Remembering 9/11 - The day I will never forget
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning. Before I left for work, I remember marveling with my wife Joanna about the amazing blue sky and crisp fall air – the muggy Washington, D.C. summer seemed finally behind us. We talked about it being a “perfect morning” as I got into my car and headed for work on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
About 90 minutes later I was in my office at the Washington Speakers Bureau in Alexandria, VA watching with the rest of the world as events unfolded in my beloved New York City. News then came that just five miles from our office, another plane flew into the Pentagon. We could see smoke rising high in the sky in the distance. Shortly afterward, we heard the roar of fighter jets crisscrossing the area above us at really low altitude – maybe 1,500 feet?
Two hours later, when the Twin Towers collapsed, the feeling was complete disbelief – these were building I knew pretty well and had been in scores of times over the years. How could it be?
I was so fortunate to not have lost anyone I know in the attack – but it was impossible to not know someone who lost someone close. Joanna, who was working at the British Embassy for the British Naval Attaché, lost U.S. Navy staff who were her counterparts at the Pentagon.
A MEMORABLE STORY FROM RON INSANA
In the days that followed, like everyone else I heard some amazing and frightening stories from friends and others who were in lower Manhattan that day. One I’ll never forget was from CNBC’s RON INSANA. He was a WSB client at the time and came by the office days after the attack to tell us his story. Here is a video of Ron on NBC News on 9/11 explaining what happened to him:
What Ron doesn’t have time to explain fully in the interview is that he was just two blocks away when the first tower collapsed. The impact of the collapse created a near-gale force cloud of deadly debris and dust that hurtled down the narrow street toward him. To protect himself, he took cover behind a car just as the cloud began to envelop him. In desperation, Ron reached for the car door handle and miraculously it was unlocked – an unlocked car in New York City! It was life-saving good fortune. Ron got into the car to wait out the cloud’s passing after which he got out and continued to the WTC site.
I remember the look on Ron’s face as he told the story to us as being one that might best be described as a mix of gratitude and amazement.
THE HUMAN LOSS HITS HOME
Not long after the attack, I took the train to New York from Washington. Airports in both cities had been ordered closed so the train was the only way to get there. When I got off the train at Penn Station, I exited through a long corridor – maybe 150 feet – with the walls on both sides filled with the photos of missing loved ones like the photo above. It brought a huge tragedy down to very human terms – people desperately searching for loved ones. I wasn’t prepared for my emotional reaction to such a deeply human outreach and I just broke into tears.
EVERYONE HAS THEIR OWN STORY ABOUT 9/11
What prompted this email was the article Jay Carney, former Obama communications director, wrote in Airmail about a new book called The Only Plane in the Sky. Please read it if you have 3 minutes – it’s short but important. As Jay’s article says – everyone has their own story about 9/11. If you’re inclined, perhaps share yours with someone this week.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years. The saying goes that time heals all wounds but this week’s anniversary is something that doesn’t get any easier. It remains a somber day for me – and maybe for you, too.
About Tony D'Amelio
Tony has spent his career putting talented people and audiences together, first in the music business and later representing the world's leading speakers. After concluding 27 years as Executive Vice President of the Washington Speakers Bureau, Tony launched D'Amelio Network, a boutique firm that manages the speaking activities of a select group of experts on business, management, politics and current events. Clients include: Mike Abrashoff, Geoff Colvin, Ron Insana, Katty Kay, Polly LaBarre, Nicole Malachowski, David Meerman Scott, Bill Walton, and Bob Woodward.