We were in an old style motel in Custer, South Dakota having just spent the weekend touring Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Deadwood. Grandma had the TV on watching the Today Show while we were packing up for the long trip back to Denver. Our boys at the time were 12, 9 and 4. “Look, there’s a fire in the World Trade Center”, yelled grandma in her nasal bostonian best. We all ran to the TV and watched in horror as the second jet flew into the south tower of the World Trade Center. Right before our eyes the world had changed forever.
I will never forget those first speculative reports of the first plane hitting the north tower. The speculation was focused on the air traffic control systems going haywire because how could a plane fly into the tower on such a clear day. It must have been guided there. Nobody knew what was going on. Then a glimpse of the second plane coming over the Hudson River going behind the south tower and smashing into it. Reports followed of a third plane hitting the Pentagon. It began to sink in – we were under attack. The air raid sirens began to blare about 10 minutes later, in part, because of the location of Ellsworth AFB, a key SAC base, 50 miles northeast of Custer. The kids began to cry. It was surreal.
From Custer to civilization is about an 5-hour drive and we were desperately trying to tune into any station we could. The car was pretty quiet. When we finally got to Cheyenne, Wyoming we passed Warren AFB, home of 150 Minuteman III ICBM missiles. The base was in full lock down mode and the speculation just further fueled the fire. Finally, we arrived home and became one of millions tuned into CNN for the next 24 hours.
The indelible mark of 9/11 will never fade. Many of my Wall Street friends were significantly affected; some having to leave NYC for good. I was in the WTC several times during my career, the last time visiting Morgan Stanley on the 74th floor of the south tower.