I’ve been reluctant to write about 9/11. After all, I did not lose a loved one that day. I know two people who worked in the Twin Towers, and they both survived, one by evacuation and the other by missing his train due to the most fortuitous traffic jam in history. But honestly, I’m not really that close to either one.
I could tell you about the data-processing center for my company, a major bank, and how it was located one block from the World Trade Center. I could tell you how several of my Westchester co-workers were in that building for training that day, and had to flee for their lives, but so did thousands of others who I don’t know.
I could tell you about how that data-processing center was damaged enough that it was closed for repairs for nine months and how several of that building’s workers bunked with us in Westchester for three months until the company found available office space in Manhattan for them. However, at least they were still alive on September 12.
I could tell you how the collapse of 7 World Trade Center knocked out our company’s communication systems, making all of our online applications dead in the water. I could tell you how the company scrambled to get everything back up and running from their disaster recovery site in New Jersey, and how I had to put in a 20-hour shift to get my particular application back up. But that’s not even a drop in the bucket compared to what the rescue workers at Ground Zero went through, so I’m not complaining.
I could tell you about how, the morning I went to the disaster recovery site, I headed east off the Garden State Parkway directly toward Manhattan and saw the still-smoldering remains of the Towers spewing out into the sky, an image I can never forget, but you’ve seen the pictures.
So I’ll tell you how 9/11 caused me to bounce checks.
That summer, my company, apparently worried about the attrition of knowledgeable tech staff, promised several of its important people – of whom I was apparently one – a substantial bonus if they were still employed there on September 1. This was the first (and only) time this had ever happened to me, and I was delirious with the idea that, with my kids approaching college age, I could knock off some of my debt in one fell swoop.
On Monday, September 10, my manager (who worked at the data-processing center in downtown Manhattan) told me he had the check and would be bringing it up to me personally when he visited the Westchester office on Wednesday.
So here’s where I did something stupid: On the night of September 10, I wrote out the payoff checks I had planned to write, sealed the envelopes, licked the stamps and the next morning, September 11, I dropped them in a mailbox on the way to work. I knew I was jumping the gun a bit, but I worked for a bank and knew their check would clear overnight.
Of course, when my manager had to evacuate the building that morning, my check remained in his desk drawer. Of course, in lieu of the devastation and disruption caused by that morning’s attacks, reissuing those bonus checks was not one of the company’s top priorities. Of course, several of my checks bounced like a basketball. Of course, it took several weeks for me to finally get my replacement check. Of course, if you hadn’t figured it out by now, I’m an idiot.
Still, it’s not that big a deal. After all, unlike 3,000 other people, I was still able to write rubber checks the next morning.
There’s another 9/11 story I could relate. I could tell you how, in light of the attacks, the company decided they were no longer secure being so concentrated in lower Manhattan and decided to begin moving jobs out of the New York metropolitan area. I could tell you how a new data-processing center was built in a Midwest location and many of the employees in the Manhattan data center, including many of the people who bunked with us after 9/11, were subsequently let go.
I could tell you further how my Westchester location, where I worked for 23 years, has been shut down, with its jobs moved to less expensive parts of the country, and that everyone who I worked with there has been relocated or let go, including the co-workers who’d fled for their lives that morning.
I could tell you how the discontinuation of my job led to my being reassigned to a position I despised and was a major contributing factor in my clinical depression until I qualified for early retirement just months before they were probably going to let me go anyway.
I could tell you all that, but it’s not really a 9/11 story. It’s a 21st-century American capitalism story.