My first memory of a collective, life-changing, historic event was the death of President John F. Kennedy. As a child I watched adults publicly succumb to emotion, teachers, parents, even the news reporters on our black and white TV. It was an end to innocence. Nothing since shook me like the events on this day twelve years ago.
I had been to New York the week before. We were on a road show at work, introducing the company to new potential investors and updating current holders. One stop was at the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of One World Trace Center. My photo was on file when we stepped up to the security area, so my visitor badge printed immediately. It was not a flattering photo but it opened the gate to the elevator bank. The meeting was with a portfolio manager who had recently taken a small, exploratory position in the stock. He had his analyst with him and they spent an hour with the CFO and myself discussing the prospects and markets for our products. One week later, I was working from home. I had just come up from cleaning the barn, pulled off my boots and was making a fresh cup of coffee before settling into my office. The TV was still on the news station from before breakfast, I watched, disinterested, as the coffee brewed. Suddenly, the confusion erupted. There was no way to process what I was seeing, even the reporters were too dumbstruck to respond. I can watch the video again every year on the anniversary and feel the same sense of disbelief. As the hours wore on, I began to accept the reality. People I knew had been blown off the face of the earth. Many more I didn’t know were gone as well. The city, the country and the world learned how to surrender to the horror and set up systems to respond. One friend was part of a veterinary team that was sent to ground zero to care for the search and rescue dogs. Her stories were harrowing.
As we stand on the brink of yet another international crisis, I can’t help wonder if the lessons have been learned.