Voices5:13 PM EST Fri. Sep. 14, 2001
A last-minute breakfast meeting with a potential employee saved Jacob Herbst's life.
Two New Yorkers grieve the tragedy near a memorial mural in New York's East Village painted by artist Chico for the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
Herbst, CEO of Israeli start-up FilesX, was scheduled to be on American Airlines Flight 11 but missed the plane because of the meeting. He was driving to Boston's Logan Airport after the meeting when he first heard news on the radio that Flight 11 had crashed into the World Trade Center.
"At first I thought it was a joke," he said.
A veteran of the Israeli army, Herbst is no stranger to tragedy or brushes with death. As a radar technician, he saw action in the 1967, 1974 and 1982 wars in the Middle East. "I was in war three times, but I was never this close to death," Herbst said.
In the proverbial New York minute, so much had changed. Stories that were big just a week earlier suddenly took on less meaning. Accounts of mergers and deals and technology standards were dwarfed, for example, by the view of destruction from the roof of solution provider AMC in Manhattan.
All regular business had been put aside as those from AMC and some guests,including CRN editors Russ Redman and Sean Keating, who were at AMC for a meeting,stood and watched the Twin Towers collapse.
"We were on the roof because we couldn't believe what one AMC employee had just told us,that one of the Twin Towers had just fallen," Keating said. "At that point, we knew both towers had been attacked and were burning, but if that man had said, 'Martians have landed,' we would have been more likely to believe him."
The dust and debris spewed like a fog over the entire island,an image that stopped the country cold.
Some 3,000 miles away, the surrealistic events could be felt at the CTIA Wireless IT show in San Diego. Those who had flown into the Southern California city were stranded, including executives such as Lotus CEO Al Zollar, who had been scheduled to speak. Organizers decided to keep the show going, as did the managers of Networld Interop in Atlanta.
After a day or so, those in San Diego greeted each other with shrugs of helplessness, as if to say, "I'm here and I can't go home, so we might as well have our scheduled meeting."
In San Diego, Atlanta, and San Antonio, where the Avnet/Hall-Mark partner conference was held, those in the high-tech industry had plenty of time to ponder events in New York and Washington as they rented cars, caught buses and climbed on trains to get home.
Howard Elias, senior vice president and general manager of Compaq Computer's Business Critical Server Group, along with other Compaq personnel, was attending a meeting about five blocks away from the World Trade Center when the planes hit. Everyone in the hotel was evacuated to the basement. Compaq officials said Elias then drove back to Houston.
RSA Security, Bedford, Mass., closed the World Trace Center offices of Securant Technologies the week before the attacks, a spokesman said. RSA bought Securant this past summer.
Wayne Pierce, director of service development at Athena Security, a security services firm based in Arlington, Mass., said he and others at the firm were scheduled for work at the World Trade Center just days after the attacks.
"Timing was in our favor," he said. "It was very close."
Esavio, a managed services, application development and networking services provider based in Devon, Pa., has offices in New York. Jeff Jamieson, regional vice president of sales at Esavio, said one of the solution provider's employees was supposed to be taking a training class in the World Trade Center when the terrorist attacks took place but did not attend because of a late meeting with a customer the night before.
For some, close calls added new perspective. CRN Editor/Online Eric Hausman, who is based in one of CMP Media's New York offices, had, along with his fiancee, Debra, just finished meeting with a printer to look at programs for his upcoming wedding. Hausman was on his way uptown to his office and Debra on her way downtown to hers when the attacks began.
Hausman had a few tense moments before hearing from Debra, who he later learned was in the subway right beneath the World Trade Center during the attacks. She called Hausman when she got to her office a few blocks away, and they decided to meet at an agreed-upon location. Hausman waited for more than an hour before Debra emerged unharmed from the debris of downtown.
Shortly after, they sought to get out the word that they were fine. Noticing a man on a street corner trying to make calls on a cell phone, they asked if they could use his phone to quickly dial a relative. No, he said. He had been late to work on the 96th floor of one of the towers and needed to get word out to his family. As Hausman and his fiancee began to walk away, they heard what the day was really about.
"My whole office is dead," he said.
, Compiled by Edward F. Moltzen