September 11, 2001 was devastating for the United States, and even more so for the families of all those that were lost. Yet, the day resulted in a great resolve—to rebuild, to hunt down those responsible, to better protect our shores, and to never forget!
There have been plenty of books written about the infamous day—many of them bestsellers. Garrett Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky, and Mitchell Zuckoff’s Fall and Rise, come to mind. I highly recommend them. These two books, and many others, do an exceptional job of telling the complete 9/11 story. They are factual, educational, and thought-provoking. While I didn’t aim to compare and contrast UNDAUNTED with these superlative accounts of the tragedy, it was my ambition to offer a unique perspective among the many 9/11 narratives.
Offering a Deep Dive
In addition to highlighting the broader events of 9/11, UNDAUNTED purposefully takes a deep dive into the actions and reactions of one company—an entrepreneurial success called Baseline Financial Services. My objective is to put a human face to an entire group of affected teammates. While tens of thousands of Americans know a friend or family member who tragically perished on 9/11, millions of Americans only know the day from a listing of statistics, terrorist names, and airline routes. Most books do an admirable job of laying out macro level detail. However, UNDAUNTED seeks to share the intimate details of one company’s journey before, during and after the tragedy.
My goal is to allow the reader to know these people who worked for Baseline. I share the strategy, tactics, vision and corporate culture of this firm in order to paint a picture of the group—who they were, what they saw, what they thought, and how they reacted to the events of the worst one-day attack on American soil.
A Sampling of Stories
Sixteen of my colleagues still remained on the 77th and 78th floors when the second plane to hit the WTC entered our building. Numerous other colleagues were already in mid-descent in stairwells. United 175 hit us on a slant from the 78th to the 84th floor. It instantly killed four of our coworkers, and toppled those in the stairwells like bowling pins. Further, the arriving airliner instantly placed twelve surviving teammates who were still on the 77th floor into a hellish environment. Those survivors tell remarkable stories. There was the pregnant software engineer who tried to call her husband to tell him she was alright, only to have that phone call shut down mid-ring by the arrival of United 175. She then had to desperately seek a way out, but quickly banded together with her eleven other shell-shocked colleagues. There was the NYPD police officer that helped our exiting colleagues, but who then returned inside the Towers to help others and subsequently lost his life.
There were also those who fortunately grabbed as many people as they could and got out before the second plane hit our building. There’s the story of the young lady who had joined Baseline from Cantor Fitzgerald who lost scores of friends across two companies. There’s also the manager who felt so good after completing a 77-floor decent that he took a break at street level, but then found himself running for his life to outrun the sudden debris cloud from our own collapsing building. These are just a few of the Baseline stories shared and interrelated within UNDAUNTED.
Tragically, there were also those who heeded the call to stay inside the building where it was believed—most reasonably—to be safe. In the end, four of my colleagues sadly perished that day. They all remained on the 78th floor while evacuations were occurring in both buildings. Evacuation in the North Tower was mandatory. In our South Tower it was optional prior to United 175. With 20/20 hindsight, and a dose of reason, there were no right or wrong decisions made that day by the thousands of people working inside the World Trade Center. More aptly, those decisions were simply lucky or unlucky choices—no more than twists of fate. According to our Vice President of Technology Jonathan Weinberg, “Seemingly insignificant decisions a person made that day determined whether they lived or died. It’s still something that’s a bit hard to fully come to terms with.”
Culture had an Impact
One of the primary reasons I share the business side of Baseline with the reader is that I strongly believe there was a real connection between the corporate culture of Baseline and the collective response of my colleagues—both on 9/11 itself and in the days and weeks that followed. Their determination in the face of devastation and sorrow was astounding. They were—in a word—undaunted in their mission. This is our story—a unique perspective.
UNDAUNTED will be published by Koehler Books on September 11, 2021—the 20th Anniversary of 9/11. Pre-orders will be available. I will notify everyone via this website, and via email to those who have signed-up to join the UNDAUNTED community.