In the six days that followed the attacks on September 11th, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for the first and longest time ever since the Great Depression and World War I. The markets would reopen on September 17th, but to quite a rocky start. During the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the heartbeat of our nation’s economy stopped, suspended in time. And a forgotten class of Wall Street workers faced the difficult decision of whether or not to return to work. Those who did would return to a completely different world, one that had already changed them forever. And today, nine years later, many of them are still there. In a polarized political environment where the bad behavior of a few has unfairly demonized all of Wall Street’s workers, their contributions to our post-9/11 recovery have been largely ignored. But had these workers made the choice back in 2001 never to return again, what might have happened? This is one story, out of many, of the courage, determination and dignity of an entire class of forgotten patriots who stood by their country in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 when it would have been so easy to simply walk away.
Nine years ago, my brother Will was working for a Wall Street brokerage firm just steps away from what is now known as Ground Zero. His office building overlooked Trinity Church on one side and the World Trade Center on the other. Just on the other side of the river, near his home in Hoboken, NJ, he boarded the PATH train every day, bound for the bustling station at the World Trade Center. Like so many others, he went to work on September 11th thinking that day would be just like any other.
Just before 8:46 am as Will was settling into his day with his co-workers, a loud, screeching sound of shearing metal boomed just outside their building. He looked up at the trading desk manager, and both were stunned. Will thought it might be a high rise construction accident; the desk manager suspected an explosion.