9/11

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Many of you know that my former employer had offices at One World Trade Center on the 35th and 36th floors. I was there in July and August 2001 to get to know the local Human Resources team and pull together an overarching staffing strategy for my  company.

I was new to my job — full of optimism and joy as evidenced by this very awesome picture — and so young. Completely out of my league.

My plan was to return sometime after Labor Day to map out our staffing plan more extensively. Unfortunately, the insurance industry wasn’t doing very well. George Bush was a relatively new president and the markets didn’t have much faith in him, either. And I foolishly wanted to spend the company’s money and buy a new applicant tracking system for our HR department. Those were strange days.

I don’t remember much from my first trip to 1WTC, but I do recall feeling important and empowered because it was the first time I was ever picked up in a Lincoln Town Car. I sent my mother a postcard.

Hey, Mom! Look at me now!

Weeks later, when the planes hit the buildings, I was part of an emergency response team that worked the phones and tried to find our employees who worked in the North Tower. September 11 was an election day, and many of our colleagues were out at the voting booths before work. No one from my company died in the attacks; however, many of my colleagues witnessed people jumping to their deaths. Still others ran to ground zero and became first responders.

After 9/11, I helped our management team relocate to a safe, new location. They chose 30 Rockefeller Center — home of NBC News — as our temporary headquarters because it was available and centrally located in Midtown. Then Tom Brokaw received an envelope full of anthrax in our building. I worked with the local HR staff to coordinate additional emergency crisis teams. I learned how to use the Internet to create flexible and robust work-from-home programs.

By the way, I still had AOL dial-up at my home in 2001. So did many of my employees.

As anthrax paranoia hit America, the markets were awful. We could no longer afford to retain certain parts of our business. So I started laying off people in 2002 and didn’t stop until my final day of work in Human Resources back in 2007.

Many people think of 9/11 as the day we were attacked on our own soil. I think of it as the new Labor Day. The people who died in New York, Pennsylvania and D.C. were workers. They were just doing their jobs. And they paid the ultimate price for it.

I’ve written about September 11th since I started blogging on Punk Rock HR. Here are a list of my posts, include a tribute to the victims.

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