Today marks the 13th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Almost everyone in America beyond their teenage years remembers where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day. Certain historical markers are embedded in our memory forever. Baby boomers remember their whereabouts on the days when JFK, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Individuals born in the ’60s and later have September 11 as an unforgettable memory that will linger long into their future.
September 11, 2001 was a date that affected the population of the United States on many different levels. The New York Stock Exchange was closed after the planes hit the Twin Towers and remained closed until the following Monday. The day it reopened, the Dow fell more than 684 points to close at 8920.70, down 7.13 percent. Bond markets were also hit especially hard. Cantor Fitzgerald, a major government bond trader, lost many employees in the disaster. Their offices were located on the upper floors at One World Trade Center, the first building hit in the attack.
September 11’s impact on society was immediate. The U.S. aviation industry took enormous hits. On September 10, 2001 there were more than 38,000 flights. On September 12, 2001, there were only 252 commercial flights.* It took more than a week for U.S. flights to return to normal schedules. In the aftermath of 9/11, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, (ATSA), which created the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The ATSA mandated important changes in civil aviation security procedures, some of which we have become very familiar with when we travel. The first was the implementation of passenger security screening at all U.S. commercial airports, and the second was the screening of all checked baggage. Gone were the days when we could arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our flight and make the gate with time to spare.
From my perspective, September 11, 2001 started off as a normal day, with beautiful blue skies and sun over Newark Airport. I was general manager for the contract parking operations at Newark International and was in our valet operation just before 8:45 am. Local news events were being broadcast on TV in valet when there was an interruption in the broadcast— a small twin engine plane had just crashed into the World Trade center. My immediate thought was how could that happen on such a clear day?
My valet manager and I went to the roof of the parking garage adjacent to valet. What we saw was shocking. Thick gray smoke was pouring out of the top of the North Tower into the sky. We were about eight miles as the crow flies from the Trade Center and could see the events unfold in front of us. We quickly went back to valet for further news updates. As we reached the TV, the second plane hit the South Tower. “The second strike could not have been an accident,” is what I repeated to my peers. When the Towers collapsed, lower Manhattan was enveloped in a cloud of dust. The next few hours at Newark Airport were filled with anxiety and lots of misinformation. It did not help that the cellular systems were overloaded, making communication a challenge. I kept looking to the east seeing the continuous plume of smoke rising from the fallen Towers. It is a sight that I will never forget.