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September 11th Eyewitness Report from CEO
Thomas D. Zweifel
Thank you so much for the outpouring of concern for my well-being and that of fellow New Yorkers and Americans after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon yesterday. I am finally able to get online and have a few minutes to write. (I notice that sitting down, taking time out to write this, putting it into a flow of coherent words, is therapeutic.) I have answered as many of you individually as possible, but the messages don't stop, so here a broadcast. I am safe, but my sense of security is shattered. I was sitting on the Promenade at 850am when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. There was smoke and millions of tiny glitters in the air, which turned out to be white papers -- documents flying across the East River. One of them was a FedEx envelope with a contract that someone was presumably signing when the first plane hit. At 915 I saw another plane fly in from Staten Island, it flew incredibly low and accelerated, so close to me that I thought it was flying up the East River -- but it ducked behind a highrise on Manhattan and tilted itself like a fighter plane, and a moment later disappeared into the South Tower. By this time there were a dozen people watching, speechless. We stood there immobilized as I called as many people as possible on my cell phone (but got through only to my parents in Australia). Then I saw one tower collapse, then the other, and I sat down and wept.
Since then we have been tracking down friends and colleagues (several client companies of ours had leased multiple floors in the WTC; an intern's company had 1,000 people on 6 floors, and they still have 50 people unaccounted for; I know people at Morgan Stanley which leased 25 floors; a friend of mine from Fire Island worked there and is still missing). I went to donate blood, called people, comforted strangers as best I could, listened to the radio on my earpiece, was interviewed as an eyewitness by Swiss national primetime TV news. It was hard to breathe.
We are grieving for the firefighters and police officers and military personnel and civilians who died, and for their families. We are trying to save people who are calling on their cell phones from underneath the rubble. At the same time, we are inspired by the heroism and leadership of ordinary people going beyond themselves. We are heartened by the response from around the world (e.g. the stopping of all traffic and minute of silence in my hometown Basel, where as many people live as frequent the World Trade Center every day). The unity and camaraderie and human spirit are palpable and will never be forgotten.
And now we need to look at what is next. Our gravest fear is war. I am encouraged by secretary of state Colin Powell's assurance early this morning that the US is working for a multilateral response by the international community, rather than taking unilateral action. (In my opinion, while these terrorist attacks on civilians are inexcusable, the US has isolated itself dangerously in recent months, and US unilateralism must stop.)
Thank you for reading this lengthy email. There is so much more to say, but I must go back to Lawrence Street to donate blood.
Love and strength,