Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11: Heroes and Leaders

I'm angry, sad, and inspired today. My anger is directed at how recent political and religious controversies seem to be overshadowing what the anniversary of September 11, 2001 should be all about. I'm sad for the families and friends of the victims, and I'm inspired by the heroes and leaders that emerged from that tragedy.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to use my leadership development blog for a a post about 9/11, and decided to check my RSS reader to see what some of my favorite bloggers in this space were doing. I found this post over at Mike Myatt's N2Growth blog and was inspired to join Mike and others to help keep the memories alive.

The comments on Mike's post are moving, and includes links to other 9/11 posts, including this one by Wally Bock, and this one by Peter Mello, referring the post he did on 9/11 three years ago: Hard to Believe, Impossible to Forget.

I have to admit, I haven't watched footage of the Twin Towers attack in a while, so I watched this one (from Peter's post) with my wife this morning, reliving the the moment together. The video should be required viewing by anyone old enough to remember and especially for those too young to remember:

Peter also includes a video from the website called that commemorates the maritime professionals, vessels and companies who responded that day.  As I watched that one, and heard about how those heroes turned their boats towards the burning building, I was overcome. There were so many unsung heroes and leaders like this that we never heard about, and that's what this day should be about.

I'll end this tribute with David Bowie's amazing performance at the Concert for New York City, "Heroes". Crank it up, and remember.

How about you? What do you remember? Where were you, what were you doing, and what does 9/11 mean to you?


Scott Eblin said...

Thanks for writing this Dan. Like everyone else, I'll never forget that morning. I was having breakfast with my friend Neil talking about coaching. We ended about 8:30 and when I turned my car on I heard Bob Edwards on the radio saying a report was in that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We live in the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC. The weather was beautiful on 9/11 and I remember thinking, "How could the weather be so much different in NYC, that a plane could hit the WTC?" By the time I got home, the second plane had hit and it was clear we were under attack. My wife was at an exercise class that ended early. By the time she got home, the Pentagon had been hit. Then it was United 93 in Shanksville. Our house is about 10 minutes from Dulles Airport and we're used to seeing a constant stream of planes on approach and takeoff from there. By the end of the morning, the only thing in the sky were the F-16s flying an air cap over the DC area. There are so many things I'll always remember about that day and the week that followed. One of the most vivid is when air traffic resumed and we went outside to watch the planes return to Dulles.

Back in the 80's I worked on Wall Street and the WTC was the subway stop I used to get to my office. So, of course, the visuals were pretty clear in my mind. It was about a year after 9/11 that I first went back to NYC to meet with a client. He worked about a block from where I used to work. I flew into Newark and took the PATH train into lower Manhattan. What I didn't realize when making the travel arrangements was that the PATH train station was right at Ground Zero. My first look at the site was from the train as it emerged from underneath the Hudson and into the pit of the Ground Zero reclamation site. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment for me. What really struck me though was that the commuters who made that trip every day were engrossed in their newspapers or listening to their music. It was one of those moments when you realize how resilient people can be.

So, yes, there were so many heroes that day that we must forever honor. At the same time, there are lots of everyday people who shown a different kind of heroism by not forgetting but at the same time going on with their lives.

Sorry for going on so long. Haven't written about all of this before so thanks for acknowledging the day and the opportunity to share the experience.

Casey O'Looney said...

September 11th is such a profound tragedy. Today I am in New York celebrating a college friend's upcoming wedding. At the same time, I am remembering another college friend and sorority sister who died during the attack on the World Trade Center. She was an employee at Cantor Fitzgerald.

I mourn the neatly 3,000 people who died that day, but I also miss the beautiful Twin Towers. I went to school in new York state and can remember using the towers as a visual point of reference. When I landed at Newark they were how I oriented myself. I can remember taking the express elevator to the top of Tower One on numerous occasions. I enjoyed the shopping center under the plaza. The enormous rush of people hurrying toward the subway at 5pm.

On Sept. 11th I was staying with my parents. My dad rushes up the stairs to wake me up. I remember seeing the visual and mistakenly thinking it was a Cessna plane rather than a commercial airliner. I soon woke up my mother because I knew it was too important for her to sleep through. The tower collapse was devastating. My heart stopped. My mom cried. My college friends emailed frantically trying to determined who worked in the Towers. I rarely left the television for the next week.

Nine years later I am disappointed that nothing has been built on the site. However, I read recently in The New York Times that the memorial will be finished next year.

In the months after Sept. 11th I remember wenall seemed to be a little nicer to obe another, we talked about living and working for what really mattered and being grateful for each day. Sadly, I believe that compassion has evaporated and we have reverted back to life the way it was before Sept. 11th. Back to the days when we were selfish, impatient and judgmental. I hope we will never forget that day and those who died.

Peter A. Mello, Weekly Leader said...

Hi Dan;

Thanks for visiting and linking to the 9/11 post on my maritime blog. It's still so incredibly difficult to process what happened that day. Eight months earlier, my wife and I moved from NYC after living there for 20 years; it was surreal to watch things unfold from a distance.

This week I had the great fortune to do a Weekly Leader podcast interview with another maritime hero, Captain Alwin Landry who captained the vessel that rescued all 115 survivors from the Deepwater Horizon explosion that took place on the night of April 20, 2010. The leadership and courage demonstrated by Captain Landry and his crew was truly amazing and inspiring. We'll have his story up in the next few weeks.

The sea can be an incredibly effective environment to develop leadership skills as I wrote several years ago in a leadership column for a maritime magazine.

Thanks for all that you do here to advance our learning and understanding of leadership.

Fair Winds,
Peter A. Mello
Weekly Leader
@petermello / @weeklyleader

Dan McCarthy said...

Scott –
Thanks for taking the time to share your 9/11 story. The image of F-16s circling your home town is powerful.
I was in a meeting at another company when it happened, and oblivious to what was going on. I heard about it on the radio driving back to my office. I can remember gathering with stunned co-workers in a media room just staring at the TV. The emotions were like nothing I ever experienced. We were under attack. It made you want to fight back, to do something to help. I’m forever grateful for those that did.

Casey -
Thanks so much for sharing that. You've described it in a way that captures what so many people felt at the time.
I agree with you - one one hand, it was a tragedy, but on the other hand, like you said, it brought out the best in all of us.

Peter -
Thanks again for sharing those videos, and for bringing us your stories of bravery and leadership.

Patrick said...

Nine years later, when I reviewed this video about 9/11, I am still feeling sad for the families and friends of the victims. Then american government assigned thousands of solders to invade other countries in the name of eliminating enemies. However, I believe there more citizens died in this process than the deaths in 9/11. I hope we can treat people equally and respect life in the same way no matter where they are from and what kind of colors they have. Only by this way, we can terminate terrorism essentially.

Dan McCarthy said...

Patrick -
Thanks, you have the right to express your opinion. That's what our servicemen and woman are willing to die for.

Dan McCarthy said...

Patrick -
Thanks, you have the right to express your opinion. That's what our servicemen and woman are willing to die for.

Anonymous said...

I saw 9/11 on tv and couldn't believe my eyes at first what was happening. It was as if in a dream and I soon realized that the world would never be the same again. The world needs authentic leaders who can make the world a better place, not a worse one.