I wrote this blog 3 years ago...
A number of readers have asked me to share my recollection of 9/11. It is not one that differs from stories you have probably read before and it's kind of long, but here it is, nonetheless.
To get right to it, on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001, I was sitting at my desk at CITI interviewing a young lady for an internship position when the first plane hit the North Tower at 8:46 AM.
Citigroup's 390 Greenwich Street offices were only 11 blocks north of the Trade Center, so the explosion shook our building and surprised/confused everyone on the trading floor.
Some people left the desk right away, but the traders all stayed and huddled around the multiple TVs that hung from every wall, and we speculated on whether or not this was an accident.
A gentleman named George Levine, who was our Reuters rep, said it must've been a pilot who fell asleep at the wheel, but my closest friend on the desk said, "No… That was terrorists." That wasn't something people just assumed back then. Nowadays, people think an M-80 going off in a schoolyard is potentially the work of an ISIS sleeper cell, but you could say we were more innocent in 2001.
But that innocence was about to be taken.
My memory is hazy, but I think CITI was in the process of evacuating people not soon after that first plane hit. Even without their evacuation, there were a number of people on the street outside of our office who had a perfect vantage point to view the hole that was left in the tower because that first plane approached from the north. Everyone who was on the street north of the WTC was looking up and saw firsthand as the second plane flew into the South Tower at 9:03 AM. That plane entered in from the south, but the blast was visible from all vantage points
It was at that moment that people stopped questioning the reasons for those crashes. We all knew we were under attack.
I did not see the second plane hit because I never left the desk. My wife, Annie, was relatively safe even though she was only 4 blocks south of the Trade Center, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, but the rest of her family wasn't so lucky.
I have mentioned before on the radio, and on podcasts that my wife and I met when we were working together on the floor. I deferred admission to law school and took a job on the American Stock Exchange in September of 1993, not soon after I had graduated college.
My initial job was as a specialist clerk for an equity specialist called Goin & Company, and the first specialist I clerked for was an absolute monster named Ric Harvey. I say "monster" because Ric had a reputation of being brutal on his clerks. The floor was a world all to itself, and the rules of corporate decorum or harassment did not apply there. The hazing was incessant, and, as a result, people actually got good at their jobs. I am not saying that atmosphere was right for everyone, but I am saying 2 things:
1) It was right for me.
2) It is not right for most of the kids graduating from college today.
Anyhoo, I was put in with Ric because he chewed through another couple of clerks and I was fresh meat. I was by no means the most talented young person at that post, but I was cool with the challenge of working for Ric.
He fucking crushed me for months, but we eventually developed a mutual respect for each other personally, and we were able to get to a point professionally where we efficiently robbed the investment community on a daily basis. He went from being a monster to being a mentor and my friend, and no other individual had taught me more about the business than Ric Harvey.
Ric had a daughter who worked in the industry, but she worked for his operation on the New York Stock Exchange, so I rarely saw her.
When I did see her, I was bagging what she was raking, but I barely made eye contact because I was terrified of her dad. If it wasn't for her aggressive pursuit of the big man (I was too much of a coward to ever ask her on a date), we would've never started dating behind his back.
Next year we will be married 23 years with 3 beautifully expensive kids.
One of the best things about the company my wife and I worked for, was the multiple expense accounts we had around Wall Street and the relationship our firm had with Windows On The World. Windows was the restaurant at the top of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Ric was one of a handful of members of the "Wild Blue" club at Windows, so we had wine tastings and special theme dinners there often to entertain clients. On top of that, members of Ric's company from both the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) met at Windows every Tuesday morning for a company breakfast meeting. It was more "breakfast" and less "meeting", but everyone showed up if they could, and had a great morning meal in a place that had the best view of Manhattan in the world. A view that even made New Jersey look good.
Annie and I had gone to these breakfasts often. Even after I had left the firm, I would still go for the free meal, and to bullshit with all the guys I started in the biz with. One of those guys, Bob Twomey, was Annie's uncle. He was married to Ric's sister. Uncle Bob was my favorite guy in the business and a guy that I enjoyed immensely. He was smart. He was edgy. He was funny. He was my favorite in-law.
So if you fast forward from the mid-'90s to 2001, Annie and I were married, I was no longer working for her dad, we had no children yet, but we recently relocated back to NY after a year stint in Atlanta. I was working for CITI at 390 Greenwich, and my wife went back to work on the NYSE for her dad.
We lived in Brooklyn, we were both making pretty good dough, and we were very very happy.
Every Tuesday, Annie would still do breakfasts at Windows, but Monday, September 10th, 2001, she went to the dentist and had a root canal (thank fucking God). Tuesday morning, she decided to skip breakfast. Instead, we drove into Manhattan together. I dropped her off at the NYSE, and then I went up to my office.
So knowing this little tidbit about Windows every Tuesday, you now know that when I watched a plane hit the North Tower, and my wife watched the same footage on the floor of the NYSE, we both knew there was a very good chance a handful of people we cared about very much were somewhere above the blast.
Which goes back to why even after CITI evacuated 390 Greenwich St, I was still at my desk. I was trying desperately to get in touch with my wife or any of the 7 guys who were killed at breakfast, so some fat security guards had very little chance of getting me to leave.
The only other person on the trading floor after the evacuation was the douchebag who ran equities back then. And whereas I refused to leave because I was trying to track down people I was sure were dead or on fire, he was there calling every customer on his phone turret to assure them we would be making aggressive 2-way markets once all the smoke cleared.
This manager had no clue of the scope of the devastation that was occurring, but I still remember the dichotomy between my motivation to be there and his, and it always stuck with me.
The phones soon became useless, so I left 390 Greenwich and tried to get South to meet my wife. Through dedicated wires CITI had to the NYSE, I was able to talk to her directly. We agreed to meet at the Downtown Athletic Club.
She should've been hysterical because she knew what was potentially happening, but she wasn't. She is just a tough-ass bitch.
As I walked South on the West Side Highway, I got just below Stuyvesant, but all the way west along the Hudson River, when the South Tower fell at 9:59 AM.
It was the most scared I have ever been. Crowds of us started to run to the water with a cloud of ash and dust closing in behind us. A cop dropped his gun in front of me, and I bent down to grab it (because I always wanted a gun), but it slipped through my fingers, so I continued to run until I got to the water. It was only then, did I turn around.
When I turned, the Twin Towers lost a twin, and I was absolutely dumbfounded.
There was no longer any way to get south, so I went north again and tried to get in touch with my wife. Cell phones SUCKED back then, but through leaving messages at my parents' house, we communicated that we would try to get to one of the bridges leading into Brooklyn and meet on the Brooklyn side.
Then the North Tower fell at 10: 28 AM… 102 minutes after being struck by Flight 11. And with that collapse went the lives of many, including Emeric Harvey, Robert Twomey, Mike Pascuma Jr, Pat Dickinson, Bobby Sutcliffe, Tommy Sullivan, and Rudy Bacchus… All employees of a small $2 Broker/Specialist that gave me my break into the business- Harvey, Young, and Yurman.
I started running again. This time I ran east. I got across the Manhattan Bridge and we eventually met up on the other side.
I will stop right now to tell you that 9/11 was an absolute honey of a day weather-wise… Clear skies, sun shining, with a slight breeze. Not sure why I mention that, but I didn't really remember that 'til just now… It was a perfect day until it wasn't.
The day after 9/11, Annie and I were among the THOUSANDS of Americans who were desperate to find if their friends or relatives were somehow miraculous survivors. There were rumors that dozens of people were rushed out of NYC to neighboring hospitals and the sheer volume of wounded made it impossible for hospitals to inform every family or friend that their loved one was there recovering.
I don't think those rumors were true, but they effectively gave those same thousands false hope that there were more survivors than there actually were.
My wife and I went into the New York City Armory on Thursday and went through lists of names of people whose bodies were recovered. We were looking for the 7 from her dad's company, plus 2 other former employees who unfortunately were in the towers working for Alger- Mike Tamuccio and my close buddy, John Schroeder. Mike was a specialist at one point for Goin & Company while I was there as a clerk, and John and I were $2 brokers for my father-in-law before he (and Mike) left to work for Alger.
I won't get too much into the details of the immediate search, because it is personal to people I love, but while we were at the Armory, a reporter for FOX NEWS approached Annie and asked her to come on that night with pictures to tell her story. We went home and grabbed our wedding album because all 9 of the missing were at our wedding just 2 years prior.
Annie went on FOX and told her story. She held up pictures of the missing gents in hopes that someone would have info or really ANYTHING that could help our search.
We wouldn't learn until much later that the majority of the pics Annie held up also had me in them, so when we showed up at the eventual funerals for other 9/11 victims, there were some people at those services who looked at me like they had seen a ghost. They had seen Annie on TV with all these pics of me and other guys, and just assumed I was among the missing/dead. I mention this only because it was crazy to walk into funeral parlors on multiple occasions, only to have old friends shout, "He's alive!"… I kind of felt like a fat Jesus.
It wasn't until much later that John Mulheren stepped in and helped out in the dissolution of some of my father-in-law's businesses, but within a week, another of Ric's acquaintances reached out and gave me painful news that we needed to hear.
It was a gentleman named Jules Roinnel. Jules was the director of Windows On The World. Jules was not there for the breakfast shift that day, but he knew Ric's crew was in attendance. He also knew that everyone who had relatives or friends at Windows was probably still hanging on to hope that they got out alive.
Jules and I were close from when I worked for Ric. He called to tell me that the opposite was true and that everyone above the blast was killed. The plane entered the building and caused a hole containing a thousand-degree jet-fuel fire that separated anyone above the blast from any possible escape route below.
Jules essentially was the first to bring us back to reality. I gathered the family and we came to the conclusion that finding people alive was no longer realistic, so we would officially start to mourn and also work at finding bodies to bury.
My wife, her sister, and her mom went to the medical examiner's office and got swabbed… The recovery team was able to isolate my mother-in-law's DNA from the swab, and then deleted it from the girls' DNA, and they were left with a DNA sample of my father-in-law that they could use to find remains.
It took over 9 months, but they did find enough for us to cremate.
Even before they found remains, the NYSE and AMEX jointly memorialized all 9 gents in a ceremony in St Patrick's Cathedral. Annie was the sole speaker at the ceremony, where she eulogized all of them in front of a standing-room-only crowd of thousands.
She stood up there and gave them all a respectful and heartfelt speech, while I stood behind her and cried like a fucking baby.
In the weeks and months after 9/11, my family had heard stories about Middle Eastern groups in Brooklyn or maybe Queens who were dancing in the streets, celebrating the deaths that their countrymen were responsible for. I don't know if any of those stories were true, and I really don't care. My wife and I would never judge the character of many by the actions of a few.
But we did have a deep-seated hatred for Osama Bin Laden and the terrorist organizations he was linked to. That is why I made such a big deal about interviewing Rob O'Neill last week… That guy killed the guy that killed my father-in-law. Therefore, he is a real hero to me, and more importantly, to Annie.
I say this again- I only wrote this account because a number of readers have asked me to share the story. It is not one that differs from stories you have probably read before. The love of my life may have lost her dad and uncle and 7 fellow employee/friends that she worked with since she was a teenager, but I am fully aware that our family's losses are not greater than the losses of thousands of others.
To inject myself into this blog before closing, I will tell you a couple of things:
- I used to do a trite and vapid little repeat content subject called "I HATE NY" randomly on this site, which was totally forced and fabricated for effect. But I will tell you honestly that I fucking HATE the anniversary of 9/11. If my dad were to ever die in a car crash, I would execrate all the major networks if they ran traffic-cam footage of that deadly crash over and over again on the anniversary of his death. Similarly, my wife and kids basically get to see a plane crash into their father/grandfather over and over again once a year.
- I love that Tribute In Light thing they do and that 9/11 museum in Ground Zero is extraordinary, but I hate the look of the new Freedom Tower. I don't know why they didn't just build two new and improved towers… One is 9 feet taller, and the other 11 feet taller. And they would just look like 2 giant middle fingers pointing right at the Middle East.
- I do not eat Halal on 9/11 nor sushi on 12/7, but that's just because I am weird.
- If you are ever in downtown Manhattan and are on Thames Street between Greenwich Street and Trinity Place, that block is named Emeric Harvey Place after my father-in-law. It's located off the corner of the AMEX where he worked for almost 35 years, and where I started my mediocre career in finance.
- I know it would be nearly impossible to make 9/11 a national holiday, but it's a holiday for me, so I am going to drop the kids off at school in a bit and day drink with the bride someplace where there are no TVs… Talk to you guys tomorrow.
Rest in peace, Ric.
Take a report.
That blog gets a little more dated as time goes on, but one thing that is glaringly omitted from this account is what had happened to Annie that day.
That is why I asked her to tell her story on what has become the most listened to episode of Twisted History, and I think she fucking KILLED it… I implore you to carve out a little time and give it a listen.
And I don't think I need to say this, but I will nonetheless… I don't air my story or my wife's story from 9/11 in order to get "clicks"… My reason is much more selfish than that.
The amount of good mojo we have received from listeners and readers over the past 3 years for telling our stupid little account of a MONUMENTALLY terrible day has been nothing short of overwhelming… It makes me regret not leaving Wall Street earlier and taking 17 goddamned years to write about my experience.
Have a great weekend everyone, and thanks for the love.