In 2001, I was weeks away from having my MBA at the age of 34. I was the president of a multinational company, traveling the world with offices in multiple countries. Under my leadership, the firm became the category leader in our field and we were on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. I had everything I thought I had ever wanted. I had a beautiful home, European company car, trendy wardrobe and jewelry collection, hot dates when I needed them for events, and a job where I earned a high-class living and traveled the world . . . with my fancy luggage, of course.
But all of that quickly changed. With a sudden turn of events, I was standing alone—and lonely—before the Lord.
My business brought me to New York quite often. On that beautiful morning in September, I was walking down Fifth Avenue with members of my team for client meetings. We noticed a plane flying low overhead, but we walked into the building and jumped on the elevator quickly, clueless that the American way of life was about to change.
The plane that flew over our heads was American Airlines Flight 11, which hit the north face of the World Trade Center North Tower (1 WTC) at 8:46 a.m. when we were on our elevator ride to our floor.
As I was on the phone with my mother, she started screaming that a second plane hit the "other tower," which I quickly dismissed. I remember saying, "Mom, you're seeing a replay." She replied, "No, I'm seeing one tower on fire and a plane hit the other tower." She, as millions did, had seen United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south side of the World Trade Center South Tower (2 WTC) at 9:03 a.m.
Panicked thoughts went through our minds. Could our high-rise building be at risk? Is NYC under attack? We prayed, gathered our things, and left the building. As we headed to Lower Manhattan to help where we could, I was struck by how silent the city was. Eerily silent. There was no traffic on the streets. There were people, some rushing south like we were . . . but everyone was quiet.
Then we heard an enormously loud rumble at 9:58 a.m. that sounded like a bomb going off in slow motion. It sounded as though it was coming from underground.
It was silent again. And then the cloud came. Gigantic grayish clouds were seen up ahead rushing toward us from the collapse of the South Tower.