Horrid Facts, Stubborn Facts

September 11.

Two words. Powerful emotions. Searing memories. Evocative stories. Fifteen years.

Fifteen years ago, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was sitting in front of a Bloomberg terminal when the first, cryptic hints about trouble at the World Trade Center crawled across the bottom of my screens (I think). I had been scheduled to fly to New York the day before and had reservations at the Marriott World Trade Center (3 WTC), which would be destroyed when the Twin Towers collapsed. Instead, I decided to stay home and go to a “Back to School Night” presentation at my kids’ school. As the day’s events unfolded, I recalled having been on the Merrill Lynch fixed income trading floor at the World Financial Center doing a STRIPS trade when I heard and felt the February 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing. I was really glad I didn’t get on that plane to New York.

My little, not so evocative story is insignificant within the context of the tragic losses, horrible evil and incredible heroism of the “American epic” to which that day bore inexorable witness. But it is what happened to me. It provides context and a framing device to help me remember and think about what transpired and what it means. It is emotional to think about still. But many other stories are far more important.

The image reproduced below is central to several other converging stories from that dreadful day.

9-11-1

Continue reading

September 11: In Memoriam

I originally posted this on the tenth anniversary of 9.11. It remains applicable today. Please note the addendum I have included below.

September 11 is one of those “Where were you?” events which, for me, also include the Kennedy assassination (my second grade classroom), Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” (my parents’ den) and the falling of the Berlin Wall (a New Orleans hotel room).

Ten years ago I was sitting in front of my Bloomberg terminal here in San Diego when I saw a headline scroll across the bottom of my screen about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  Since I had been on a trading floor in the World Financial Center in 1993 trying to do a trade with a client near the top of Tower One when it had been bombed previously and remembered the earthquake-like rumble I felt vividly, thoughts of a dreadful accident involving a small private plane quickly turned to fears of terrorism and consequences that were far, far worse. 

As it happens, I still spent a fair amount of time at the World Financial Center (which is adjacent to the WTC) back then and had a reservation at the World Trade Center Marriott for September 11, 2001.  Fortuitously, I decided not to go to New York so as to attend a Back to School Night presentation.

Much has happened since that day, obviously.  We are a different country today than we were a decade ago, and not all the changes are for the better.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, progress isn’t always forward. But our advances are real and important as well.

The memories of September 11, 2001 linger — as they should — and still offer lessons for those of us who remain.  But today, first and foremost, let us remember those who died that day and honor their memories.

2013 Addendum:  I have visited The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial in New York City multiple times.  Both Memorials provided experiences that were both moving and powerful.  I encourage all of you to visit them. Other personal 9.11 stories worth reading are here and here.  My 9.11 pieces relating to markets and our behavior are here and here.

Beguiled By Narrative

Thomas Hoepker (Magnum Photos)

Thomas Hoepker (Magnum Photos)

The photograph above, taken at the Brooklyn waterfront on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 by German photographer Thomas Hoepker, is now one of the iconic images of that horrible day. In fact, the Observer New Review (London) republished it in 2011 as the 9/11 photograph. In Hoepker’s words, he saw “an almost idyllic scene near a restaurant — flowers, cypress trees, a group of young people sitting in the bright sunshine of this splendid late summer day while the dark, thick plume of smoke was rising in the background.” By his reckoning, even though he had paused but for a moment and didn’t speak to anyone in the picture, Hoepker was concerned that the people in the photo “were not stirred” by the events at the World Trade Center — they “didn’t seem to care.” Hoepker published many images from that day, but he withheld this picture for over four years because, in his view, it “did not reflect at all what had transpired on that day.”

In 2006, the image was finally published in David Friend’s book, Watching the World Change. Frank Rich wrote a 9.11 fifth anniversary column in The New York Times, framed by the photo, which he called “shocking.” Continue reading

September 11: In Memoriam

I posted this last year on the tenth anniversary of 9.11. It remains applicable today. Please note the addendum I have included below.

September 11 is one of those “Where were you?” events which, for me, also include the Kennedy assassination (my second grade classroom), Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” (my parents’ den) and the falling of the Berlin Wall (a New Orleans hotel room). 

Ten years ago I was sitting in front of my Bloomberg terminal here in San Diego when I saw a headline scroll across the bottom of my screen about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  Since I had been on a trading floor in the World Financial Center in 1993 trying to do a trade with a client near the top of Tower One when it had been bombed previously and remembered the earthquake-like rumble I felt vividly, thoughts of a dreadful accident involving a small private plane quickly turned to fears of terrorism and consequences that were far, far worse. And as I sat in the dark during Thursday evening’s southern California massive black-out, I worried about terrorism afresh (if unnecessarily).

As it happens, I still spent a fair amount of time at the World Financial Center (which is adjacent to the WTC) back then and had a reservation at the World Trade Center Marriott for September 11, 2001.  Fortuitously, I decided not to go to New York so as to attend a Back to School Night presentation. 

Much has happened since that day, obviously.  We are a different country today than we were a decade ago, and not all the changes are for the better.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, progress isn’t always forward. But our advances are real and important as well.

The memories of September 11, 2001 linger — as they should — and still offer lessons for those of us who remain.  But today, first and foremost, let us remember those who died that day and honor their memories.

2012 Addendum:  Earlier this year I visited The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial and I recently visited the new 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  Both experiences were moving and powerful.  I encourage all of you to visit them. Other personal 9.11 stories worth reading are here and here.  My 9.11 pieces relating to markets and our behavior are here and here.

September 11: In Memoriam

September 11 is one of those “where were you” events which, for me, also include the Kennedy assassination (my second grade classroom), Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind” (my parents’ den) and the falling of the Berlin Wall (a New Orleans hotel room). 

Ten years ago I was sitting in front of my Bloomberg terminal here in San Diego when I saw a headline scroll across the bottom of my screen about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.  Since I had been on a trading floor in the World Financial Center in 1993 trying to do a trade with a client near the top of Tower One when it had been bombed previously and remembered the earthquake-like rumble I felt vividly, thoughts of a dreadful accident involving a small private plane quickly turned to fears of terrorism and consequences that were far, far worse. And as I sat in the dark during Thursday evening’s southern California massive black-out, I worried about terrorism afresh (if unnecessarily).

As it happens, I still spent a fair amount of time at the World Financial Center (which is adjacent to the WTC) back then and had a reservation at the World Trade Center Marriott for September 11, 2001.  Fortuitously, I decided not to go to New York so as to attend a Back to School Night presentation. 

Much has happened since that day, obviously.  We are a different country today than we were a decade ago, and not all the changes are for the better.  To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, progress isn’t always forward. But our advances are real and important as well.

The memories of September 11, 2001 linger — as they should — and still offer lessons for those of us who remain.  But today, first and foremost, let us remember those who died that day and honor their memories.