We Remember

by Marilou Moursund on September 6, 2011

in Recommended Reading,Tribute

As the ten year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it’s painful to remember the terrible loss of that day.  I highly recommend this article titled “Sandler O’Neills Journey from Ground Zero” from Fortune Magazine.  Their resilience in rebuilding their firm after losing almost 40% of their people in the attacks is very inspiring.

Jimmy Dunne, one of the three founding partners, was playing in a golf tournament on the morning of September 11, 2001.  A tournament official told him that he needed to call his office.  From the linked article:

Jimmy was irritated (also not unusual). Three men ran Sandler O’Neill in those days: Herman Sandler, the senior managing principal; Chris Quackenbush, head of investment banking; and Jimmy, the tough guy in the triumvirate, who managed (delegated) things day to day. If this was a business issue, he was pretty sure the other two could handle it. “Are my kids okay?” Jimmy asked. “Is my wife okay?” He took two more shots. The guy followed him down the fairway. “A plane hit the World Trade Center,” the guy finally said. “Did it break a window?” Jimmy asked.

Years later Jimmy would recall how he had left work early the afternoon before — Sandler, his mentor, and Quackenbush, his best friend, nearly pushing him out the door, saying, “Go. Go. Get a good night’s sleep.” He remembers arriving in Bedford at dinnertime, driving around town searching for a place to eat. “A very lonely night,” he says now. “I didn’t have any friends. I was there on a mission, but it was kind of silly. The next morning the mission changed dramatically.”

Jimmy called the office from the bag room. No answer. He called home and reached his wife, but she was unable to speak. She handed the phone to a friend, who told Jimmy, “You have to come to terms with the fact that most of the people in your firm are dead.” Still wearing his golf clothes, he rushed back to Manhattan. He did not yet know who was dead and who was alive. He could not be sure who among the living would be willing and able to return to work. He had no idea what remained of the firm, whether there would be enough pieces left to start over — or to sell, if that’s what it came to. He could not have imagined the ways in which volunteers, clients, even competitors would rush to Sandler’s aid. Nor did he have a clue — never having been tested before, not like this — what he was capable of.



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