Update: September 11, 2013
Can it be
13 12 years? I cannot fathom the passing of so much time, but time does march on, doesn’t it? I decided to re-post this entry to honor the families of the American Express victims, as well as all who suffered losses unimaginable.
For me, September often makes for a rough landing.
There is the heartbreaking reminder of 9/11; today being one of the most poignant reminders due to the passage of ten years.
It hardly seems possible that 10 years have passed. The memories are so vivid it seems like it was yesterday our world was shattered.
September is also the month we see an increased number of hurricanes here in South Florida.
And, September is my birthday month, which I won’t talk about, even though I just did. Getting older means I have to remember a new number (I often forget how old I am).
September 11, 2001
It was a Tuesday.
Monday night I stayed very late at work. It was already September 11th (after midnight) when I left work at the American Express Service Center building in Plantation, Florida.
I was working late with Wayne, an Instructional Design colleague of mine in Operations Training, at American Express. Wayne and I were putting the finishing touches on our Diversity Appreciation Display, which was to be situated in the huge open atrium space, at the center of the building. (Note about Diversity at American Express: The company didn’t just “talk” about the importance of diversity, it “walked the walk” in a way that I have yet to see in any other company I’ve since worked for. They supported diverse employee networks; WIN (Women’s Industry Network, BEN (Black Employee Network), SALT & CHAI (Christian and Jewish employee networks), and quite a few more.)
Every year, the Diversity Team would dedicate one week to spotlight the importance of diversity at American Express. The 2001 event, however, was going to be a scaled down version of our usual diversity celebration.
This year we were going to have four smaller events (not one big yearly event). The four small events were to focus on different sections of the globe, and the impact that American Express had on that part of the world.
The kick-off of our celebration of the Middle East region of the globe was slated to open at 11:00 a.m., on the morning of September 11, 2001.
Because I had worked so late the night before, ensuring that everything was ready for our Middle Eastern celebration, I did not plan on getting to work until 10:00 a.m.
At about 9:00 a.m. that morning, Wayne called my home and I could tell something was very wrong, but I didn’t know what. He asked if we were going to cancel our celebration. I didn’t understand what he meant – what he was talking about. Then he asked if I had television or radio on. I didn’t. “Turn the TV on,” he urged. I did.
The first plane had just hit and I watched the aftermath. I knew American Express had a huge office in NYC, with thousands of employees. I wasn’t certain if our Headquarters was located in one or both of the World Trade Center buildings. Later I realized that the American Express building was a building adjacent to the towers, and every employee was accounted for. Sadly, that turned out not to be true.
Although the American Express building stood very near the towers, it suffered damages that looked like bite marks in the side of the building, resulting from the explosions. The building was structurally sound and could be saved.
When the first plane hit, a few American Express employees were out in the street, just getting to work and suffered serious injuries as a result of the falling debris. These employees nearly lost their lives, but by the grace of God, survived.
There were American Express employees in one of the towers.
September 11, 2001 is seared in my memory. I will never forget how I felt, where I was, or how so many of us cried together as we saw the second plane hit.
The American Express company, which I worked for nearly seven years, handled the horrendous event and aftermath with incredible class. They have done such a good job to remember the employees who were victims.
Pictured below is the stunning tribute that stands in the lobby of the Headquarters building. I have never seen it, but have read the countless comments describing how remarkable it is. The architect’s name is Ken Smith.
Here are additional photos of the memorial. http://www.flickr.com/photos/rejuvesite/sets/72157603291655578/
I was not able to find pictures of all the eleven victims, instead I used a picture of their memorial stone.
I would have loved to include all the victims who died that day. Instead, I am honoring the 11 employees who perished that day, as well as the family members they left behind.
There were more than 4,000 American Express employees working at the corporate headquarters in NYC, these 11 worked for the American Express Corporate Travel office, located on the 94th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower.
The Eleven Tears – American Express Employees:
- Paul Zois
- Sigrid Wiswe
- Lorretta Vero
- Benito Valentin
- Karen Renda
- Anne Ransom
- Lisa Kearney-Griffin
- Bridget Esposito
- Lucy Crifasi
- Gennady Boyarsky
- Yvonne Bonomo
The Diversity celebration that was to start on September 11, 2011, was not “celebrated.” We kept a movie that the created, available for employees, and some photos were left up, that was about it.
It was too emotionally draining to think about a celebration. But, we also didn’t want to discount what we’d planned – it was hardly a celebration of a culture.
We knew the terrorists were of Middle Eastern descent, as were some of our employees. We could not very well show any distaste for that part of the world – that was not a reasonable thing to do, obviously. In the end, it didn’t matter, the sadness and our mourning was not about hating a counrty of people, it was about trying to understand how a small group of human beings could / would attack us as they did.
I think every American felt like they were collectively kicked behind the knees that day. It’s difficult to get up from the floor, though we will and we have.
We passed the impossible ten-year anniversary of 911 yesterday. It was a terrible day for the families of the victims, and my heart breaks for all of them.
Did anyone watch the documentary about the firefighters of Ladder One in NYC, on television last night? If you did, you would have seen that thousands of people are dying as a result of that deadly day. You would have learned that the Officials of the NYC Health Department, Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and others, lied and said the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe.
Of course, this is not “new” news – we’ve known for some time of the health concerns of the rescue workers. Seeing the CBS 911 documentary last evening brought the concerns of the rescue workers back into focus.
Even if you made a grade of C in high school biology, as I did, you would have figured out the AIR WAS NOT SAFE to breathe. (Sorry for the CAPS – this topic infuriates me.)
We saw the dust that covered everything after the towers collapsed. It was toxic dust.
We all know that it was rare for the workers to find entire remains of victims. The rescue workers didn’t find computers or pieces of shattered windows or telephones or desks or chairs or pens or notebooks or staples or printers or paper clips when they searched Ground Zero.
The rescue workers breathed in the highly toxic dust of the computers and shattered windows and telephones and desks and chairs and pens and notebooks and staples and printers and paper clips.
They also breathed in and breathed out the dust of the 911 victims. Ashes to ashes, dust to toxic dust.
The hundreds and hundreds of rescue workers who gave their very souls to recover bodies, also consumed the bodies in the very air they breathed.
I knew this. We all knew this. The people at the scene were not thinking of their own safety, they were, and still are, completely selfless – they were there for the victims and the families. They cried and cried and cried for the victims, not for themselves. The paper masks they were given did nothing to block the toxins in the air. The masks got sweaty and dirty, and of no use anyway, and most threw them away after an hour or so. But, then it didn’t matter, the city ran out of masks.
And now, the rescue workers are dying.
What is killing the men and women who gave so much of themselves in the recovery effort? Cancer.
I don’t have the precise statistics, but will quote the following by National Journal reporter, Maggie Fox in her story Studies find higher cancer rates in 9/11 rescuers:
These workers were exposed to an incompletely characterized mix of asbestos, alkaline cement dust, pulverized building materials, and fire smoke for many days and weeks, often without proper protection…. Hundreds of these people are disabled and can no longer work, and thousands have become ill and continue to receive medical treatment nearly 10 years after 9/11.
Nine years into the study, 28 percent of the workers had asthma, 42 percent had sinusitis, and 39 percent had GERD. Inhalation of toxic, highly alkaline dust is the probable cause of upper and lower-respiratory injury in rescue and recovery workers.
Doesn’t this make you see red?
Our government will lie when it suits them. We started a war in Iraq based on a lie.
The following is by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Paul Krugman:
Is it just me, or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued?
Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.
I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.
You can read more of Paul Krugman’s blog here: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/