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eleven tears – in memoriam to AMEX 911 victims

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.

Original Post:

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).

World Headquarters of American Express – The Aftermath of 911

September 11, 2001

Eleven Tears Memorial at American Express World Headquarters

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.

American Express World Headquarters

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.

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:

  1. Paul Zois
  2. Sigrid Wiswe
  3. Lorretta Vero
  4. Benito Valentin
  5. Karen Renda
  6. Anne Ransom
  7. Lisa Kearney-Griffin
  8. Bridget Esposito
  9. Lucy Crifasi
  10. Gennady Boyarsky
  11. 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.

Prokopios “Paul” Zois “Sense of humor”

Sigrid Wiswe “Loved NY Harbor”

Loretta Vero “Fiercely loyal” Credit: Blatherfrombrooklyn

Benito Valentin “Osito” (Little Bear)

Karen Renda “An Angel”

Ann Ransom “The heart”

Lisa Kearney-Griffin “Boisterous & friendly”

Bridget Esposito “Big heart” credit: blatherfrombrooklyn

Lucy Crifasi “Exceptionally Nurturing”

Gennady Boyarsky “No Problem” was too big

Yvonne Bonomo – “Endless Energy”


take good care during Irene, okay?

Irene is no joke for people located along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

The Saffir-Simpson Scale. Hurricane Measurements

Although a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale may seem to the uninformed as not a great threat, nothing could be further from the truth.  Winds from a Category 1 storm can be deadly. A category 1 hurricane has winds from 74 to 95 MPH – that’s dangerous weather no matter how you look at it.  It is capable of producing intense winds, flash-floods, rain, and also tornadoes.

Because Irene is a very expansive storm – 250 miles wide the last I heard, it is capable of seriously damaging a much larger area.

Hurricane Andrew, which decimated parts of Miami (completely crushed entire neighborhoods), was a Category 5 and HUGE like Irene.  And, hurricane Katrina, in 2008, was a Category 3 on the Saffir Simpson Scale.  The damage from Katrina – which is now such a sad memory – is unfortunately, legendary.  The rebuilding from Katrina is STILL taking place in 2011.

Irene has already made landfall in North Carolina.  I am concerned for my friends in New York City, the Carolina’s and throughout the New England area.

This is the Weather Channel’s latest message about the future of Irene:

  • The threat level is “EXTREME” along the East Coast from eastern North Carolina to New England.
  • Irene is a hurricane that poses an extraordinary threat and is one that no one has yet experienced in North Carolina to the mid-Atlantic to the Northeast and New England. This includes Norfolk, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, and Boston. This hurricane has the potential to produce flooding rains, high winds, downed trees (on houses, cars, power lines) and widespread power outages. Significant impacts along the immediate coast include high waves, surge and beach erosion.

I have been through my share of hurricanes having lived in South Florida most of my life.  But, people in New York City, have little experience with hurricanes, like my friend Kathy who lives in NYC.  She’s nervous but getting prepared.

It’s sometimes difficult to know what you’ll need to be prepared with after the storm; it’s an unknown as to what Irene will leave in its aftermath.  However, there are a few essential first steps to do to prepare for the storm.

I advised Kathy to freeze as much water as possible; I save plastic containers for just this purpose.

Fill the bathtub with water in the event of shut down or damage to city water supplies.  Plus, you may need that water to flush the toilet, bathe, or even to drink in the event your stash of drinking water runs dry.

Try to have fans that run on batteries, since the electricity is the first thing to fail.  Have plenty of batteries and flashlights on hand – you will need them! Be careful of candles – they are a terrible fire hazard, and are often a tragic after-effect of a storm.  Always, after the storm hits, we hear about people who made it though the storm, only to have their home burn down when a candle is left idly by to burn.

Have plenty of food that you don’t need to refrigerate; and try to cook as much food as you can before the storm hits.

When the electricity goes out (not “if” – “when” it goes out), the large containers of ice you froze will keep your food cold for a while.  Try not to open the freezer too often, open it only when you need something, then close it right up.  This will allow the ice to last longer.

One of the biggest threats during a hurricane is flying debris.  Be sure to bring inside anything small or light because even a small planter could be deadly if picked up by the wind.

Bring in your patio furniture, potted plants, etc.  Street signs and items left outside will turn into flying daggers when the wind picks them up.

If you do not have shutters on the windows, flying objects could break through the windows and do some harm.  It is best to stay away from windows at all times.

Gather all your important paperwork.  Keep a First Aid kit handy.  I have a back-pack that is ready for any emergency occasion.  I have a good First Aid kit, tooth brush, toilet paper, baggies, socks, and all kinds of other things to sustain me in the event of a disaster.  I always prepare food for my animals, and I put my cat in his carrier to protect him during the storm. The animals will need plenty of food and water.

And lastly, a warning for people, who hunker down in their homes, believing they’re safe, and decide to have a hurricane party, and either drink too much, or get drunk!  That is exactly the wrong thing to do!   You’ll need your wits about you during the storm!  Stay sober until after the storm when you are certain the danger is over.  Party after.

I have been through a few hurricanes in South Florida.  However, it wasn’t until Hurricane Andrew, when I heard the emergency radio warnings blaring, “This is an ACTUAL  emergency,” that I fully realized the clear and present danger of a hurricane.

Before Andrew hit, I didn’t really get too upset or nervous – I always prepared, but I never worried too much.  Hurricane Andrew hit, and left lessons in its aftermath: Take hurricanes seriously!

This is a serious storm.  Please be careful, okay?

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