Nineteen years ago, today, the United States was attacked by terrorists in an attempt to disrupt and destroy the country we know and love.
This year the world has been ravaged by a pandemic.
In both times, many gave their lives to save others without regard for their own lives. We call those “Hero’s.”
I remember the morning of 9/11 vividly, and yet the rest of the day was a continuous blur. Today’s college freshmen were born in 2001, and those born after have no direct knowledge of what occurred.
Currently, we live in a divided country impacted by “new terrorists” that use technology to attack us and impact our lives through misinformation.
My brother-in-law Patrick’s business partner Adam Mayblum was on the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Adam was luckily a survivor.
That fateful evening Adam sent this email and then 365 days later, a follow-up.
This year we need to mute the outside world, to stop listening to those that would destroy us, and to remember the precious people that are in our family and communities.
Let us never forget our “Heros.”
These are the emails from Adam.
September 11, 2020
THE PRICE WE PAY:
My name is Adam Mayblum. I am alive today. I am committing this to “paper” so I never forget. SO WE NEVER FORGET. I am sure that this is one of thousands of stories that will emerge over the next several days and weeks.
I arrived as usual a little before 8am. My office was on the 87th floor of 1 World Trade Center, AKA: Tower 1, AKA: the North Tower. Most of my associates were in by 8:30m. We were standing around, joking around, eating breakfast, checking emails, and getting set for the day when the first plane hit just a few stories above us. I must stress that we did not know that it was a plane. The building lurched violently and shook as if it were an earthquake. People screamed. I watched out my window as the building seemed to move 10 to 20 feet in each direction. It rumbled and shook long enough for me to get my wits about myself and grab a co-worker and seek shelter under a doorway. Light fixtures and parts of the ceiling collapsed. The kitchen was destroyed. We were certain that it was a bomb. We looked out the windows. Reams of paper were flying everywhere, like a ticker tape parade. I looked down at the street. I could see people in Battery Park City looking up. Smoke started billowing in through the holes in the ceiling. I believe that there were 13 of us.
We did not panic. I can only assume that we thought that the worst was over. The building was standing and we were shaken but alive. We checked the halls. The smoke was thick and white and did not smell like I imagined smoke should smell. Not like your BBQ or your fireplace or even a bonfire. The phones were working. My wife had taken our 9 month old for his check up. I called my nanny at home and told her to page my wife, tell her that a bomb went off, I was ok, and on my way out. I grabbed my laptop. Took off my tee shirt and ripped it into 3 pieces. Soaked it in water. Gave 2 pieces to my friends. Tied my piece around my face to act as an air filter. And we all started moving to the staircase. One of my dearest friends said that he was staying until the police or firemen came to get him. In the halls there were tiny fires and sparks. The ceiling had collapsed in the men’s bathroom. It was gone along with anyone who may have been in there. We did not go in to look. We missed the staircase on the first run and had to double back. Once in the staircase we picked up fire extinguishers just incase. On the 85th floor a brave associate of mine and I headed back up to our office to drag out my partner who stayed behind. There was no air, just white smoke. We made the rounds through the office calling his name. No response. He must have succumbed to the smoke. We left defeated in our efforts and made our way back to the stairwell. We proceeded to the 78th floor where we had to change over to a different stairwell. 78 is the main junction to switch to the upper floors. I expected to see more people. There were some 50 to 60 more. Not enough. Wires and fires all over the place. Smoke too. A brave man was fighting a fire with the emergency hose. I stopped with to friends to make sure that everyone from our office was accounted for. We ushered them and confused people into the stairwell. In retrospect, I recall seeing Harry, my head trader, doing the same several yards behind me. I am only 35. I have known him for over 14 years. I headed into the stairwell with 2 friends.
We were moving down very orderly in Stair Case A. very slowly. No panic. At least not overt panic. My legs could not stop shaking. My heart was pounding. Some nervous jokes and laughter. I made a crack about ruining a brand new pair of Merrells. Even still, they were right, my feet felt great. We all laughed. We checked our cell phones. Surprisingly, there was a very good signal, but the Sprint network was jammed. I heard that the Blackberry 2 way email devices worked perfectly. On the phones, 1 out of 20 dial attempts got through. I knew I could not reach my wife so I called my parents. I told them what happened and that we were all okay and on the way down. Soon, my sister in law reached me. I told her we were fine and moving down. I believe that was about the 65th floor. We were bored and nervous. I called my friend Angel in San Francisco. I knew he would be watching. He was amazed I was on the phone. He told me to get out that there was another plane on its way. I did not know what he was talking about. By now the second plane had struck Tower 2. We were so deep into the middle of our building that we did not hear or feel anything. We had no idea what was really going on. We kept making way for wounded to go down ahead of us. Not many of them, just a few. No one seemed seriously wounded. Just some cuts and scrapes. Everyone cooperated. Everyone was a hero yesterday. No questions asked. I had co-workers in another office on the 77th floor. I tried dozens of times to get them on their cell phones or office lines. It was futile. Later I found that they were alive. One of the many miracles on a day of tragedy.
On the 53rd floor we came across a very heavyset man sitting on the stairs. I asked if he needed help or was he just resting. He needed help. I knew I would have trouble carrying him because I have a very bad back. But my friend and I offered anyway. We told him he could lean on us. He hesitated, I don’t know why. I said do you want to come or do you want us to send help for you. He chose for help. I told him he was on the 53rd floor in Stairwell A and that’s what I would tell the rescue workers. He said okay and we left.
On the 44th floor my phone rang again. It was my parents. They were hysterical. I said relax, I’m fine. My father said get out, there is third plane coming. I still did not understand. I was kind of angry. What did my parents think? Like I needed some other reason to get going? I couldn’t move the thousand people in front of me any faster. I know they love me, but no one inside understood what the situation really was. My parents did. Starting around this floor the firemen, policemen, WTC K-9 units without the dogs, anyone with a badge, started coming up as we were heading down. I stopped a lot of them and told them about the man on 53 and my friend on 87. I later felt terrible about this. They headed up to find those people and met death instead.
On the 33rd floor I spoke with a man who somehow new most of the details. He said 2 small planes hit the building. Now we all started talking about which terrorist group it was. Was it an internal organization or an external one? The overwhelming but uninformed opinion was Islamic Fanatics. Regardless, we now knew that it was not a bomb and there were potentially more planes coming. We understood.
On the 3r floor the lights went out and we heard & felt this rumbling coming towards us from above. I thought the staircase was collapsing upon itself. It was 10am now and that was Tower 2 collapsing next door. We did not know that. Someone had a flashlight. We passed it forward and left the stairwell and headed down a dark and cramped corridor to an exit. We could not see at all. I recommended that everyone place a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them and call out if they hit an obstacle so others would know to avoid it. They did. It worked perfectly. We reached another stairwell and saw a female officer emerge soaking wet and covered in soot. She said we could not go that way it was blocked. Go up to 4 and use the other exit. Just as we started up she said it was ok to go down instead. There was water everywhere. I called out for hands on shoulders again and she said that was a great idea. She stayed behind instructing people to do that. I do not know what happened to her.
We emerged into an enormous room. It was light but filled with smoke. I commented to a friend that it must be under construction. Then we realized where we were. It was the second floor. The one that overlooks the lobby. We were ushered out into the courtyard, the one where the fountain used to be. My first thought was of a TV movie I saw once about nuclear winter and fallout. I could not understand where all of the debris came from. There was at least five inches of this gray pasty dusty drywall soot on the ground as well as a thickness of it in the air. Twisted steel and wires. I heard there were bodies and body parts as well, but I did not look. It was bad enough. We hid under the remaining overhangs and moved out to the street. We were told to keep walking towards Houston Street. The odd thing is that there were very few rescue workers around. Less than five. They all must have been trapped under the debris when Tower 2 fell. We did not know that and could not understand where all of that debris came from. It was just my friend Kern and I now. We were hugging but sad. We felt certain that most of our friends ahead of us died and we knew no one behind us.
We came upon a post office several blocks away. We stopped and looked up. Our building, exactly where our office is (was), was engulfed in flame and smoke. A postal worker said that Tower 2 had fallen down. I looked again and sure enough it was gone. My heart was racing. We kept trying to call our families. I could not get in touch with my wife. Finally I got through to my parents. Relived is not the word to explain their feelings. They got through to my wife, thank G-d and let her know I was alive. We sat down. A girl on a bike offered us some water. Just as she took the cap off her bottle we heard a rumble. We looked up and our building, Tower 1 collapsed. I did not note the time but I am told it was 10:30am. We had been out less than 15 minutes.
We were mourning our lost friends, particularly the one who stayed in the office as we were now sure that he had perished. We started walking towards Union Square. I was going to Beth Israel Medical Center to be looked at. We stopped to hear the President speaking on the radio. My phone rang. It was my wife. I think I fell to my knees crying. The she told me the most incredible thing. My partner who had stayed behind called her. He was alive and well. I guess we just lost him in the commotion. We started jumping and hugging and shouting. I told my wife that my brother had arranged for a hotel in midtown. He can be very resourceful in that way. I told her I would call her from there. My brother and I managed to get a gypsy cab to take us home to Westchester instead. I cried on my son and held my wife until I fell asleep.
As it turns out my partner, the one who I thought had stayed behind was behind us with Harry Ramos, our head trader. This is now second hand information. They came upon Victor, the heavyset man on the 53rd floor. They helped him. He could barely move. My partner bravely/stupidly tested the elevator on the 52nd floor. He rode it down to the sky lobby on 44. The doors opened, it was fine. He rode it back up and got Harry and Victor. I don’t yet know if anyone else joined them. Once on 44 they made their way back into the stairwell. Someplace around the 39th to 36th floors they felt the same rumble I felt on the 3rd floor. It was 10am and Tower 2 was coming down. They had about 30 minutes to get out. Victor said he could no longer move. They offered to have him lead on them. He said he couldn’t do it. My partner hollered at him to sit on his butt and schooch down the steps. He said he was not capable of doing it. Harry told my partner to go ahead of them. Harry had once had a heart attack and was worried about this mans heart. It was his nature to be this way. He was/is one of the kindest people I know. He would not leave a man behind. My partner went ahead and made it out. He said he was out maybe 10 minutes before the building came down. This means that Harry had maybe 25 minutes to move Victor 36 floors.
I guess they moved 1 floor every 1.5 minutes. Just a guess. This means Harry wad around the 20th floor when the building collapsed. As of now 12 of 13 people are accounted for. As of 6pm yesterday his wife had not heard from him. I fear that Harry is lost. However, a short while ago I heard that he may be alive. Apparently there is a web site with survivor names on it and his name appears there. Unfortunately, Ramos is not an uncommon name in New York. Pray for him and all those like him.
With regards to the firemen heading upstairs, I realize that they were going up anyway. But, it hurts to know that I may have made them move quicker to find my friend. Rationally, I know this is not true and that I am not the responsible one. The responsible ones are in hiding somewhere on this planet and damn them for making me feel like this. But they should know that they failed in terrorizing us. We were calm. Those men and women that went up were heroes in the face of it all. They must have known what was going on and they did their jobs. Ordinary people were heroes too. Today the images that people around the world equate with power and democracy are gone but “America” is not an image it is a concept. That concept is only strengthened by our pulling together as a team. If you want to kill us, leave us alone because we will do it by ourselves. If you want to make us stronger, attack and we unite. This is the ultimate failure of terrorism against The United States and the ultimate price we pay to be free, to decide where we want to work, what we want to eat, and when & where we want to go on vacation. The very moment the first plane was hijacked, democracy won.
September 11, 2002
The Price We Pay + 365
As many of you know, I was in the North Tower on September 11 and wrote an email that subsequently generated a worldwide reaction, which I am still in awe over. Recently, I have received many requests for follow-up interviews. I have declined most. However, today a friend of mine took time out of his wedding plans to call and ask me to write another piece describing the past year and my feelings. His thought was that it would make him and others feel “better” to know how I and through my words other survivors were coping.
I have been to a place most will not travel to until they are very old. I have touched and felt my own mortality. Over the last year I have had feelings of fear and then anger and then invincibility. However, in the last few weeks, I have become increasingly agitated by the upcoming “anniversary”. There are so many reasons. I am disgusted by how political the decision over what to build or rebuild on the site has become. Everyone has and is entitled to an opinion. But, the lack of inspiration that the first plans contained combined with the political feuding destroyed my desire to participate in the process. Also, I am growing tired of the waiting. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel that a terrible war is coming. I am not afraid of the war. Justice is with us. But, it will be big and it will be bad. My preference its to take the fight to “them” wherever they may be rather than wait for them to bring it home again. It will be here sooner or later anyway.
Perhaps, my biggest issue is the morality of it. We are in a war with people who preach intolerance. Not that we are open minded to everything, but we are by far the most open and tolerant of all countries. And here we are, forced to fight for our very way of life. This should be known as “The War of Tolerance.” The problem is that we will have to do very bad things to people who espouse a way of life contrary to our own. I have surrendered some of my personal liberties and freedoms to the government in an effort to stop more terrorism. There is talk about a national ID card. It reminds me of the cold war movies where the KGB would ask to see your papers. Now I feel like Big Brother is watching everything. Could this be turned against me one day because I am Short? Or because I have green eyes? Or because I am Jewish? I know that they have “it” coming, but in some perverse way, does this not mean that we are destroying the very freedoms that our country is based upon?
Last month The Associated Press asked me to write a piece for them that went out on the “AP Wire” about 3 weeks ago. I have not yet seen it printed anywhere. So, I offer it to you as a glimpse into my life and thoughts over the last 365 days.
“Perhaps the soldiers in the barracks in Lebanon or the heroes of the Normandy landings know what “it” is like. But, then again, they were professionals. They knew that they were in harms way 24/7. We were professionals of a different sort. Lawyers. Bankers. Brokers. Traders. Waiters. I was having my daily iced coffee. Light with skim and two Equals. Then “it” arrived. Hell on Earth. It was an hour and a half climb down 87 crowded, hot, and smokey flights in the North Tower. It was fires and sparks and doors that wouldn’t or couldn’t open. It was stepping over twisted steel and G-d knows what else. It was losing dear friends. It was my exodus from 1 World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It was a year ago.
I look back at the attack as a whole event unto itself. Not the thousands of little occurrences along the way. The attack and its consequences are of such a magnitude that I still cannot fully absorb it. I think I am better off that way. I do, however, have some demons to deal with. There are those two events that won’t go away. I am tortured by my own memories. I remember seeing my friend Harry Ramos helping people out of one stairwell while I was helping them into another. What would I have done if I knew then, that it was the last time I would see him? Would he have done it anyway if he knew he wasn’t going to make it home that night? Did he know that he was crossing that fine line between bravery and death? Did he even think about it? I doubt it. None of us did. But in hindsight, I get to ask these questions and he doesn’t.
And then there was the 3rd floor. Almost out. Almost home. I can almost smell the fresh air. And then there was that rumbling. That low vibration I could feel in my bones, followed by this inconceivable shaking. Then the lights went out. Pitch black except for some glow in the dark paint and a flashlight. It was, in reality, 2 WTC collapsing. However, in my world, at that very moment, I was sure it was my stairwell collapsing down upon me under the weight of thousands of people. I was going to die. Right there. All I could do was shrug my shoulders, look up at the stairs above, and wait for the pain. Then it passed. A miracle, I thought. It turns out that my miracle was the death of over a thousand people. Almost a year later, I cannot hear (feel) a train roll by without a flashback to that very moment.
I have been told that sometimes a person learns things that cannot be unlearned. I have learned that I am not safe anywhere or at anytime. After all, who would have thought that the opening salvo in a war would be a 737 slamming into their office during breakfast? This knowledge has changed me forever. I don’t step out into traffic any more. I drive slower. More cautious. I guess this will fade with time, as most things seem to. On the other hand, I am more focused and driven than ever. I even learned to ski.
I just started working at a new firm. I am now the Managing Director of The Private Equities Group of Joseph Stevens and Company. It’s a fantastic opportunity and I needed a slight change. It’s downtown. Just a few blocks from Ground Zero. I am not afraid to be there. I will not be chased from there. It is my statement to the terrorists. I work in The Financial Capital of The World. You have not destroyed us. You have merely changed the view from my office window. If I had my way, I would rebuild the Trade Center as it was, if not taller. What better fitting memorial is there to those who perished that day? My friends were proud to work there. They were the embodiment of Capitalism and America. From the traders to the waiters, we all knew that we were part of something special.
Life goes on. My wife and I are expecting another child in late October. Why? Because, now we live a little more for today than tomorrow. Because we can’t let the bad guys win. Because we love each other. Because people we knew can’t. Because when I hold my son, Ethan, nothing else matters and I want more of that feeling in my life.“
Michael Tannery CPA CDFA® AIF® ● CEO
Registered Principal | Tannery & Company
Be A Financial Olympian™
The opinions expressed in this material are for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Individual circumstances do vary.