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A Wall Street Veteran’s Recollections of September 11, 2001

Posted by Larry Doyle on September 11, 2009 6:49 AM |

On Tuesday September 11, 2001 I was employed as the National Sales Manager for Securitized Products at JP Morgan Chase located at 270 Park Avenue in the heart of midtown Manahattan. As I recall, it was a beautiful Indian Summer day.

At 8:30am, I entered a meeting with a salesman to discuss the fact that our Credit Department was not willing to do business with a particularly high profile client.  This meeting took place in a small meeting room situated on the trading floor.

I exited the meeting at 8:50am to witness a woman literally collapsing on the floor. I then heard somebody say that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Looking across the trading floor to a TV monitor, I saw what appeared to be a hole in one of the towers. I dismissed it as either my looking from a distance or a problem in the transmission. I distinctly recall thinking that a small prop plane had likely lost control and crashed. That said, I quickly hustled back to the sales desk only to be apprised by a young salesman that a jumbo jet had crashed into the WTC. I sensed real concern amongst my surrounding colleagues.

The young salesman asked me what I thought of the chances that this crash was no mere accident, but an act of terrorism. Thinking it over, we agreed the crash very well could be terrorism. It was now approximately 9:00am.

We had a number of clients located in both towers. A senior salesman situated to my right called a client in the tower not yet hit and asked him what was going on inside the building. The client responded that building management was putting out the message to remain in the building as management monitored the situation. Our salesman apprised him of the mayhem surrounding the first tower. Little did our client know that he and his colleagues at Sandler O’Neil only had a few minutes to exit the building. In hindsight, those few minutes had already passed. Within a few minutes, we witnessed the horrific scene of the second jumbo jet slicing into the second WTC tower.

Panic set in on our desk as we all felt that the city of New York was under attack. I thought we would likely witness a string of attacks at other high profile locations, including Grand Central Station, Penn Station, the PATH Train, and the Empire State Building. Thinking we would literally be trapped in Manahattan, I gave my corporate credit card to the aforementioned young salesman and asked him to go reserve a slew of hotel rooms.

I then called my brother who worked one block away from the WTC and encouraged him to get out of his building. He agreed that he would do just that. In turn, I called my folks to apprise them that I had touched base with my brother and that he was leaving his building. When I called him 30 minutes later, at approximately 9:45am, he still had not left the building. He informed me that it was a sea of humanity surrounding his building and he and his colleagues were trying to determine if they were safer inside or outside. I encouraged him to leave and get uptown. Shortly thereafter he did.

At this point, an eery silence had set in as people were trying to determine the circumstances surrounding these crashes. We were thinking of the people trapped in both towers. We then learned of the plane which crashed into the Pentagon and the other that was downed in the fields of Pennsylvania. Not only was New York under attack, but our country as a whole was under siege.

The young salesman whom I had asked to reserve the hotel rooms returned and apprised me that no hotel rooms were to be had.

After witnessing the collapse of both towers, we knew the world was a changed place. How many friends and colleagues perished literally right before our eyes. I remember thinking that given the points of entry of both jets, a likely death count could be upwards of 8-10 thousand people. Fortunately I was quite high in my estimate as many people had been able to exit. That said, for the thousands who perished and the loved ones they left behind, this was a nightmare beyond description.

I encouraged my colleagues who lived in NYC to head home, and those who lived outside the city to make plans to leave. I heard that train service from both Grand Central (my means of transportation) and Penn Station resumed shortly after noon or thereabouts.

I was in constant contact with my wife throughout this ordeal. Knowing that I had no other way of getting home, I was going to have to go into Grand Central. I was very nervous thinking about that prospect. Ultimately after everybody on our sales desk had departed, I left to catch a train around 2:30pm. The train was jammed, but it was silent. People admittedly were in a state of shock.

For the better part of the next 4 months, I drove into Manhattan every day to avoid Grand Central Station. I would leave my home around 4:30am in order to avoid traffic at bridges and tunnels.

Like many people, I had problems sleeping. I lost a dozen friends and colleagues that day.

May they rest in peace . . . and may we never forget.


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