September 11 diary entry from a banker in the Goldman Sachs building
and the World Trade Center attacks reshaped our country and continue to dominate my way of seeing the world and our place in it. As I focus on the early events of Bankers-Anonymous, today I commemorate the second on the 11theAnniversary of September 11, 2001.
I have transcribed my journal below from this day forward. I jotted down my journal entries with additional memories of what I saw and felt.
Tomorrow I will post my wife’s diary from the same day.
September 11, 2001
âI hope that I will never again in my life be so close to mass tragedy and mass terror as I am today. I watched a silent TV image of a burning hole in the side of one of the World Trade Center buildings, and then, while I was on the phone telling Jim I was fine, I saw a second plane crash into the side of the Second World Trade Central Building, which exploded at the point of impact.
The bond markets reacted instantly to the first attack, but it was not clear to all of us in the trading floor whether the first tower fire was caused by a bomb, a small wandering commuter plane, or something else. A bomb seemed the most likely scenario, since the Towers had already been attacked. The clear blue sky day did not favor the commuter airplane theory. But we just didn’t know.
Between the time the first and second towers were struck, many of us in the trading floor of the 85 Broad Street Goldman building looked up to the sky to see a mixture of smoke and paper debris. fly right over our roof. Although we worked several blocks from the World Trade Center, we were apparently directly downwind of the first burning tower. Looking up out the window, one of my emerging market derivatives traders made a distracted and ironic remark about all the written derivative contracts that literally flew out the window. At the time, around 8:55 a.m., it didn’t seem too insensitive – we just didn’t know it was an attack, and we hadn’t yet realized it wasn’t something. which one could joke about.
Also, Jim is my brother.
âJim made me swear I would leave the building, which I did, although the Goldman building is a 5 minute walk from the Twin Towers.â
Actually, “swearing” in that sentence has a double meaning, because as we both watched CNN on TV from our respective offices, while talking on the phone together, asking ourselves the cause of the initial hole in the first tower, We saw the second plane hit live, and all I could hear in my ear from Jim was a series of explosive F-bombs telling me to get away from Wall Street, that we were under attack, and to the !
“I walked to the nearest subway, Wall Street, then had to take Fulton Street and finally took a Uptown 6 train to City Hall.”
The second tower was hit at 9:03 am, and I was at the 85 Broad Street door around 9:08 am. Wall Street and Fulton subway stations were closed by the time I reached them at 9:15 am, but the City Hall subway station was still open. So I had a 10 minute walk, about 10 blocks north of City Hall.
Three or four of us got on the subway at City Hall with tears in our eyes and in shock, only to say hello to the Brooklyn commuters who had no idea what was going on above the ground. They had boarded the train 20 to 30 minutes earlier, but had no idea that on their journey from Brooklyn to Manhattan the whole world had changed. We were the first to tell them that New York was under attack.
Originally I took the metro to 54e Street to try to find my brother Jim, who had insisted, between the F-bombs, that I go to his office downtown. I know mine was one of the last northbound trains. After arriving downtown and trying to get on the metro ten minutes later, it was no longer working.
By the time I arrived at his office, Jim had left to join his wife and newborn daughter at his apartment on the Upper West Side. Some of his office colleagues – still in his office – greeted me like I was a ghost from the dead. My brother had left them with the mistaken impression – based on his worry that I was on Wall Street – that I was working in one of the Towers.
“Fortunately, I was in time before they cut the train, which saved me from walking all the way to the top of town, even though I had to run from 54e Street at 104e Street, where I spent the rest of the day with Kim and Jim.
Other memories of the afternoon with Jim: I didn’t know the towers had collapsed until I got to 104e Street, and his doorman told me, while he was watching it on TV. By noon on the Upper West Side, every store owner on Broadway had knocked down those graffiti-covered garage door-style metal curtains, effectively closing the hatches. At this point, it was not clear to us whether the citizens of New York would react out of patriotic solidarity – as has often happened – or whether riots and looting could gain the upper hand. The store owners weren’t taking any chances. In the late afternoon of September 11, my brother and I ventured out of his apartment into the deserted streets, to withdraw a large sum of money from an ATM, in case we were about to. enter a futuristic Mad Max dystopia. Anything seemed possible that day, with the Pentagon under attack and an unknown number of passenger planes still missing. In one of the rare light moments of the day – at least in retrospect – we took tennis racquets with us to ward off looters. We strolled the empty Upper West Side like Williams sisters from the Bizarro world, alert and on tiptoe, ready for the apocalypse.
âThe most horrific thing I witnessed was the fall of a body near the top of the World Trade Center to the ground. I shudder when I think of the abject terror these falling people must have felt from 100 floors up. “
During my 10 minute walk north to City Hall tube station, I also remember thousands of people on the street, in the blocks near the burning towers, just looking up in horror. . The vertical steel bands near the tops of the towers glowed red. Smoke billowed upward, as debris and the occasional human form fell downward. Thousands of us with limp jaws, tears running down, hands clenched over our mouths or over our hearts, resting on each other’s arm just to stay upright. I walked past thousands of us, watching it from the ground.
âI’m very scared for Darren Schroeder, Michael Skarbinski, Guillaume Fonkenell and the few others from Pharo who worked on the 85e Floor of building one.
By the time I wrote their names, I was sure to write their epitaph in my journal. Pharo Management was a relatively new emerging market hedge fund at the time, and I had visited their office on 85e Floor of Tower 1 about two weeks ago, and I had the image of the view from their desk in my head as I wrote this diary entry. The day after September 11, I read on Bloomberg that not only had they survived, but that Pharo had an emergency offsite backup system for all of their business data and that Fonkenell, the founder, had succeeded in doing spread the word to its customers. via Bloomberg on their survival.
“I pray to all God that is up there that he hasn’t suffered.”
As an institutional bond seller, I sat in the trading room facing my bond traders, about 5 feet apart, each of us separated by a row of computer screens. Wall Street bond traders all traded bonds with other Wall Street companies through inter-trade brokers with the obscure names at the time of Cantor Fitzgerald, Tullett & Tokyo and Prebon. For a small commission per transaction, inter-professional brokers offered a measure of anonymity and
between, say, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. My traders and inter-trader brokers did not use traditional telephones between them, but rather a “hoot”, an intercom system that allowed them to be permanently audio. contact. Most of these inter-professional brokers worked in offices on the upper floors of the World Trade Center towers.
In the minutes between the strike of the first and second tower, the traders in my group communicated to us one of the most horrific scenes of suffering imaginable, from their counterparts at Cantor Fitzgerald and Tullett & Tokyo. Cantor and Tullett’s guys from the first tower were trapped above where the first plane hit, and they realized a fire was blocking their elevator and stair exits. They signaled to my traders that some of them were heading for the roof rather than down, in the vain hope of being rescued from there. We received their calls for help and advice on the trading floor hoot, in real time. We now know that none of these bond brokers survived.
âMy closest friends and family seem to be safe at the moment, and I have no word on specific tragedies with people I know. Hope the Pharo guys survived the horror.
I spoke on the phone with Michael Skarbinski from Pharo about 3 days after 9/11. He told me that the first plane struck 2 floors above their office, smoke filled their entire floor, but that they survived the impact. They started to descend almost immediately. He reported that it took them over an hour to descend all the way down, but they all got out of the tower a few minutes before its tower collapsed.
âI have felt sick and weak all day and sad that Barbara has been in the hospital all day. All I want to do is give her a hug and enjoy our luck, so far. I am also sick for fear that this will spell the end of some freedoms and a carefree life that we have so far enjoyed. “
This afternoon’s post-apocalyptic stroll with my brother on the Upper West Side reminded me that if you scratch the surface of a civilization, there is a bestial nature waiting to emerge. I really felt as I wrote this diary on the night of September 11 that we might be about to experience something new and horrible in the human experience.
âBaby Caroline can grow up in a different world. “
Caroline is my niece, born barely 2 weeks before September 11.