It has been 15 years since that faithful evening -- yes evening because the events that occurred Monday morning in NYC occurred at 9 pm in Hong Kong, where I had just landed. In fact, I had just checked into the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong had had tuned on the TV, where on CNN the events were unfolding. Like everyone else I had assume that a small(er) plan had hit the World Trade Center, as it had happened nearly 40 years earlier to the Empire State Building. Then other news started trickling in, the attack against the Pentagon, the second tower and finally the aircraft that suspiciously crash.
The reason for my being in HK was that I had schedule a number of meetings with Asian airlines, as I was then an aerospace banker. As the news unfolded I and my colleagues first digested the news and by midnight (local time) we had booked flights out of Hong Kong for the morning -- going back home to Singapore and LA.
Those scheduled to go to LA took 10 days to get home, and in fact eventually flew to Singapore -- at least they had access to an office (our NYC offices were in the World Financial Center -- about 400 meters from the world trade centre -- it was shut for 2 weeks).
I remember from that night the boredom that comes from catastrophic events. We went to dinner (the four of us) since there was nothing that could be done, and watching a building burn is very boring (it was also terrible because we discovered much later that the debris that was falling from the tower was actually people jumping off -- faced with a slow firey death they chose a painless one of jumping from the building, but that was much later). We came back from our quick dinner to find the first tower collapsed and the second one was not far behind it. We knew nothing of the tragedy since phones to the US were always busy (too much traffic).
The strangest thing was the next mornings normality as we bored our flight to Singapore, no additional security not additional military -- I think that Asia was in a state of denial as to the events; or more probably they saw these attacks particular to America, and of little significance to them. In the weeks that followed -- and at the time America's commander in chief was less than impressive, the true nature of the attack become clear -- once again America was involved in a war -- this time not with a country, but a group of well financed fanatics. Osama Bin Landed, sion of one of Saudi Arabia's richer family had decided that America had to be punished.
I remember September 11 2001 for the details and not the big events -- I have no memory of the attack on the Pentagon, I have little memory of the events -- aside from these first CNN images -- because independently of how horrible an act of aggression is, your mind rationalises and finds it boring and of little consequence. I remember the dinner very well, better than the events which is incomprehensible, but I guess that's how the mind works!
I lost no friends in the disaster, one guy that I did know from Cantor (the broker that was on the last two floors of the WTC and lost 90% of its NYC staff) was out at client meetings in Texas -- he eventually drove home since the skies were closed. For me it was second hand stories -- acquaintances of friends, rather than anyone directly. The only person I ever knew who died in a disaster was a SVP at Amex in Singapore -- she was on a flight from Indonesia to Singapore to disintegrated in flight...
Anyway, 15 years already!