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This article was prepared for the September 19, 2001 edition of
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Ripples from September 11
While the aftershocks from the events of September
11 continued to reverberate throughout our community, the nation,
and the world, the story might someday focus on how much went right
on that fateful day.
The terrorist strikes at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon
created an immeasurable loss of human life. But in terms of the
fabric of America, all systems remained go. Television stations —
even those with transmitters atop the World Trade Center —
to broadcast vital information that certainly helped prevent panic
in the aftermath of the attacks. The telephone system continued to
work, with cell phone communications no doubt helping the passengers
on the flight over Pennsylvania divert that plane from its intended
Many of the companies close to the epicenter of the attack continued
to function, some perhaps relying on emergency procedures developed
during the Y2K era. The Wall Street Journal, displaced from its
nevertheless published an edition the next day — relying in part
on the facilities of the parent company’s Route 1 location (see
The financial markets reopened.
And the worst possible outcome of the attack — a loss of resolve
or a loss of character — failed to materialize. If the terrorists
were in fact a fanatical group with Muslim roots, they must have hoped
that their actions would trigger an outburst of anger and retaliation
against the many peace-abiding Muslims living in places like central
New Jersey. But in fact, as the sidebar beginning on this page
many Americans may now have an even greater knowledge and appreciation
of these citizens and their values.
As the America’s founding fathers wrote back on July 4, 1776, the
unalienable rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
As for happiness, there are no guarantees, as recent events prove.
But that doesn’t mean that we will give up the chase.
A random call on Saturday, September 15, to Princeton
University found the president of the university herself, Shirley
Tilghman, staffing the 24-hour hotline that she had established to
help students through the World Trade Center crisis. A conversation
with her yielded these remarks:
"Tuesday morning we had an emergency meeting of the whole cabinet.
Some of the people who mobilized had loved ones working in that
You could watch them put aside the terror to take care of the students
who are here and who are our top priority."
"On Tuesday we established a 24-hour emergency response center
that was a central place where our staff, faculty, and students could
come and receive information, counseling, and help with travel if
they needed to go home to their parents and to receive cash if in
fact the banks were closed. We will keep it open until we believe
that it is no longer needed."
"Tuesday my office was inundated with students showing up to ask
what `What can we do? Give us a task. Give us some way that we can
help the people in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.’ The
here has been quite extraordinary.
"We have also had a number of events on campus, some focused on
a single group. One of the most vulnerable groups are the freshmen.
They have the least resources in terms of friendship and networks.
Tuesday night we met with the 1,185 freshmen students and then sent
them to the residential colleges for smaller gatherings. The next
night I met with the sophomores. The whole intent is to focus the
whole university as to what things need to be done:"
are here to understand. We have been having panel discussions on
People who know something about terrorism talk about what happened
why it happened, what the U.S. response can be, how it can be
always held so dear in the academy — respect for others,
of civil discourse. We are directing our anger and confusion at the
perpetrators and fellow innocent victims."
do here is use the incredible and intellectual resources that we have
to bring clarity and understanding to how terrorism arises, to what
allows it to persist in a community, and how we can achieve a time
when events such as those that happened on Tuesday will be
in reality as well as in theory. That we really make it so it can’t
On a normal clear blue Saturday in September, some 300
flights take off and land at Princeton Airport. Naomi Nierenberg,
co-owner of the airport and president of the Raritan Valley Flying
School there, provides this description of the traffic last Saturday,
September 15: "We had one plane come in at 10:30, one at 11, then
one at 2, and one at 4." That was it, four flights. In just one
of the thousands of as-yet-untallied effects of September 11th’s
attacks, general aviation is all but halted.
Visual flight is not allowed anywhere in the country, and few of the
students and other pilots flying from Princeton Airport are certified
for instrument flight. Even pilots who have earned the certification
need to file flight plans with the FAA before they can take off. The
process is difficult, says Nierenberg, and right now few plans are
being approved. Helicopters at the airport are also grounded. Most
are hired to ferry executives back and forth to New York City, and
no flights within 25 nautical miles of Kennedy Airport are now
Some of the airport’s planes were in the air on September 11, and
have not made it back. The airport can not do any training, and it
isn’t selling any fuel. Nierenberg says she has no idea when
will be lifted. As for the financial hit the airport is taking, she
says "I don’t want to think about the money lost. It’s huge. But
we haven’t laid anyone off yet."
Nierenberg and her husband, Richard, bought the airport in 1985 after
they lost their lease at an airport in Manville. Their son Kenneth
is also a co-owner. Altogether the family has been in the aviation
business for 30 years. Nierenberg says it is a business characterized
by "peaks and valleys." Even before the terrorists turned
airplanes into weapons of mass destruction, general aviation was not
having a good year. Fuel prices were up, the economy was down, and
Nierenberg says there was "a horrendous shortage of
The disaster will worsen the climate considerably. "I think
going to come down with terrible restrictions," she says of
and the FAA. At least in part this could be a reaction to the fact
that the terrorists learned to fly at flight schools like the one
at Princeton Airport. State Police and F.B.I. agents have been at
Princeton Airport, but Nierenberg says she is quite sure that none
of her students or former students are suspected in the attacks.
Over the years, Nierenberg says she has had perhaps 10 students
to fly on student visas. Princeton draws fewer students from overseas,
she says, because room and board are so much higher here than in
or Arizona, where the terrorists are said to have trained.
In the cases where students on visas were enrolled in her school,
Nierenberg says she believes the Department of Immigration was lax.
"No one from Immigration ever visited the school," she says.
On one occasion, she called to report an incident of what she believed
to be money laundering, and says that Immigration showed no interest.
Better to tighten up Immigration surveillance that to crack down on
small airports and flight schools, in Nierenberg’s opinion.
With a new runway just opened, and other plans to improve the airport
underway, Nierenberg is eager to get back to business as usual. But
she can not even predict how restrictions will work out long term.
"This is just so monumental," she says.
Wall Street Journal editors and reporters, along with
corporate staffers, evacuated Dow Jones’s offices at 200 Liberty
on September 11 after the World Trade Center, which sat right across
the street, was attacked.
Steve Goldstein, vice president of corporate communications, says
200 employees, including 120 from the Wall Street Journal, are now
working from Dow Jones’s offices on Route 1 in South Brunswick. The
relocated Wall Street Journal employees are senior editors for the
most part. Goldstein says reporters are working from their homes or
from office space in Manhattan.
Dow Jones has set up van pools to ferry employees to its South
offices. It has also reserved blocks of hotel rooms at the Somerset
Marriott and the Marriott Residence Inn on Route 1.
The good news for the Journal is that the Liberty Street building
did not sustain structural damage. "There is debris and some
glass," says Goldstein. He says the company expects that
employees will be able to move back in before the end of the year.
On the day of the World Trade Center attack, Merrill
Lynch had approximately 9,000 employees working in two towers in the
World Financial Center, just across the street. Now a substantial
number of them are working in New Jersey.
Selena Morris, spokesperson for the company, says the majority of
those working in New Jersey are doing so from offices in Jersey City,
while others are temporarily re-assigned to Princeton or Hopewell.
"Ninety percent of the 9,000 are relocated and working," says
Morris. "People are doubling up. It’s not like we had 9,000
but we did have the space."
One of Merrill’s World Financial Center towers faces the World Trade
Center, and that building has some broken glass. The other building
faces the Hudson River, and sustained less damage. Employees could
return to that building in two months or so, Morris says, but it will
be somewhat longer until the first building is ready for occupancy.
"It’s not the buildings," says Morris, "it’s access to
that general area. The West Side Highway is full of debris."
Morris was in the World Financial Center when the attack occurred.
"When the first plane hit, people assumed it was an accident,"
she says. When the second plane hit, they knew it wasn’t. Employees
fled through the stairwells. It was an orderly evacuation, says
People helped one another, and everyone got out safely. She headed
uptown to another Merrill facility, occasionally pausing to look back.
"It was a sight to see," Morris recounts. "Everything
was in flames." Nevertheless, she is not only willing to move
back into her World Financial Center office, but is eager to do so.
"My office is like my second home," she says. "I’m anxious
to get back there."
This despite the fact that the tragedy hit close to home for her.
Robert McIlvaine, the one Merrill employee confirmed dead in the
was in her group. McIlvaine was not in his office, but rather was
attending a meeting at the World Trade Center. Two other Merrill
who were in the World Trade Center at the time of the attack are
McIlvaine was a graduate of Princeton University (Class of 1997).
The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers
will be the most costly man-made catastrophe in U.S. history, but
the insurance industry professes not to be worried — even though
no sources yet have ventured a guess as to what the grand total of
claims might be. "The totals would have to exceed $50 billion
before we would begin to worry about the insurance system," says
Steve Dreyer, managing director for U.S. Insurance Industry Ratings
at Standard & Poor’s.
Among the biggest companies to be headquartered here are New Jersey
Manufacturers insurance (with more than 1,500 people on Sullivan Way
in Trenton), and 10 reinsurance companies, including 1,000 people
at American Re Corporation on College Road, a subsidiary of the Munich
"The insurance industry is strongly capitalized and can withstand
an enormous financial hit without threat to the stability of the
overall," says Dreyer. One estimate puts the capital available
at U.S. property-casualty insurers at $330 billion. Add to that the
resources of the "re-insurers," which help the insurance
pass along the risk.
Coverages likely to be most affected are life, disability, workers
compensation, health, business interruption, property, aviation, and
general liability. In life insurance, Dreyer suggests that losses
will stay in the predicted single-digit billions of dollars range,
which would not severely impact the industry.
Natural disasters, the experts say, cost more than even this
man-made disaster. Munich Re lists its claims burden for Hurricane
Andrew in 1992 at $20 billion in today’s dollars, compared to the
1993 World Trade Center bombing (which cost the insurance industry
less than $1 billion). Other notable man-made disasters were the 1995
Oklahoma City bombing (insured losses of $125 million), and the Los
Angeles riots of 1992 ($775 million).
Potential problems for the World Trade Center claims include delays
in payments on life insurance policies until the identification
is finished, possible differences between European and United States
reinsurers (European reinsurances generally exclude terrorism), and
legal battles over technical issues between insurers and reinsurers.
In the light of the World Trade Center disaster, data
security is on everyone’s mind. "This whole set of events will
heighten awareness of security overall, whether that is security for
people or security for data," says Scott Slack, vice president
of marketing of Cranel Inc. a systems integration and computer backup
storage systems company with a regional sales office at Exit 8A’s
Interchange Plaza. Slack, a 1983 graduate of Ohio State, works at
the company’s Columbus, Ohio, headquarters.
Cranel sells to Fortune 100 and 500 clients for data backup and online
storage. Representing such manufacturers as Storage Tech, ADIC,
Data Systems, Veritas Software, and Sun Microsystems, it sells,
and services the equipment.
"Most of the large organizations have a good strategy, but
with revenues less than $250 million may not have invested in data
protection strategies," says Slack. The fundamental precautions
need not be expensive.
ones are off site.
by designating an employee (or the boss, in a small company) to throw
one copy of the tapes in the car or by scheduling weekly pickups by
a remote storage service.
A more sophisticated step involves writing (or mirroring) your data
to multiple locations. If you have two or more buildings, set up a
second set of disks in a separate location. Or hire remote storage
in another city. "Incorporate redundancy throughout your
admonishes Slack. "You want to have two copies of your data,
in backups or live data."
For Colleen Fraser, executive director of the
Center for Independent Living on Parkway Avenue in Ewing, the trip
to Newark Airport on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, and the
boarding of United Airlines Flight 93 for San Francisco would have
been an ordeal under any circumstances. Fraser suffered from
rickets, walked with a cane, and used a motorized scooter for longer
But, notes her administrative assistant, Sue Yochim, "she was
a go-getter" and on September 11 Fraser was determined to get
to her final destination of Reno, where she was enrolled in a seminar
for effective grant-writing.
Fraser died on Flight 93 when it crashed in Pennsylvania. Fraser,
51, had been with the Progressive Center for one-and-a-half years,
according to Yochim. The center, a non-profit, is funded by state
and federal grants, as well as some private donations. It works with
cross-disability individuals, providing them with information,
advocacy, peer support, and other services.
The center works with individuals with a range of disabilities, says
Yochim, who is blind. "I have a computer with a voice in it, and
a braille printer and a regular printer," she says. For now the
Trenton resident and mother of four is keeping the office together.
"I do everything anyone else does," she says. "I just
Fraser was a member of the New Jersey Disabilities Council, and was
its chairwoman in 1990 and 1994. She lived in Elizabeth with her
and commuted to Ewing.
"She was a fighter," says Yochim. "She went for what she
believed in. She worked for people with disabilities."
Yochim says the center’s board of directors is working on the
of a new executive director. As of early this week, no date had yet
been set for Fraser’s funeral service.
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