Today is the 4 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. They say that you never forget where you were when you found out about some major event in the world. This is true for me for when the Challenger exploded and it is also true of the 9/11 events. I wanted to share a few memories of that day.
I remember driving to work that day, listening to the news on the radio. I usually listen to the news in the morning because I can't stand most morning radio (Howard Stern, Paul & Ron). It's just a couple of idiots blabbing about nothing for several hours. I'd rather listen to the news. Anyway, I was nearing my office (running a bit late for work.) I was maybe 5 minutes from the office when I heard a news report that a plane had hit one of the two World Trade Center Towers. My first thought was probably the same thought as everyone else when they heard this. I thought, "Oh, it's just some little one seater plane that went off course and crashed. Knocked out a few windows. No big deal. As I continued to drive, they said that it appeared to be a full size passenger jet. As soon as I heard this, I thought "Uh, oh. That's a big plane. This is bad." I was only listening to the radio here. I had not seen any footage of it yet. Right as I'm pulling into the parking lot of the office, I am listening to someone on the radio being interviewed about what he saw of the plane hitting the tower. In the middle of the interview, the second plane hits, right as the person being interviewed is watching. They guy on the radio says something like 'Oh my God, another plane just hit the other tower!" As soon as I heard this, I thought, "OK, two planes hitting two towers within a few minutes of each other. This is not an accident."
I walked into the office, excited and said to one of my coworkers as I walked in, "Did you hear the news?" He said "Yeah, a plane hit the World Trade Center." I answered back, "No, a second plane hit the other tower!" He had a look of shock on his face. We all went off to another room to watch the news.
At the time, I worked for a company that did software for daytrading. As such, we had a large group of daytraders (around 50 or so of them) in another room using our software to daytrade the stock markets. The stock market normally opens at 930am. It was a few minutes after 9am at the time we walked into their room. In the trading room, they had several TVs mounted on the wall, normally so the traders could watch CNBC as they traded. Normally, if you walk into the trading room this close to the opening of trading, the traders are intently staring at their screens, planning their trades for the day and even entering a few starting trades. They are very focused and will bite your head off if you even whisper in the room. Not today. Today, not one of these guys was even at their screen. They were all gathered around the TV watching in shock as CNN carried the footage of the burning World Trade Centers. This was my first view of it. Everyone was talking about it, and watching the screen. They all seemed to have forgotten completely about trading. The stock market trading ended up getting cancelled that day anyway. Noone was working in the entire office. We were all glued to the TV. Normally, the boss would be upset by this. This time noone cared. I remember standing there looking at the two burning towers on TV and saying to a friend next to me "Can those towers survive that much damage?" My friend assured me that the buildings were build well and would survive. I thought that the floors above the burning hole would collapse. I never expected the whole building to collapse. A short time later, they both did. As the towers collapsed, I sat there watching them fall and I was thinking, "My God, I'm watching 5000 people die."
Later, another plane hit the Pentagon and another one crashed in the woods in Pennsylvania. Supposedly this one that crashed in the woods was meant to hit the White House, but the passengers found out what was going on in New York and stopped the hijackers. Good for them. By the time the fourth plane had hit, my boss, a very excitable woman, was now running around in near hysterics over what was happening. It was damn near impossible to concentrate that day with all these events on your mind. I don't think anyone got any work done. When I look back on this day, I think it is the day where my future at this trading company started to end. 9/11 caused the stock market to close for 2 weeks (I think it was). When it finally did reopen, the stock market started a nosedive that sent the economy and the stock market into a plunge that lasted several years. As the stock market plunged, we lost more and more daytraders, and so we lost more and more money. Eventually the company went out of business and I had to find other work. At the time, the economy was very bad and finding work for a programmer was damn near impossible. I was laid off from the company but after 3 months of unemployment I ended up taking a pay cut to go back to the same company to do some other non-trading related work. I ended up staying in that miserable place, making lousy pay for another 1 1/2 years before I finally found the job I'm at now and left there in December of 2004. I am MUCH happier at my new job (and making a good deal more money too).