On the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, staff members share their memories of the day.
Rachel Carr, Executive Vice President
On 9/11, I came into the office early like so many others to get a head start on the day. It was a quiet, beautiful morning, as I sat in the bay, quiet chattering and laughing as people slowly filed in until a partner came out and announced a plane had flown into The World Trade Center. I didn’t quite comprehend what that meant at that moment. I was picturing a solo venture gone wrong, minimal damage. But there was immediate bustle in the conference room where the TV went on and the news started pouring in. I went in to watch, by myself, and as I watched the report with images of the North Tower, I saw a plane come in from the side. As I watched, I was in disbelief that someone had captured this footage of the plane crashing into the North Tower and as if in slow motion came to the realization that this was live, a thought that was crystallized the moment the screen went black upon collision of the second plane into the South Tower and most New York satellites were lost. In that moment, we knew our lives had changed forever. A partner at the agency suggested “terrorist” — something we all knew immediately without knowing.
Colleagues filled the room as this story grew exponentially and together, we watched in disbelief on another channel whose satellite was at the Empire State Building. We watched the buildings smoke until they fell, one by one — an unimaginable catastrophe, impossible to process — it was surreal. I recall walking back to my desk, using spotty cell service to get in touch with family, news bits continuing to stream in about other planes — hitting the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania and others still in flight, fear building that we were in the midst of a full-fledged war and that targets were all around us. Eventually, I wandered into my close friend and colleague’s office, sat down on the couch, and began to sob at the world that had just broken open in front of our eyes in a matter of minutes. This was a defining moment in our lives, we were never going back. Many people rushed out but I stayed, paralyzed by the pros and cons of whether it was safer to go or stay. Eventually, a small group of us decided to walk uptown to a colleague’s home, carefully avoiding landmarks. Grand Central, turn right. Chrysler Building, turn left. Avoid being in the shadow of any potential targets. We ended up together way uptown where we sat in the relative safety of an anonymous apartment, no targets close by.
We were safe. The skies were closed down. The subways began running again later that evening. I ventured back out into the City, and have no memories of my trip home. I remember walking into my apartment in Westchester, and waking up in the morning and going to work. I don’t know why I did that. I should have stayed home to mourn.
Matt Basta, Director, Esports
I experienced 9/11 while working in London at the Umbro headquarters and attending my first Premier League match (Chelsea). I called my roommate back in Miami on that day to confirm he could pick me up at the airport on 9/12, and that’s when I learned what was happening. We didn’t have a TV in the office, so it was difficult to get real-time reporting. I was still required to work during the day while I was there, so in the evenings, I would pick up newspapers and hide out in a pub to stay informed. The UK media did not sugar coat the tragedy as they printed photos of the jumpers off the towers. I won’t lie when I say I felt nervous being an American there as we just didn’t know what would happen next. It was extremely stressful to watch the horrific events unfold across the pond, and at the same time, not knowing when I could return to the U.S.
I was very fortunate to be on one of the first flights out of the UK on Sept. 17 (so much security!). My deepest reflection is that I miss the unity of America that was on display at that time.
Fabienne Blanchard, Manager, Accounts Payable
I remember it was a beautiful day, I woke up and decided I was going to add a little heel to the day’s attire. I used to commute to work with my friend from high school, who at the time worked across the street from DKC. The day was so beautiful as we exited the 28th street subway station, I even made a comment on how perfect the weather was. Little did we know that the beautiful sky would be disturbed with the most horrific act that day.
I walked into DKC saying good morning to all and sat at my desk. Within a few minutes, my colleague Joanie came to me and said a plane had crashed into the towers. We ran into an office to look at the television, and I realized it wasn’t a small plane at all.
At this time everyone was in the conference room, as we stood in shock, we were all sobbing. I was getting calls from my husband and my mom, telling me to find a way out of Manhattan, but no one knew how we would do that. My friend who worked across the street told me we should leave now and find a way to Brooklyn through Queens. Everyone from the office started to leave, by the time we made it outside we could see some people who had already made it up from downtown. As we made our way uptown, my fancy heels were failing me. We stopped at a Rainbow Shops on Fifth Avenue to get flats, and that’s when all hell broke loose. Everyone came running back from near Grand Central, apparently there had been a bomb scare, and my friend and I separated after the running stopped. We had no phone service and were unable to communicate. I never did get those flats, I ran the streets of Manhattan barefoot, and took refuge at a church on Park Avenue.
As I sat there, and nothing was happening I found my way back to the office. As I got there, I ran into a fellow DKC colleague sitting on the sidewalk. I sat right next to her and joined in the sobbing session. We felt so helpless. We went back inside together where there were a few people still there. I called my mom, she told me to stay still until I can safely leave. I saw Joanie, and she told me to take a nap on the couch, and she would find a way for us to get home. I fell asleep to the sound of the military planes circling the city.
When I woke up the L train to Brooklyn was back in service, Joanie and I took the train home, and realized the contrast between what was going on in the city and our home borough, it was business as usual, and the trauma had not hit them the same. My friend eventually made it home too, but had much more difficulty going through Queens. I considered on that day whether or not to have children, or wear the outfit I carefully picked (along with those shoes!) Still today I have no idea what ever happened to the entire ensemble, but I’m blessed with my two children, Aaron and Laurenne.
Tyisha Donaldson, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Recruiter
I remember walking to school with my mom and thinking that we’ll get outdoor recess because of how nice of a day it was. I was sitting in my third-grade class and suddenly the normal classroom activities ceased. For some reason, we were able to just sit and talk for two periods after our morning reading circle. Then suddenly over the loudspeaker, the principal announced we were getting a half-day and our parents were coming to get us. Grade by grade we were dismissed and directly into the arms of our parents. I remember thinking how strange that was. I remember the smile on my mother’s face didn’t quite reach her eyes and little 8-year-old me asking what was wrong. She told me nothing, but we had to hurry to go get my stepdad from work. I thought that was weird because we normally only picked him up when I was already in my pj’s, and it was dark outside. We were sitting in the car in bumper-to-bumper traffic listening to the news on the radio and I asked my mom what happened to the music. She said today something very scary happened and she needed to listen to the news. When we finally made it home, dinner wasn’t quite as boisterous as it normally was with my siblings and I. There was a sad air around and I couldn’t figure out why.
Now 20 years later, I know that day was a day of true fear and confusion; a day no one will ever forget. I now know my mother was listening to the news because she could not get a hold of my grandmother, who worked in the city, so any information was better than nothing. I now know it wasn’t until after we had dinner and was already placed in bed, did my mother finally hear back from my grandmother. I now know the true fear she felt. I now know that was a day that not only changed my family’s life, but NY as a whole. The phrase “NY Strong” is something only NYers truly understand. The comradery and solidarity shared amongst each other in that time is something I hope we can get back to. Reflecting back now, it’s surreal to think what a different world we lived in 20 years ago and how that event has shaped the lives of so many.