Brokedown Palace: In Remembrance of September 11, 2001
If the greatest wisdom is bred as a function of pain, we're blessed with the opportunity to evolve and the experience to remember.
We left our building and ran toward the South Street Seaport. I remember thinking that we could dive in the East River and take our chances there. We overheard someone say that the Pentagon was attacked. The Pentagon? Weren't missiles supposed to shoot down anything that threatened that air space? The Verizon switching center was damaged and we had no cell phones or BlackBerrys, no voice of reason to assuage our fears. We were, for all intents and purposes, cut off from the world.
I thought of friends who worked in the towers. I resisted the urge to run to Ground Zero to find them and tried to put on a brave face to calm my shaken staff.
The crumbling began with a whisper and grew to a growl as the first tower imploded. We assumed another wave of attacks had begun. Everyone scrambled and our staff scattered among thousands of other confused people as the wave of white smoke approached.
I'm not sure how my partner Jeff Berkowitz and I found each other, but we somehow connected and ran north along the river towards FDR Drive. I eyed the water on our right as a precaution - it was an option I wanted to keep open as we broke into a sprint.
We somehow flagged down a taxi and Jeff offered the driver $500 to take him out of the city while I tried to calm a woman in the back seat who was on the verge of hyperventilation. Between gasps, she told me that her boyfriend worked in an office high up in the World Trade Center. As I looked out the rear-view window and saw that one of the towers was already gone, I was at a loss for words. How could I ease her pain? What was happening to our country? Was it really happening at all?
I made my way to my home on 57th Street as lines formed at convenience stores in my neighborhood. People were hoarding bottled water, canned food, flashlights, and other necessities. I had none of that and I didn't care. I just wanted to find my family and my friends. I needed to understand what had happened and establish a framework of relativity, a place where I could begin to assess and digest my experience. The images on TV portrayed downtown Manhattan as a cloud of smoke, a war zone with body parts strewn like yesterday's laundry on the bedroom floor.
Friends and family began to gather at my apartment; five at first, then 10, then 20. It was the other side of disaster, a dose of humanity in a sea of horror, a refuge of comfort in a maze of confusion. I found myself sitting at my desk, looking for a semblance of normalcy and a familiar setting.
Instinctively I wrote this column, which was published that evening on TheStreet.com:
The Day the World Changed
By Todd Harrison
09/11/2001 8:33 p.m. EDT
Numbness. Shock. Anger. Sadness.
As I sit here with family and friends, awaiting calls that may never come, I am drawn to my keyboard - and I'm not quite sure why.
Perhaps it's an attempt to somehow release the tremendous sadness that's locked inside me. Maybe I have hopes that sharing my grief will stop these images... stop the shaking.
It's 10 hours after the fact, and I still feel the "boom" that shook my trading room.
I can still see the bodies falling from the first struck tower, one after another, as we gathered by the window in shock and confusion.
I can still hear the screams in my office "Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" as the second plane hit ... and the image of that fireball rolling toward us will forever be etched in my mind.
I often write that "this too shall pass," but I will never be the same. Maybe that's a selfish thought, as tens of thousands of people won't have the opportunity to put this behind them.
Each time my phone rings and I hear the voice of a friend who I feared was lost, I break into tears.
Every time I get a call from someone who "just wanted to make sure" I'm still here, I'm reminded of how lucky I am to share relationships, memories, and a past.
I know many of you read my column to make money, but do yourself a favor and surround yourself with loved ones this evening.
Some of the wealthiest people I know don't have two dimes to rub together, and a few of them will never see their children, parents, or friends again.
More than anything else, I wish I'd kept my date to share a drink with my good friend Bill Meehan at Cantor Fitz.
I was tired, opting to grab a good night's sleep rather than down a couple of apple martinis with my sage friend.
I'm sitting by my phone, brother, waiting for your call.
Drinks are on me.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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