September 11, 2001 – We Can Never Forget
A Message from Bruce Rose, Carrington Chief Executive Officer & Founder
On the morning of September 11, 2001, a rare breakfast meeting had positioned me on the 26th floor at 388 Greenwich Street, downtown in New York City. While facing uptown at the time, we heard the first plane fly by at 8:46, unaware that its final destination was 1 World Trade Center, a few hundred yards up the street. Within minutes, we could see the emergency vehicles, four abreast, coming down the West Side Highway from above Canal Street. I walked to the opposite side of the floor to be confronted with the incomprehensible sight of a gaping hole and flames emanating from 1 WTC just in time to watch the second plane hit 2 WTC at 9:03.
Within minutes, I realized that we were in one of the next tallest buildings in the area; and getting down and out became the priority. 26 floors down, stopping at almost every floor and packing nearly 50 people into an elevator built for 20 – we all needed to get down and leave. Crossing the internal bridge over to the Citigroup trading floor at 390 Greenwich, I pushed my way upstairs to the 5th floor against a crowd of more than 5,000 heading down and out. I remained on the empty floor for a few minutes, somewhat dazed, talking with a friend who would ultimately become the CEO of Citigroup about what had just happened or, more specifically, the lack of our understanding of what we had just seen. News reports about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania crashes came across the news feeds while we were standing on the trading floor talking. It was clear that we needed to leave the building and New York City.
I drove home to Greenwich; I needed to get home to my family, but immersed in some level of guilt trying to decide whether I should have stayed downtown and helped. I did not immediately understand that I had just witnessed – from mere blocks away – the first attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, or the deaths of more than 2,600 people. As the news continued to play out that day, the shock and disbelief only deepened. Of the 2,600, I am still today not sure how many hundreds of friends, colleagues and business relationships I lost. I gave up counting how many funerals and memorial services we all attended.
The feelings of remorse and guilt gave way to the understanding that the work downtown was for professionals, not for civilians. NYPD, NYFD and police and fire personnel imported from all over the U.S. were quickly engaged in the recovery efforts – mostly in non-stop shifts for the first 10 days. The collapse of 7 WTC – our former building, home for Salomon Brothers, the Secret Service and the Central Intelligence Agency – occurred at 5:20 that afternoon. It felt like the final kick in the head, while it was then quite clear that we had been attacked.
A week later, walking down Greenwich Street from above Canal as no civilian traffic was permitted, the view of the destruction was devastating. I remember the scene as we were first allowed back in our building: At the end of Greenwich Street, 7 WTC lay in a heap of Dakota Mahogany granite rubble, still smoking and smoldering from the fires and the still burning fuel oil depot underneath. And by that time, it was clear that our world had changed – and not in a good way.
The end of September and October 2001 was when our true leaders began to emerge. No, not the politicians who set policy and law after being elected in money-fueled popularity contests. I mean the men and women of our armed services who took the fight back to the home of terrorist extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq. I mean all of those who volunteered for that fight right after we were attacked. I mean all those who fought and may have sacrificed life or limb to protect our Freedom and in the name of the 2,600 who were indiscriminately killed that morning. Add those men and women to the long list of “First Responders” who risked their own lives trying to find or recover victims of the attack – those are the true leaders that emerged from that event 20 years ago.
And those are the true leaders that we should never forget, along with those who lost their lives that morning. We can never forget.
To the politicians who responded with bigger government, security, policies and limits on the men and women fighting on the front lines, we should be reminded of the changes in our nation from a quote attributed to one of the Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
I am relieved that the media has gotten the 20th anniversary of the attack mostly correct. Focusing on the families of victims 20 years later, as well as those who responded, there have been no stories of division. Nobody is counting how many of a particular race, gender, economic class or preference died that morning or responded to the call to arms. In that thread of clarity, there is hope that one day our nation may be as united as it was that afternoon 20 years ago.
For me, perhaps the up close and personal view of that event drives and inspires my own desire to give back to those who fought and sacrificed in response to that event. You can be certain that Carrington Charitable Foundation and the Roses have never and will never donate to or support a politician, but we will do everything we can to repay the debt that we all have to support the Veterans and First Responder communities – and we do.
Even with the most recent event of an incompetently ordered withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving 20 years of sacrifice and progress to disintegrate in a week, we, as a nation, must never forget those who responded and fought back immediately after the attack.
On October 11, CCF will hold its 12th annual event, unfortunately virtual again this year, given the COVID environment. While this message is in no way intended to be a solicitation, if you share my inspiration and recognition that we must support and repay our debt to the Veterans who responded, fought and sacrificed on our behalf, please consider joining us that evening, so that together we may continue our support and show our appreciation for all those who have given their all for us.
Chief Executive Officer & Founder
of The Carrington Companies