A Sept. 11 E-mail
(Editor's note: Reprinted from "Claims Made and Reported: A Journey Through D&O, E&O and Other Professional Lines of Insurance," by Larry Goanos (Soho Publishing Inc., 2008) )
Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 12:58 PM
Bcc: Everyone in my address book
Subject: The Surreal Events of Today
I am shaking like a leaf in a windstorm as I type this. I cannot believe the events of today, as I'm sure you can't. I was in my office at 8:50 this morning when a colleague came in and said that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center and papers were flying everywhere. I looked out the window of my office and saw a ticker-tape-parade type stream of papers flittering across the sky.
After a few short minutes and various reports, some erroneous, a group of us descended in the elevator to the ground floor of our building, where we exited and looked to the left a bit where we saw Two World Trade Center, five blocks away, ablaze from the top third of the building. It was unreal. The black smoke and red flames framed against a clear blue sky.
The crowd on the sidewalk grew exponentially until we were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, at least 300 people staring upwards. One of my colleagues had just been in the lobby of One World Trade when the plane hit. He said smoke immediately came shooting down the elevator shafts and filled the lobby as people exited in terror. Pandemonium. He ran back to our building, covered with soot, where he stood with us to watch in horror.
We all stood around gaping at the flames, not aware of any possible danger to us. I sat and thought about how many people I know in those two towers who have no doubt perished. I'm aware of at least seven people from my subsidiary of AIG who were in one tower on a high floor. We do a lot of business with Aon, an insurance broker on the top three or four floors of Two World Trade Center. As I type this, emergency vehicles are swirling by on the street outside my apartment on 18th Street. The massive cloud where the WTC used to stand is visible out my living room window.
As we watched the flames, after about 20 minutes, all of a sudden World Trade Center Tower One, which we could only see above the 40th floor or so, collapsed before our eyes. It was the sickest, most surreal, most stomach-churning thing that I have ever seen in my life.
My nerves became electrified, in a bad way, and I felt almost like I would collapse as well. Other people did. People started crying and getting hysterical, obviously because they knew people in WTC One and/or know any of the many, many police and firemen and rescue workers who were in and around the building trying to extinguish the fire and save lives.
I just heard the mayor on the radio, and he said he can't even get a rough estimate of how many firemen and police and EMTs died in the two WTC Tower collapses, he just said the number would be very large, staggering.
This whole day is unfathomable.
As I type this I continue to shake. I think about all the people who I know in those two towers and I can feel tears well up. There will be far too many funerals to attend. Many bodies, I'm sure, will never be identified. It is unbelievable. At least 50 to 100 people I know died today. Can you imagine that? Unless you're in a war, which I think we will be soon, that doesn't happen. Many of you too, if not all, are in a similar situation, maybe you know even more who passed. Hopefully many of our friends and acquaintances were away on business or vacation, or running late. Our lives are changed forever and I don't think I'm being dramatic in saying that.
A few seconds after WTC One collapsed, a large, probably 20-story-high plume of white smoke erupted, far denser than any fog I'd seen living in San Francisco. All of a sudden, someone yelled "ground smoke, run, it can kill us!" and people began panicking, although, I must say it was a controlled panic if there can be such a thing. Hundreds of people began running, although not trampling each other, actually helping each other to some extent.
Although one friend of mine asked a car service to give him a ride to Westchester (the car was empty but for the driver) and he said, "Sure, $2,000." I'll let that statement stand as its own condemnation of mankind, or at least one (hopefully small) segment of mankind.
As we walked/ran up the East Side under the FDR, past the South Street Seaport, the white cloud of deep dust/soot/whatever followed us intently. It was moving at a good pace and, I must say, I feared for my life briefly, either from dying of smoke inhalation or being trampled. I don't think I was alone in that feeling, it was very, very scary, and my words don't do it justice.
We continued running and walking up the East Side, myself and four co-workers. All of a sudden I heard someone say "Larry Goanos!" I looked and it was Fran Higgins, a friend from San Francisco who's brother-in-law, John Doyle, works with me at AIG. He was scheduled to be in a meeting at Two WTC at 9 a.m. and was running late, it took him an extra hour to get in from his sister's house in Westchester and he was in the lobby when the first plane hit. He ran outside and saw debris falling and three people actually jumping off high floors in order to kill themselves via the impact rather than await being burned by the intense flames. Reports are that many other people jumped as well.
Fran didn't know where to go so I invited him to join me in the trek to my apartment about two miles north. He had two heavy bags but lumbered on. His father narrowly missed the bombing at WTC in 1992. Two bullets dodged by his family at the WTC.
Cell phones weren't working. People were screaming out names. It was sick (to re-use a phrase again and again; it is, sadly, the most appropriate). The FDR expressway was closed. People were running everywhere, keeping an eye on the large cloud following us. Some were ready to jump into the East River to escape the smoke if need be.
As we got about six or eight blocks up the FDR, someone who had an earphone of a radio in their ear reported that WTC 2 had just collapsed as well. The whole thing was the sickest, most twisted, surreal, screwed up thing that I had ever heard or imagined.
Eventually we made our way to my friend Jim Riely's place on East 22nd Street. As fate would have it, my phone had gone out of service last night and I was going to call Verizon to fix it this morning. My cell was working only in spots because of the great strain on the system. At Jim's we found Jim, Dan O'Connell, Colleen Dempsey (Doreen, Jim's wife, works uptown and,
I'm sure, is safe) and Chris Doyle, Jim's partner. Because a lot of you know a lot of these people, here are the names of people who I know are safe beside those above (a lot of phones are down but my internet cable connection is working, at least for now): Dennis Gustafson, Rose Mosca, Peter Wessel, John Feniello, Sandy Nalewajk, Kirk Raslowsky and Jennifer Raslowsky and their young daughter Alexandra (who they were just about to drop off in day care at the WTC when the first plane hit; they made it our office in tears, clothes askew, Kirk had just thrown down his briefcase, grabbed his wife and daughter, and ran) John Iannotti, Ray DeCarlo, Greg Flood, Mike Mitrovic, Kris Moor, John Doyle, Susan Eagan, Gail Mazarolle, Dawn Paolino.
If you know any of their families and don't know if they've been contacted, please call them if your phone works.
Many more are safe, I'm sure, it was just hard to get a gauge with all the smoke and pandemonium. There are now six of us in my apartment watching CNN.
I stopped and picked up more bottled water on the way here because people were saying there are rumors of chemical warfare and possible contamination in the water (probably not true but why take a chance.) Things seem to be calming down a bit now (I've been taking a break between typing to let others send e-mails), but I'm sure our lives will never be the same.
The tranquility of life in America has been shattered, we have been dragged into the trenches with the rest of the world. Our soil is no longer sacred, protected ground. Anyway, the people who I've mentioned are all safe, as am I. God bless America and God bless us all.
June 1, 2009
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