Do you remember where you were on the 11th September 2001? I do.
It’s a shock to realise that 15 years have passed so quickly and that there’s almost no mention of this terrible anniversary on the BBC home page at the time of writing this blog at 10am GMT today.
At the time I’d been visiting a financial services client in central London and was making my way by train back to Woking for my second client visit of the day to see Nick Jackson. At that time he was working for Butterworths the legal publishing arm of Reed Elsevier which was then my biggest client. Many years later I had the pleasure of recruiting him into my UK-Ireland team at Gartner and I have always enjoyed his company.
While on the train I couldn’t help but overhear two middle aged men discussing, what they thought was a terrible accident in New York, namely the crash of an American Airlines plane into the North Tower of the iconic World Trade Centre.
Eventually the train arrived in Woking and I was making my way to Nick’s tower block office, Globe House on Victoria Way, a short walk from the station, when I passed a Radio Rentals store with a crowd of people looking in silence at the bank of TV’s that were switched on. They all showed the almost unbelievable news that a second United Airlines plane had now crashed into the South Tower.
This was too much of a coincidence and my suspicion leapt from tragic accident to premeditated terror on an unimaginable scale. Pictures of people throwing themselves out of the towers to avoid being burnt alive shocked me to the core.
Feeling very sombre I made my up the escalator to see Nick to suggest we rearrange as I felt in no mood to discuss business and he had come to the same conclusion. He ushered me into his crowded board room where colleagues were watching a large screen TV transfixed at the awful developments and then we saw the first tower collapse…
As mentioned in a previous post, I’d visited New York as a single man on my own privately in November 1986 while still part of Pfizer finance and had ascended the World Trade Centre as part of the experience.
Even more sombrely, I’d taken my whole family there as a married man in November 1993 on a business trip while part of Pfizer IT, affording it by downgrading a single business class return fare and flying the five of us by Virgin Atlantic economy via Newark for three nights (Thursday to Sunday).
Pfizer had organised a stretched limo for pickup and return to Newark airport and Alex our eldest remarked to me that I must be pretty important to warrant such luxurious treatment.
The answer was of course that I wasn’t, but I knew people who were, namely my old finance colleagues who remembered me favourably and a lot of help from my host Kent Withington from Corporate IT. I’ve always believed it’s not what you know, but who you know that’s important.
We stayed together at the Pfizer Corporate apartment in the Corinthian tower block 50 floors up and at the time reportedly with well over $1m. It had a fully stocked wine & spirits cabinet having been recently vacated by the Pfizer CFO, so we were too afraid to take advantage of it, but I remember Debbie ordering pizza delivered for her and the kids for lunch one day while I was working.
On the Saturday before flying back to London we all went to the World Trade Centre together by taxi and took the following photos.
I don’t look at them too often in our family albums as it is quite painful thinking of those poor innocent victims who didn’t make it back from the Twin Towers, a mere eight years later, but I’ll never forget them on each anniversary and of my own happy visits beforehand.