Imagine for just a moment… It’s Noon on September 11, 2001, and you reported to work this morning at the World Trade Center in New York City. You are thankful to be alive, but feelings of gratitude are the furthest thing from your mind. You’re still not exactly sure what just happened, although you know many people, including friends and coworkers, have just perished. The two mightiest buildings in the country have just been destroyed. You have no idea what to do next. There’s nowhere to report to work tomorrow, and you’re not even sure you have a job anymore.
That was exactly the situation that 166 surviving Baseline associates found themselves in as the infamous morning turned into afternoon.
While fires were still raging, while search teams from the FDNY arrived back at Ground Zero, and while we grieved for our employees who were listed as missing—leaders throughout Baseline stood up to be counted. These individuals knew that unless they began to evaluate the business situation, and attempt to create a plan to revitalize the business—there would be little hope for the more than 200 employees across the entire firm to keep their jobs. These leaders weren’t necessarily senior executives—they were individuals who knew they were on the critical path regarding the restoration of the business, and knew that the City of Brotherly Love was the only place to be.
“Philadelphia, here we come!”
Most fortuitously, Baseline had placed its software development office ninety-miles south of New York in the city of Philadelphia. In hindsight, it was the most important decision made in the twenty years of Baseline’s existence. On 9/11, Philadelphia was about to play a savior’s role in Baseline’s post-9/11 reconstruction efforts. The city’s name was derived from the ancient Greek words of philos (meaning “beloved or loving”) and adelphos (“brother or brotherly”). In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, Baseline needed every ounce of brotherly love, as well as sisterly support.
An excerpt from UNDAUNTED shares the mid-afternoon mindset:
“Some of the more fortunate employees, myself included, began to think long term. At about 3:00 PM, after visits from my parents and several friends, I sat in my living room contemplating what came next. I found myself at an emotional fork in the road as I saw two seemingly incongruent paths ahead of me. One path required me to stay focused on the WTC site, seek updates, and mourn for the families who were in dire straits waiting for any news. The other path involved seizing the moment, in the name of all survivors and clients, to resurrect Baseline so that good people would still have their careers and clients wouldn’t be let down. While I didn’t take my eye off the World Trade Center site and any news relating to our missing friends, I decided to attack the second option. That path was at least visible, and I felt an overwhelming obligation to do something.”
Beginning a Gargantuan Task
Simon Chen, our chief technology officer and I agreed to meet in our Philadelphia office the next day. I then contacted Ron Perez and Barbara Tripp, (head of product management and data integrity respectively,) and offered to pick them up and drive to Philadelphia in the morning. If we were going to survive as a business, it would only be from Philadelphia. Critical operations personnel from New York joined ranks with Philadelphia’s management team on that ominous “day after.” An excerpt from Chapter 12 – Reconstruction signifies the commencement of our long-term effort:
“The first day of a “post 9/11” world drew to a close on September 12, 2001, and emotions were raw among my colleagues. Reactions to the events of 9/11 ranged from abject anger and deep despair to utter bewilderment. Some were simply numb. We were mourning the loss of friends, dealing with the deprivation of a streamlined business environment, and facing an uncertain future in a country that had, surprisingly, proven to be entirely vulnerable. Simultaneously, we were facing an exasperating list of tasks to complete in order to pull off a miracle.
“The distant city of Philadelphia suddenly became the center of our universe. In the first few days of a new world that felt post-apocalyptic, several managers had descended upon the City of Brotherly Love to chart a path forward. To me, the city’s moniker was an appropriate nickname for what we needed at that time: brotherly love and sisterly support. To have any chance of rebounding, we were going to need a very high level of cooperation. While a handful of our associates chose not to return to work, the overwhelming majority wanted to enthusiastically pitch in. Maybe some of it reflected a national pride not seen since post-Pearl Harbor enlistments. On the other hand, having witnessed the growth and maturation of our company culture, I believe the majority of enthusiasm stemmed from what was an absolute love of Baseline.”
These pictures portray several of the New York associates in their makeshift environment in Philadelphia soon after 9/11.
Thank you, to the city of Philadelphia and especially to John Sharp and his team of very empathetic and supportive software engineers. They accepted seventy of their displaced New York brethren to achieve a critical, mutual objective—to resurrect what the horrific and evil action had destroyed. It was not uncommon to see my fellow associates crammed 3 or 4 to a workspace. Soon after the restoration project commenced, optimism was high. According to John Sharp, “A river of confidence flowed beneath our feet. Not once did we think we weren’t going to succeed.”
UNDAUNTED will share in great detail just how this effort turned out.
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.