorist attacks. They just thought like a small plane had gone into the trade center. It was a crazy surreal morning as the news started to unfold. It’s crazy how clearly I can still remember it. I think this is like it was for our parents the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. You remember where you were and what you were doing.

So it’s been 20 years, what have we learned? I found this blog post of someone’s memories of 9/11. Please read it. Someone else I went to school with and don’t remember. They were fraternity brothers with Doug Cherry. It’s heartbreaking to read.

Another of the other things I remember on this day now twenty years ago, two sisters I grew up with who were close childhood family friends and still are. One, at the time, worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The other I think worked for Marsh and McLennan at the time (can’t remember for sure), but she did work somewhere in the World Trade Center. I remember being in a panic for days until I found out they were OK. They were both out of state visiting their parents.

One of the sisters if not both were posted on missing persons lists that kept coming out back then at a rapid-fire pace. You have no idea how surreal it was to see familiar names on the missing persons lists. Especially because at this point the missing persons list were also presumed dead lists.

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I am also going to pause for a moment to remember the OTHER terrorist attempt on the World Trade Center. February 26, 1993.

In 1993, I worked in New York at that time at an office located downtown in the financial district. 44 Wall Street. Gabriele Hueglin & Cashman.

On that day, I had accompanied my office friend Deirdre to the World Trade Center to grab an early lunch and to check out some stores in the shopping concourse. We were back outside of the World Trade Center buildings, getting ready to cross the street, when suddenly the ground shook and moved. I remember that we were looking directly across the street at Century 21, a department store in Lower Manhattan.

Then something happened that rarely happens in New York: Everything went eerily still and quiet. We looked up at what we first thought were snowflakes beginning to float and fall from the sky. After all, it was February.

Then car alarms began to go off one by one like the cacophony of many distorted bells. The snowflakes, we soon discovered, were in reality ashes.

People began yelling and screaming. It became very confusing and chaotic all at once, like someone flipped a switch to “on.” At first, we both felt rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move. I remember feeling a sense of panic at the unknown.

We had absolutely no idea what had happened, and hurried back to our office. Reaching it, we were greeted by worried coworkers who told us that someone had set off a bomb underground in the World Trade Center garage.

I will never forget the crazy kaleidoscope of images, throughout that afternoon, of all the people who were related to or knew people in my office who sought refuge in our office after walking down the innumerable flights of steps in the dark to exit the World Trade Center Towers. They arrived with soot all over their faces, hands and clothes. They all wore zombie looks of shock, disbelief and panic.

Of course, the oddest thing about the first terrorist attack on New York City is that I don’t remember much lasting fuss about it. I do remember that President Bill Clinton was newly sworn into office, but I don’t remember him coming to visit New York after the attack.

Everything was back to normal in Lower Manhattan in about a month, maybe two. After a while, unless you had worked in New York, or lived in New York, you simply forgot about this “incident.”

Except if you were there, like I was, you always remember that day as well. And I am sure I am not the only one who was in New York City downtown in February 1993 who felt as I did on September 11, 2001: that immediate “they came back” feeling.

Within the last couple of years I found my work friend Deirdre again, and we are reconnected. She still in the New York metropolitan area and has a beautiful family. It is so nice to be able to know her again after all of these years.

Life must go on and time can’t stand still, but all in all I can’t help but wonder: What have we learned since about our country and about ourselves? TWENTY years after 9/11 what have we learned and what have we forgotten? What do we need to remember?

We never forget this day and never should. But what have we learned? I think we need to pay it forward as a country in memory of all of those first responders and others who lost their lives. We need to be better versions of ourselves. We need to come together as a country.

We need peace, and less racial divide and polarizing, divisive politics. Is that possible? I don’t know. But we can try.

I don’t really have that much else to say about 9/11 today. When I wrote last year we were in the grips of COVID19 which is still too much a part of our world today.

I will close with it is so almost inconceivable to me that 20 years have gone by in a blink, since 9/11 happened. Here’s wishing for a better world…

#NeverForget