Monday, September 11, 2006

Where Were You?

I was coming out of the gym of a hotel in San Francisco, around 6 a.m. local time. A woman working for the broker whose conference I was attending was on her cell phone telling somebody, “A plane hit the World Trade Towers.”

I checked a Bloomberg near the elevators, and the top story was exactly that: an airliner had hit one of the towers.

I rode up the elevator with another guy, speculating on which airline the plane belonged to, because the stock would get crushed on the opening. It sounds callous, but that’s how you think in this business—or did, before 9/11.

When I got to my room I turned on the TV and the second tower had been hit, and the government announced it was shutting down the airports. I used to work at One Liberty Plaza and saw the towers burning.

I thought, “Market closed for a week. Conference over. Drive home.”

I left the room and it was strange: nobody was up. Newspapers hung on the doorknobs and the lobby was quiet.

I asked the concierge to get me a car, told him I would return it 3,000 miles away and he didn’t blink, just said it’d be out front in about 20 minutes. I checked out, went back to my room and packed, called my partner, called home, called traders and left the room for good.

Back to the lobby and all hell had broken loose. Phones ringing, people from the conference walking around on cell phones, and a long line at the concierge desk for rental cars.

A young woman was pacing frantically, shouting into a cell phone that her friend worked on the 93rd floor and she couldn’t reach her.

Then I overheard one of the conference minions telling somebody that the morning sessions would be delayed until they figured out what the markets were doing, and I wanted to strangle the guy and tell him the conference was over, but the car had arrived.

I turned down California Street, got on Route 80 and headed home.

Where were you when it happened?

Jeff Matthews
I Am Not Making This Up

© 2006 Jeff Matthews

The content contained in this blog represents the opinions of Mr. Matthews. Mr. Matthews also acts as an advisor and clients advised by Mr. Matthews may hold either long or short positions in securities of various companies discussed in the blog based upon Mr. Matthews' recommendations. This commentary in no way constitutes a solicitation of business or investment advice. It is intended solely for the entertainment of the reader, and the author.


Zweiblumen said...

Sitting in my cube at a small software company in Burlington, MA. I remember that the initial reports seemed to indicate it was a small plane, and was listening to internet radio news as the second plane hit. The broadcasters began to speculate on what weird air traffic control issue could be routing multiple planes to the WTC.

Then I heard that something was on fire near the Pentagon and I started to feel the panic of "what the hell is going on."

I sure didn't get any work done that day.

Some friends and I had been planning to go out for sushi in Boston that night, but instead convened at one of our houses and watched the news and tried to understand what this would all mean for us.

whartonheel said...

I was in the bank in the lobby of my building making a deposit right after they had opened for the day. One of the tellers was from NY and said her mother just called and said a plane hit one of the WTC towers. I figured it was some sort of accident, probably a small plane flown by an amateur pilot gone awry. I went upstairs to my office and out of curiousity searched for news on the topic. When every news site I tried to check was jammed with traffic, I realized something was wrong. One of my wife's best friends worked for Keefe Bruyette on the 89th floor. I grabbed her phone number of my outlook contacts and dialed. When I got the "fast busy" signal 3 or 4 times in a row, I realized something was very wrong. It's hard to believe that was 5 years ago, and that I will be attending a memorial service this evening for the friend I tried to call that day.

simeon wohlberg said...

i was working on 39th and Park ave ..getting ready for the markets to open when our building literally shook from the first plane... we watched it hit the WYC and we announced cars would be arriving to take us to NYU Medical center to give blood. As we were waiting we saw the 2nd plane out of the corner of our window slam into the 2nd tower... it was then we evacuated the building and RAN to Grand Central station to get out of NYC... by the time I got to CT, the towers were down.... May G-D rest their souls

Dan said...

Getting ready for work, my roommate called to me from his bedroom, "Come check this out, a plane hit the WTC". Reporter was saying it may have been a small plane/accident. I made the comment that the sky was too clear for this to have been an accident... and at that moment the second plane streaked through shot into the other tower. My roommate and I turned and looked at each other in shock.

texasdiver said...

I was getting out of the shower in Juneau Alaska and turned the radio onto NPR news when I heard the host describing something to do with a plane crash into the WTC. So I turned on the TV in time to see the 2nd plane hit. Quickly I woke up my wife and we just sat there for a couple hours. Juneau is 4 hours earlier than NYC so we were still at home getting ready for work.

At the time I was working for the National Marine Fisheries Service and the local radio came on to say that the Federal building where I worked was closed for the day. since our daughter's preschool was in the Federal building we had her home for the day, so after a couple of hours of watching the disaster on TV we decided to take the kid and our yellow lab to the beach for the day.

So we drove up to Eagle Beach about 20 miles north of Juneau and had a picnic with the daughter and dog. It was a bright sunny September day. And my wife and I decided we were very glad at that point to be living out on the fringes of the US rather than in NYC or DC.

The grounding of all flights nationwide had a huge effect on Alaska because so many towns in Alaska are reachable only by air. Sept 11 was also peak season for hunting and salmon fishing and there were thousands of hunters scattered throughout the Alaskan bush who got stranded with no notice and got to wait 3 extra days until their pickup flights.

YosemiteDan said...

I was on a morning call with a client from New Jersey who was headed into New York. I looked up at the TV and saw the World Trade Center on fire. I asked my client what was going on. He was on the bridge and said "There is a huge hole in the side of the building." When we found out it was a plane, I knew instantly it was not an accident. After the second plane hit I got the contingency numbers from clients and co-workers then sent everyone who worked for me home. Some did not want to leave but I explained to them that I could not leave until they did. While driving out of San Francisco there was an eerie emptiness to the city.

doug razzetti said...

was at work (42nd and park).I could see from my office window the smoke from the 1st plane and foolishly thinking it must have been a sightseer/ novice pilot... That thought quickly changed when, my neighbors assistant, schreecked that she just saw a second plane hit.
At that point, I realized what was happening- sent my assistants home. The phones were ringing so I stayed a bit, then management shut down the office and thousands of people walked down 30 floors in complete silence. I walked down the street with my cousin, Marshall, we saw some of the people who had walked up from downtown, they were covered in grey dust. Everybody was just walking up 2nd Avenue in complete silence, no talking, no cars, no horns, just quiet.
As I write this and try to remember back. I can't remember Dick's assistants name, but we were friends. I remember how scaried she made me feel. It's funny what you remember.
Being from Rye, NY we were hit dramatically and I went to a number of wakes and funerals and missed just as many. But learned alot from that day and the days following as I'm sure you all have.
Remember 9/11 , remember your lost friends and family and remember what they want you to remember from there lives and try to accompish what they wished. God Bless.

DaleW said...

I had just arrived at work and saw a bunch of people staring up at the TV above the trading desk. I saw the same scene in an airport on the first night of the first Gulf War, the night of the first aerial attack, and remember the same sort of thing when Reagan was shot and the space shuttle blew up on lift-off. You know immediately something is really wrong when people are hovering around the TV in that way.

Anyway, within minutes of the first WTC tower being hit, I called a good fried with Guy Carpenter, who worked in the south tower on maybe the 70th floor. I could hear the alarm horns in the background when someone picked up the phone -- they told me my friend had taken off right after the plane hit the north tower. My friend told me later that day he was in the stairwell around the 10th floor when the second plane hit. He didn't look up when he got to the plaza and got out to Fairfield County to his pregnant wife and 18-month old son by noontime. My friend did the smart and lucky thing and cleared out immediately, which I can't say one way or another I would have done. In any case, I was very pleased to have him in my wedding last year.

I tried having a meeting on oil & gas companies at around 10:15 that morning and couldn't continue it by 10 minutes in. I watched, emotionally numb, as the first then second towers came down. Our building, right in the heart of our downtown, was cleared out by noon or so and by the end of the day, I was emotionally spent from watching the television coverage. Seeing the names of missing colleagues roll by on on the TV later that week was especially distressing.

WallStreetFolly said...

Preparing for the trading day in NYC, a couple of miles north of the towers. We just blogged about it here:

fiat lux said...

I was sound asleep in my San Francisco bedroom. My spouse had had a bout of insomnia that night, and was online when the first news started to hit the wires. He came into the bedroom and woke me up; as soon as we saw the footage of Tower 1 we knew something bad was going on. I was on the phone with my mother, CNN on in the background, when the 2nd plane hit the towers.

I spent the rest of the day going back and forth from the computer to the TV, trying to reach all our family members, seeing the horror as it unfolded, and trying to call / e-mail / IM / track down as many friends and family members as possible to make sure everyone was accounted for.

It wasn't until a few days later that I found out a longtime friend was among the dead; she'd only been on the job @ Marsh for 3 weeks so I didn't know I needed to check in on her.

Sam S. Park said...

I got up and frantically ran around my apartment. But that wasn't because I have noticed what had just happened across the river from my apartment in Hoboken. Instead, I knew I would be in trouble because my alarm clock didn't go off to wake me up. I was late getting into the office in downtown.

I got ready faster than I had ever gotten ready... forget shaving or making my hair presentable. New record: up and out the door in less than 10 minutes.

As I was on my way to the PATH station, I've notice the curious and worried people pointing towards downtown. Smoke bursted from one of the Twin Towers. No one knew what had just happened. "Maybe the pilot was drunk," someone whispered. Then what I initially thought was a firefighting plane crashed into the South Tower. Immediately everyone knew we were under attack.

BelowTheCrowd said...

Was sitting at my home/office in Westwood, just a few blocks south of UCLA. It was a trading day and I was already online with CNBC going on the TV on my desk. They cut away announcing that a plane had hit the WTC, and pretty quickly had live video, I think from one of the local affliate's traffic helicopters. Don't recall who was talking, but they were speculating about it being some kind of smaller plane.

I am both a pilot and a guy who worked briefly in one of those towers and realized that the size of the hole was not consistent with anything smaller than a mid-sized airliner and began wondering what one would have been doing in that area heading south at that altitude. (One of the approaches to LGA involves flying north above the Hudson, then turning right over Manhattan, but there's no approach to any of the NYC airports that would involve flying Southbound at low altitude in that area.) The time of day prety much rules out some sort of confused third-world airline arrival -- another thing that's brought airliners uncomfortably close to large buildings. I was even thinking of calling in to tell the talking heads that they didn't know what they were talking about, but didn't have all that long to keep on thinking about it.

The second plane pretty much answered all my questions about how/why something like that could happen. I spent several of my growing-up years in Israel, including the nasty terror-laden years between 1974 and 1980, when on a couple of occasions terrorists arrived by sea not far from where I lived, and wreaked mahyem. I recognized it for what it was pretty immediately.

I figured that it was probably the last chance to get a call through to New York for a couple of days, so called my parents quickly, told my dad that I knew what was going on and figured the lines would be jammed for a few days, so just wanted to check in. My mom, it turns out, was already heading out the door to pick up some extra food. Our Israeli experience suggested that some stuff might be scarce for a few days.

Other than that, I just watched. My neighborhood, adjacent to the LA Federal Building, National Cemetery and Veterans complex became an armed camp within a couple of hours, with some sort of LAPD tank parked at the corner of my street.

The whole neighborhood was eerily quiet for several days and several stores were closed for the entire first day. It was like the whole world shut down completely and only started opening up 24-48 hours later.

In one odd bit of comic relief, some unfortunate soul decided to try to rob a bank two blocks away later tht week, when there were still something like 300 FBI agents and other law enforcement officials in the area. The teller hit the silent alarm, the call went out, and all the excess manpower converged on the bank. I'm told that the "reception committee" that greeted that truly stupid individual as he ran out the door was vaguely reminiscent of the closing scene of "The Blues Brothers."

After that, some smiles returned. The FBI agents at the corner started talking to people in the neighborhood and some of us brought them some treats, coffee, etc. It was like some kind of invisible curtain had been pulled aside and we were allowed to be human again.


drock said...

I was sitting at my desk when I heard a "pop" and we lost power for a second. I looked at my screen, and the futures market was dropping precipitately. I got a phone call from a broker in Portland Oregon telling me that a plane had hit the WTC, and then my wife called from a pay phone on the street telling me that the WTC was aflame.

I bolted to Trinity Church, where my daughter was attending daycare, where I had just dropped her off 45 minutes earlier. Grace was asleep, and I remember that her teachers had a radio on, and the dj's were making bad jokes about how incompetent could a pilot be to crash into such a large building. All seemed ok so I called the office and told them I'd be returning. I was using the men's room at Trinity when the second plane hit.

I put Grace in her stroller, grabbed a bottle of milk, and began running home...I mean running. I was so keen to stay away from the buildings that I actually ran too far East and had to backtrack somewhere around the helix for Brooklyn Bridge traffic.
As I made my way uptown, I cheered for fire fighters who had scrambled from a station on Lafayette Street; there's now a plaque on the front of that station memorializing some of those guys. By the time I was on Bleecker Street, I heard and saw the first US fighter jets. By the time either tower fell, I was safely in my viewless apartment, and Grace had been bottle-fed and put back to sleep. I didn't actually see or hear either tower fall.

Upstream said...

Sao Paulo, Brazil, arrived earlier than usual and frantically trying to finalize a draft proposal for 10:00 for a conference call later that day with London.
A colleague arrived on normal time and pop at my office asking if I heard….(the first tower was hit) I just thought that it could be a small plane with a suicide pilot, I knew that no one would hit those “small” buildings by mistake.
Anyway didn’t pay much attention and keep on working, then the commotion start to rise on the office and I could see that people were around a loud radio and some going to the meeting room for the TV…second plane…
Nobody working, went to see the TV, and I saw the word attack I thought about Pearl Harbor, we start to think in war, terrorism, Oklahoma part II, everybody was afraid and uncertain. I remember that we were talking about it and everyone had that fear/puzzled face and we were so far away in Latin America.
When the first tower collapsed….it was unreal, couldn’t relate the fact to the logic of it, brain just stopped and an emptiness feeling on the chest – I knew that a lot of people were killed at that moment…silence and sadness.

CheddahYetti said...

I was attending a conference in San Francisco (maybe the same one you were at Jeff). I was training for the Chicago Marathon at the time so I had gotten up at 4am to go for a long run. When I got to the Golden Gate bridge, I was told I had to turn around, they weren't allowing pedestrians to cross that morning.

I was staying at the Embarcadero Center Hyatt, and throughout the day friends working at a firm in town in that complex kept hearing reports that there were more planes in the air unaccounted for headed to San Fran. When they eventually closed their office, we left town for the day.

I ended up getting a Geo Metro and making it as far as Denver before the car broke down (and air travel reopened).

tr8der said...

Standing in the pit on the CBOE waiting for the markets to open. Saw a blur in the back of the screenshot then the other tower was hit and I knew the markets wouldn't open. Stood there with other traders huddled around the TV and the Newswire machine in front of us, pentagon hit.....reports of additional planes headed for other cities etc. Being across the street from the CBOT and in the shadow of the Sears Tower I figured it was high time to get the hell out of there. Took the elevator to the 16th floor of the financial center building to the office to drop off my computer and trading jacket, the longest elevator ride of my life and and incredibly stupid move had we actually been in danger. There was no way I was getting on the El, which went right passed the Sears tower and I also wasn't going underground on the subway. I figured if a plane was going to hit something in Chicago they'd come from the East so I headed towards the lake and then North towards my home in Lincoln Park. What a gorgeous day that was, met a buddy at a local diner with the TV on, and had breakfast while watching the events unfold. What sticks out about that breakfast was the table of 10 cops eating their meals oblivious to the TV, like nothing had even happened.

somerandomidiot said...

I was basically sittin on the crapper reading the paper when the floor started moving. The recoil of the building from the impact actually made all the toilets flush. the stall's "walls" sort of fell cuz the bolts broke off the tiles during the floors up down up movement. I wish I knew how to make 5 toilets flush and shake like that at the same time the way it did then. every time I'm on a crapper now and it shakes a little I sort of get a flashback.

Luckily for me the exit was diagonally across from the bathroom so I just followed a couple of people in. The staggered stairs concept is REALLY fun when you have a huge bunch of somewhat panicked people getting to a stairwell with a locked door. Had a janitor who didn't have the right keys so we all had to go back up 2 flights to wander through a smoky floor to the next set of stairs. I'm glad whoever was in front knew where he was going cuz I just followed the guy in front of me since I couldn't really see much.

Then it was a SLLLLOOOOOWWW walk down the stairs. I'm just happy the building wasn't full otherwise goin down 83 flights woulda taken much longer. Got to J & R when the first collapse began. When you're up close it doesn't look like its coming straight down, it looks more like it's falling on you. First time that I ever thought I was gonna die, just an intense feeling of fear and the hope that it wouldn't hurt much. I ran underneath one of those ramps for the Brooklyn Bridge figuring the stone arch should provide some cover from falling debris. there was sort of a tide of people thinking the same thing and oddly I got sort of competitive. it was somewhat uphill and I was looking at the guy next to me and thinking that i could beat him there. After i got to the ramp, I realized it wasn't the falling debris but the dust cloud coming up Park Row that I should be worried about. Ran towards Chinatown. The dust cloud never made it to me so the only physical thing that happened to me was the soaking the sprinklers gave me on the lower floors.

Barry Ritholtz said...

I was driving to work -- we were HQ'ed in 2 WTC, and I was heading to the Long Island office.

Here are the details:

smitty said...

On a Delta flight from Pittsburgh to Atlanta. Just after we landed a flight attendant was talking with someone on her cell phone about a plane crash in NYC.

As I walked up the ramp into the terminal at Hartsfield, I noticed that everyone was staring up at the large overhead TV monitors. I stopped for a few seconds and asked somebody what was going on. He said a plane had hit the WTC. Just then, I watched as a large jetliner flew directly into the side of the WTC. People were aghast. Everyone figured it out right then and there.

Aaron Koral said...

I was driving to work and listened to Howard Stern that day. When the report of the first tower struck came over the airwaves, I thought it was some sick joke Howard was playing on his fans. After I got to work and news of the second tower getting hit occurred, I was numb with emotion thinking how this could happen to us. My colleagues in the call center were struck with emotion as well. The one thing I remember about that day was how silent the phones were, since no one called in about their account issues that day - more pressing matters were on everyone's minds.

BelowTheCrowd said...

Hey fiat lux! Small world. (In your case, weirdly small...)


namazu said...

I had returned to my apartment in Tokyo after a dinner out, and flicked on my TV, apparently between first and second crashes into the WTC. Between the language barrier, the tiny TV set, the lingering effects of a few drinks, and the inherently shocking spectacle, I was momentarily unsure whether I was watching science fiction or possibly hallucinating. My dinner companion broke the spell by looping me into the CNN coverage from a hotel. I got my phone list and dialed well into the night until getting through to enough people to account for the friends who were at risk. I was fortunate not to lose anyone that day.

Jeff Matthews said...

[This was emailed by a reporter-friend]

I was on an Amtrak train coming into NYC; I'd taken the early train. As we approached the city, some people started getting phone calls telling them what happened.

We stopped well outside the tunnel to Penn Station--so far outside that we could actually see one tower burning--the other, inexplicably, didn't seem to be there, but I kept thinking that CAN'T possibly be. It must be hidden by the smoke.

They told us that we wouldn't be able to get to the city, and that we should just sit back, and wait, because we would be returning to New Haven.

We waited until about 12:30, then they decided that there were so many trains behind us, we would just go to Penn Station and be escorted off by National Guardsman into--and immediately out of--an eeerily empty train station.

There were lots of old people trying to get to Norfolk Virginia. It must have been terrible for them to be dropped off onto 8th Street. How were they going to get to Virginia? Where would they stay for the days that they must have been stuck in NYC? They looked bewildered.

But I was never so happy to get into the city. I walked the 20 blocks to my mid-town building, and got to the magazine just in time for the initial shock to have worn off and for the editors to be sitting in a meeting decided how to rip up the issue we had planned and put out one in three days about the attacks. I joined the meeting.

It seemed like such a small thing to be doing, but it was good, really good, to feel as though I could do something useful that day.

Tyre Jones said...

I was working in San Francisco as an equity analyst, so I usually got to work around 6am. I remember hearing the 1st plane hit the tower on NPR, which they described as an accident by a small plane. I recall taking little note of it

By the time I got to the trading floor, I watched the second plane on TV hit the other tower. We all watched in complete disbelief as this happened. Then one of the traders remarked that we are near the top floor of probably the most prominent office buildings in SF (the Bank of America bldg, no less) and we could look out our window and see San Francisco International Airport. At that point, it looked more like a loaded gun, we got the heck out of Dodge very quickly.

The scene out on California Street (the center of the Financial District in SF) was surreal. There were countless numbers of people flooding the sidewalks and streets. Everyone, including myself, were constantly looking upward, waiting for the inevitable plane to hit our offices. Thankfully, it didn't come. Every day after that one, I would sneak a peak at the airport, just to make sure a plane wasn't headed our way...

leewhee said...

I was at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Two friend and I had spent the prior weekend there and were scheduled to fly back Monday nite (9/10).

My friends flew back to SF as scheduled, but I decided to spend the nite because I had a bet on the Monday Night Football game and wanted to watch the second half. I didn't need to be back until midday Tuesday and the room was comped for the night anyway.

I got up around 7:30 AM for a 10 AM flight back to SF.

I took a shower and mindlessly flipped on the TV to while getting dressed and packing.

That's when I saw the news reports.

My first reaction was: gee, my flight might be delayed. So I called Southwest and they were very pleasant but they had no idea what was going to happen.

As the morning progressed, it became clear that I wasn't going anywhere.

So I went down to the casino in a bit of a daze. I went into the sportsbook and, instead of horse racing on the big screens, they had CNN instead.

It was a surreal scene.

Oddly, or perhaps not, they were still offering free drinks even though all the racing had been cancelled.

Long story short, I ended up spending the next four nights at the Bellagio. Guess there are worse places to be stranded.

The scene at the hotel got progressively stranger as the week progressed. The first day it was still pretty busy but folks, understandably, were quite disturbed.

But as the week went on, the place got emptier and emptier. Only those of us who were unable to access transport remained. And, of course, no one arrived either.

We heard stories of guests renting cars and limos or hiring cabs and driving to New York for $3,000.

By Wednesday morning, there were no cabs, rental cars or buses available. So I was forced to stay.

The hotel was at a loss as to what to do. They couldn't close down and throw the remaining guests out. So it was essentially business as usual. They were also nice enough to extend my comp for room and food for four more days.

Most of the time I spent in my room watching the news. Occasionally I would wander down to the casino and watch CNN in the sportsbook. I played some blackjack now and then but my heart wasn't in it.

Had some very nice conversations at the tables with other guests, many of whom were foreigners also "trapped" in luxury.

Airport finally opened on Friday afternoon. But I waited until Saturday to avoid the crush. Southwest was extraordinary in their ability to accommodate four days' worth of passengers in just one or two days.

I'll never forget standing in line outside McCarran Airport in 100+ degree heat waiting to check in for my flight along with hundreds upon hundreds of others.

There was an amazing sense of camaraderie. Southwest employees were all wearing special T-Shirts with little American flags on them and handing out bottles of water to us as we tried to fend off the heat.

A week to remember, that's for sure.

spork said...

I woke up to my girlfriend's roommate saying, "Oh, thank god, he's here." I was confused. My girlfriend and I had flown into JFK at about 1 AM on 9/11 and took the PATH train from the WTC to her place in Jersey City around 2 AM. She had gone into work at our usual time and was in the WTC concourse when the first plane hit. I was sleeping off the late night. Security told her not to leave but she fled anyway and called her place to say, "I'm not sure what just happened but don't come to work."

I turned on the TV still half awake and thought the plane we had flown to New York on (an AA 757) had crashed. I called my family in the city and called one of my friends on the west coast to wake him up. I refused to believe the tower wasn't still standing behind the smoke. Eventually it occured to me to leave the apartment, to walk down to the Hudson River and see it for myself, and to see what if anything I could do to help.

A first aid station was set up on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, and barges would arrive straight from the WTC but there were no surviving casualties to help.