On November 7 of this year, Kellie Kenny will run the New York City marathon. It will be her first NYC marathon since she ran it twenty years ago in November 2001—soon after the horrific events of 9/11.
Kellie’s decision to run this particular race again is courageous as it likely brings back difficult memories. However, her gallant approach to the 2001 event was far more heroic. On 9/11, she lost dozens of friends and coworkers. After spending a rewarding three years at Cantor Fitzgerald, where she met her husband, she secured an Account Manager role at Baseline Financial Services. On 9/11, both of her companies would find themselves in immediate proximity to the impact zones of their respective towers—Cantor on floors 101 to 105 in the North Tower, and Baseline on floors 77 and 78 in the South Tower.
While her career started at Cantor, Kellie had already completed three years at Baseline when the infamous day arrived. On that fateful day, she had an atypical commute that postponed her arrival at the World Trade Center by over an hour. She normally arrived at her sales desk by 8am. However, on September 11, 2001, her husband—who had only recently left Cantor—had a meeting in Morristown, New Jersey. Kellie agreed to drop him off, which resulted in a delayed commute.
Her delayed travels placed her in gridlock traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike Extension in Jersey City on the approach to the Holland Tunnel. The World Trade Center was in clear view from her vantage point. What she then witnessed from the traffic jam horridly took her breath away. In Chapter 8 of Undaunted, Kellie shared her memory of her inching along in traffic:
“I was listening to The Howard Stern Show on the radio, and I looked up and saw a plane crash into the North Tower. I saw the first plane go in. I proceeded to immediately start calling my friends at Cantor. I was frantically calling them, but I couldn’t get through to them. Thank the Lord that I didn’t! I hung up and immediately called my husband [Brian], who also had worked at Cantor. We met there. I left a message. “Hey, Brian, a plane just hit the building. I’ve been calling the guys and I haven’t been able to get through to them.” And, as I was leaving him that message, I’m watching the second plane come. I don’t remember exactly what I said [in that message], but he deleted it, saying “that no one should ever hear that message again.” I just watched it. I watched it come in. I watched it approach. I’m sitting on the side of the highway just watching it.”
I can’t even imagine her internal feelings. While my associates at Baseline and I mourned for our four murdered colleagues, Kellie Kenny had the additional burden of knowing dozens of Cantor’s incredulous casualty count. That firm lost 658 souls. But, rather than despair….rather than quit the world…Kellie Kenny took on a special mission. She continued to maintain her strict training regimen for the upcoming New York City Marathon. Not only was she focused on the race, but she also turned it into a mission of remembrance. Kellie identified 26 friends and colleagues who had lost their lives on 9/11, and had 26 flags embroidered with their names – one for each mile marker. She pinned them to her shirt during the race. She was joined that day in the race by her good friend, and fellow Baseline colleague, Caroline Darmarajah.
During this incredible demonstration of personal mettle, Kellie also maintained a keen focus on her clients at Baseline—keeping them informed and satisfied as we brought the business back from the brink of oblivion. The months following 9/11 required an incredible balance by those directly affected—a balance between respectful mourning, and the courage and resolve to keep going.
Thank you, Kellie, for the example you set.
UNDAUNTED will be published by Koehler Books on September 11, 2021—the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.