From Bill Singer:
The materials below are reprinted as originally published on the dates indicated.
In these days following the World Trade Center
tragedy one feels an immense frustration. Individually there is little any of us can
do; and the talents of an attorney are of little help ---I have few abilities
other than that of the written and spoken word. Below you will find a brief account of what
Tuesday, September 11th was like. I hope it will answer the many questions
that have been posed to me by those who only witnessed the events on
I define my life by several
attributes. I am 50
years old. I am of
less than average height at 5 feet 6 1/2 inches. I'm a bit overweight at 178
pounds. I have been
happily married for 19 years.
I remain deeply in love with my wife, who is a federal
prosecutor. I have
worked as a lawyer in the securities industry for nearly 20 years. I am the
partner of a securities-industry law firm located in the heart of Manhattan's
financial district. I
have nearly a dozen employees and colleagues in my law firm and care deeply for
them --- we are a family.
Until September 11, 2001, the defining moments in my life were the
Cuban Missile crisis, the Kennedy assassinations, Watergate, my father's death
when I was 19 and he 46, my first date with my wife, my wedding, and my
graduation from law school.
I'm sure that you have similar milestones along your
on September 11th much of what I am and will be changed,
irrevocably. My wife
and I left for work on the number 92 express bus at about 8 a.m. We tend to go to work
we take the 92, which ends on Broad Street, near the tip of Manhattan. Sometime we take the 90,
which is designated as the World Trade Center run. My wife gets off before me and walks to the
Jacob Javits Federal Building, amidst the federal and state courthouses and
within the shadow of the World Trade Center. I usually get off a few stops later near
Wall Street. On
Tuesday we both took the 92.
When my wife got off the bus, I kissed her goodbye and
watched her head to work.
She loves her job. She is a fine lawyer and very
dedicated. We often
argue about her working on weekends or late nights. I mean it's a government job, but she
doesn't care. You'd
think she was getting paid twice her present salary and working in some deluxe,
windowed, corner office. As the 92 pulled into the near corner of
Wall Street, the
Metropolitan Transit Authority broadcast a message to the driver. In essence, it said that
there had been an "incident" at the World Trade Center and that he should
discharge his passengers immediately.
All of the passengers got off the bus. It was about 8:45
looked up in the sky and saw papers fluttering down. I assumed that the incident was some plane
dropping pamphlets on lower Manhattan. I couldn't even imagine what kind of stupid
political issue was involved. We New Yorkers are a pretty hard-boiled
group. Who gives a
shit about some political cause --- we simply want to get to work, get through
the day, and get home.
I walked a few blocks from the bus stop to my office on Exchange
Place and some of the papers had begun to land on the sidewalk. Curiously, some of the
papers were charred. I
then noticed a fine white mist was descending.
Inside the lobby of my
office building, people were awaiting the elevators. The security guard announced that the radio
said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. As far as we were concerned, it was a small
Piper Cub and an accident.
I got up to my offices and unlocked the doors. I went to my office and
turned on the radio.
There were reports of a plane hitting the World Trade
Center. A few years
earlier I had been in the same building when the World Trade Center was
bombed. But for some
reason this incident just wasn't registering as a cause for alarm. Eventually the office
receptionist and another lawyer joined me around my radio. They both commented that I was covered
with soot. I looked
at my suit and noticed a white film covered my jacket and shook the grit from
And then life as we knew it ended. The offices shook violently. It was as if a nuclear bomb had detonated or a moderate earthquake had struck Manhattan. For the first time I sensed that there was something seriously wrong. The radio confirmed reports that a "second" plane had hit the World Trade Center. At this point we didn't really know whether one or two towers were hit, but clearly something other than an accident or an incident was going on. I made a decision to evacuate the offices.
I got my two colleagues and put
a sign on the door saying that we were closed because of the World Trade Center
bombing. I don't know
why I used the word "bombing," but I guess I assumed that we were having a
re-do of the attempt years earlier. I dialed my wife's cellphone from mine,
but couldn't get an outside line. I was very concerned about her safety as
she worked in the federal office building, which could also have been a
target. There was
nothing I could do.
I was frustrated and angry.
John, the attorney with me,
left to return to his home in Staten Island. He hoped to get the ferry. I wished him well and said
I'd call him later.
De'sha, our receptionist, needed to get to Brooklyn. I decided to avoid the
subways because I was concerned that if there were some kind of attack that the
electric power would be hit.
She decided to walk towards the Brooklyn Bridge and cross over
it. I decided to
accompany her and make sure she safely got to where she was going. As we looked
back on our journey east towards the river, we saw a sight that will forever be
burned in my memory. Both towers of the World Trade Center were
on fire. Because our
offices are so close to the World Trade Center it is difficult to see the
buildings. I know
this sounds odd, but the financial district is a number of small streets with
office buildings right next to each other, and right across the street. One's view is usually into
the window of the offices directly across the street; you simply cannot see
above the building in front of you. Consequently, until you reach a certain
point, usually a larger thoroughfare, it's virtually impossible to see the
Towers from most street-level vantage points around the immediate area east of
Broadway, around Wall Street. But as De'sha and I looked back, we could
see the Towers; and there were bright, orange flames coming out of two gaping
holes. Smoke streamed
from the buildings. Papers and soot descended upon the
continued to walk towards the bridge.
Soon I became aware of
thousands of people making their way to safety. No one was screaming. No one was panicking. In many respects, it reminded me of the
exodus of displaced persons on their way back home after World War II. De'sha and I stopped and
again looked back towards the towers. The fire had spread, the smoke and
increased, and, worse, we saw people jumping to their deaths. And now one became aware of
some of the anguished screams from the mass of humanity on the streets.
About this time I remembered
that months earlier I was given a free radio during a promotion for Bloomberg,
a media company. The
free radio was a bit odd; it was permanently tuned to one channel --- the Bloomberg
business station. So
I rummaged around my briefcase and pulled out the small, black box. Were the batteries still
working? I turned on
the radio and got the station, and people gathered round to listen. But there wasn't any real
hardcore news, mainly rumors about the attacks. About this time De'sha and I arrived at the
Brooklyn Bridge. She
said that she would walk over to Brooklyn. I kissed her goodbye, wished her well, and
made my way uptown.
I again tried to reach my wife, but couldn't get an outside
stopped for a while near the Brooklyn Bridge. Crowds of people were gathering around me
to listen to my radio.
The fires at the towers were noticeably worse. But no one thought either
tower would collapse.
There were two holes, on fire, but we knew that the buildings were
built to last --- the World Trade Center would not fall. At this point I decided to walk
home; I live in the
90s in upper Manhattan, some six to seven miles from my
my walk away from ground zero, I began to notice the individuals around
me. There were young
women sobbing, standing in the streets. They often held cellphones. They cried that they
couldn't reach their husband, their brother, their father, their sister, their
mother, their friends. And strangers would simply walk up to them;
put their arms around them; comfort them. My radio began to make some
incidents were now being deemed intentional attacks by terrorists. There were reports about
attacks on the Pentagon and the White House. I continued to walk among the crowd. I still could not reach my
wife. I tried other
friends and family, but the phone lines were dead. The radio then stated that phone lines
were overwhelmed and service compromised by the fires.
I made my way through
Chinatown. I then
passed through the Bowery. People followed me to listen to my
came up to me and simply starting talking. They told me that had just missed being
hit by falling debris.
One guy told me that his office mate had broken his ankle over the
weekend and had asked him to go downstairs to Starbucks and get him a cup of
coffee. He told me
that he had left his suit jacket and briefcase upstairs. His eyes then glazed over. He said if it weren't for his
friend he'd probably be dead --- and then he said that his friend was likely
Others told me similar stories.
At some point I heard a
voice scream, "Oh my God!" We all turned around and saw the
unthinkable. One of
the towers collapsed. The street was more than merely silent, it
was numb. No one
moved. And then we
saw a huge cloud of smoke.
Someone yelled that everyone downtown was dead. Shortly thereafter the second tower
fell. I began to
think what the scene would be like if two 100-story office buildings
collapsed. I wondered
where my wife was and fought back the thoughts as to how wide the debris field
would be. I tried my
cellphone again. It
remained dead. There
were lines at the payphones, but many of them could not get an outside
around 34th Street I found a working payphone. I called my wife's cellphone
number, but couldn't get through.
I called my mother. She was somewhat hysterical as she knew
where I worked. She
cried when I told her I was okay.
I asked if she had heard from my wife. She said "no." I asked her to call my wife's mother and
let her know I was okay.
I told her to tell my wife that I was safe and on my way
home. About a
half-hour later I called my mother again and learned that my wife too was
walking home and was safe.
About three hours after I left my offices, I reached my
passed by a bakery. I
stopped and went inside. I saw my reflection in the mirror behind
the counter and noticed I was covered in ash. The woman behind the counter looked at me,
not quite sure what to say or do.
She asked me if I had heard the news. I told her I had just left the scene and
walked from Wall Street.
I told her of the horrors I had seen. I then asked for a jelly donut and a
black-and-white cookie, my wife's favorites. I wanted something for her when she got
I finally reached my apartment building, the staff were all in the lobby
listening to a radio.
I think I was one of --- if not the first --- tenant to return
from downtown. Usually I joke with the guys and most of
them call me "Bill."
This afternoon there was no joking. They referred to me as "Mr. Singer" and
wanted to know if I was okay, if there was anything they could do. I asked if my wife had
arrived. They all
seemed uncomfortable and worried by the question. They promised to let her know I was home
when they saw her. I
then took the elevator upstairs.
When I got home I took my clothes off and left them
in a pile on the coffee table.
I called my mother and she told me that my wife had again
called and was on her way home. I dumped out the garbage can and filled it
up with cold water and ice.
I put my bleeding, blistered feet in the can. I then turned on the television and
watched the horror.
I saw videos of jets hitting the towers, from one angle and
another. I saw the
fires and the smoke and the plummeting bodies. I learned of the heroic firemen and police
who had likely lost their lives. And then I sat, transfixed by the humanity
that unfolded during the ensuing hours.
Eventually my wife came
kissed. She cried and
I comforted her. I
got up and made her sit down and eat the cake I had bought. She resisted but I insisted
she eat at least one, something. Yes,
it was symbolic, but I needed to complete the circle. She ate the jelly
tried to send out e-mails, but my connection was down. I was able to get some outgoing phone lines
and left as many voice messages as I could. By evening, I had spoken with most of my
never made it to work and were caught in transit; some were at meetings in
other places in the City.
One employee had the misfortune of arriving after I had evacuated
the premises and stayed too late, getting caught in the debris field from the
falling towers. She
made it out safely but was quite distraught.
And then there was
Susan. I had known
Susan longer than anyone at the firm. Sue and I met around 1989, when I was just
starting out in private practice and she was a securities industry
consultant. We met
at an office where I sublet space and she worked part-time. When I opened my own firm, I
asked her to join me. For the past 12 years, we continued our
was an incredible person.
She was one of those rare people who never got angry. Her life was virtually one
personal crisis after the other. Her family difficulties were simply
unimaginable, but she confronted each challenge with grace and the expectation
that time would heal the wounds. Sue wasn't from New York, but born and
raised in the state of Washington. She loved to grow things and would often
bring tomatoes from her garden. She also would bring me in the world's best
homemade horseradish and jams.
I would get her dried apricots and olives.
A few weeks ago, my office
manager, Bernice, celebrated her birthday. I took her out for lunch and asked Sue to
join us. Sue's
husband was seriously ill and she was obviously in need of a pick-up. I asked Bernice if she
wouldn't mind if Sue joined us.
Since the two of them were friendly, Bernice agreed that Sue could
certainly use some time away from the office and a drink and lunch would be
just the ticket. The
three of us had a great lunch. We ordered a bottle of wine, had
appetizers, main course, and dessert.
At the end of the meal Sue kissed me and thanked me for thinking
about her. She said
that if people only knew how good hearted I was . . . I asked her not to ruin
Tuesdays Sue worked as a consultant at Sandler O'Neil & Partners (SOP)
at the World Trade Center. The firm is on the
102nd floor. Sue got the assignment from her close
friend May, who was an officer at the company. Last year I spoke at the firm and delivered
the annual continuing education lecture. May's husband, Vinnie, was someone I had
worked closely with when he was employed at one of my clients. Vinnie's firm had recently
closed and Sue would continuously ask me if I could find him a job. Sue never returned my calls on
Tuesday. I tried
calling her home, but couldn't get an outside line. I don't know why, but I never thought
there was a problem.
On Wednesday morning I received a call from
Brian. When Sue's
husband took ill I knew that her three-times-a-week commute from southern New
Jersey to our offices was putting a strain on her. I contacted Brian, who ran a prominent
securities consulting firm from Princeton, New Jersey and asked if he could use
a top-notch consultant. Brian said "yes," and I spoke with
Sue. Sue was
initially concerned that she would be letting me down. I told her not to worry, that she needed
to focus on helping her husband. With great reluctance, she took the
job. I hoped that
although I'd only see her once a week that, in time, we'd be working together
again more regularly.
Brian asked me if I had heard from Sue. I told him that I hadn't. He said that Sue's husband hadn't
heard from her in 24 hours. He also told me that he had heard that Sue
had telephoned her husband to let him know that she had seen the first jet hit
the North Tower. That
was the last her husband had heard from her.
I was shocked. How could I not have thought
about this? I then
realized that Sue was likely at SOP. I again called her home, but either
couldn't get an outside line or got her voice mail. Wednesday evening I got a phone message
from Vinnie, May's husband.
I hesitated to call Vinnie back as I assumed May had likely
perished in the collapse of the building. I assumed he was calling me to tell me of
his wife's death. I
called Vinnie at home.
To my shock, May picked up the phone. I told May that her voice was the most incredible
thing I could recall hearing in my life. May told me that her daughter had just
celebrated her first birthday and that she decided to take Tuesday off to take
the baby to the pediatrician. She wanted to know if I had heard from Sue
or her husband. I
couldn't tell May exactly what I knew. I then spoke with Vinnie and brought him
up to date --- Susan had certainly been at SOP just before the jet's
of Friday, September 14, 2001 we have not had any word from or about
Sue. I have spoken to
her husband, who remains hopeful that she will be found. We, her friends, know that Sue has an
We trust that she has survived. But we also know that many have
not. We keep them in
our thoughts and prayers.
And if Sue is not located, those of us who knew and loved her will
celebrate that wonderful life and will remain much better people for having
During the past few days I have received many calls and messages from friends, clients, and even my usual adversaries. It has been heartwarming. And I have made many similar calls. My staff is doing remarkably well, but among them there is much pain and hurt. Yes, we will return to work, but we will never be the same.
story cannot end tonight or next week or next month or possibly for months and
years to come. One
cannot witness what we who were downtown on Tuesday saw and not be
changed. We are
healing, but we are not healed. Our hearts will ache forever. I have seen grown men
cry. I have seen
hardboiled stockbrokers comforting their colleagues and their grieving
families. I have seen
sights that will haunt me for a lifetime.
There is no good way to end
this story, but let me share a recent occurrence. On Friday evening, September 14, my wife
and I were walking around our neighborhood. New York City is a place for walkers --- we
tend to hit the sidewalks around here. It's a cool summer evening and the streets
are filled with pedestrians.
The neighborhood is subdued and I noticed that everyone is making
eye contact; we just don't do that around here. Hell, I don't think I've ever learned the
name of any neighbor in any apartment building I've lived in since I've been
this evening, as we walked around, I noticed several people carrying
candles. As my wife
and I passed restaurants, we noticed the proprietors were leaving boxes of
candles outside their establishments. Passersby were taking the candles,
lighting them, cupping their hands around the flames, and walking on. I told my wife to grab two
tapers and we borrowed a flame from someone on the street. I followed a growing mass of light and we
eventually wound up in front of the neighborhood fire station. About the time of our arrival
there must have been nearly several hundred people on the sidewalks around the
station and in the street.
Suddenly I heard applause and whistles from the far end of the
hook-and-ladder truck began to turn the corner from the avenue, onto the
street, and towards the station.
As the truck made its way towards the middle of the
block, the crowd surrounded the vehicle. The cheering rose to a deafening
firemen, still wearing their coats, slowly exited the truck, leaving the driver
alone to steer into the station.
These men had done not just a superb job, but an heroic
one. They had every
right to expect a hero's welcome, but from the tears in their eyes you could
tell that this spontaneous outpouring of gratitude --- of love --- was
after the truck was parked, the crew stood in a line just between the station
house and the sidewalk.
The men looked down nervously, uncomfortable with the
adulation. At this
point someone started singing "God Bless America," and then a few people joined
in, and then everyone, and then the firemen. And on this special September night in the
cold and uncaring metropolis of New York City, a few days after a tragedy of
immeasurable evil, strangers who days earlier wouldn't have even looked each
other in the eyes sang together --- and cried. And when we finished our song hundreds of
unnamed neighbors stood in line. And the stunned crew of this small station
house formed a receiving line. One
by one the neighborhood shook their hands, kissed them on the cheeks, hugged
them, and the tears streamed. We learned that they had likely lost nine
of their brothers.
And we began to fill an empty water cooler jug with money. And grown men cried. And a long, flickering line
of candles passed into the firehouse, and out onto the streets, and back
towards those solitary apartments where we will continue our lives --- but
never quite the same.
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And I have a frame on my desk. Its background is the note we pasted on the law firm's door when we evacuated our premises: "Closed on account of the bombings". The foreground contains the newspaper notice of the identification of Susan's remains and her business card. I suspect I will keep that frame for the rest of my life.
Wishing you all well and thanks for your best wishes,
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My name is Mike Savage. I am Director of Labor Relations for Tri-Met, the Bus and Rail transit provider for a tri-county area around Portland, Oregon. I read with interest, on the internet, your accounting of events in your life since 9/11/01 and your comments about Susan Schuler.
Sue and I met in the 4th grade in a brand new grade school here in Portland. She was Sue Laspa back then. We lived two blocks apart and became great friends, spending much time together. Her folks had a pool table in their family room, my folks had a ping-pong table in our family room and we spent hours listening to 45 RPM rock and roll records and competing against each other. When we didn't see each other we were talking on the phone. It was 'puppy love' and good, clean fun. We bet on which of us would be the first to marry, the first to have kids, the first to make a million dollars and other nonsense. We never bet on who would be the first to die or who would do it in the most spectacular fashion. Throughout grade school and until the end of our sophomore year in high school we hung out together. Unfortunately, my folks divorced and I had to move to Montana with my mom. I saw Sue one time the summer after high school graduation. She was getting ready to go to college. I was working and getting ready to be drafted.
I always thought about Sue but I waited too long to find her. I heard she had married a whiz kid named Ted Slanker, who apparently was making huge money buying and selling gold. I thought, "good for Sue, too bad for me" because when I found out I could never have her I realized how much I had really loved her.
Some friends convinced me to attend the Wilson High School (here in Portland) 20 year reunion in 1984. I walked in the building and felt a poke in the back. I turned around and it was Sue. She was Sue Kennedy then, apparently the marriage to Slanker ended in divorce. Sue and I immediately rekindled feelings for each other but I was married and could not/would not leave my wife to pursue Sue. I lost track of Sue until I saw a story in the Oregonian newspaper about a former Portland woman missing in the WTC disaster. My heart shattered when I found out it was Sue. I will never get over it!
Sue had an older brother, Jude Laspa, who went on to become a top executive with Bechtel Corp. She had an older sister, Kathy. Apparently Kathy lived here in Portland in 1984, I have no information now. Sue also had a younger brother, Tevis, who I believe owns an aftermarket company producing accessories for trucks. I think he lives in Ridgefield, WA, which is not far from Portland. Sue's parents were avid golfers and I expect she maintained that interest.
I am saddened to hear about Sue's husband's battle with cancer and the burglary of her house. I read about Sue's interest in gardening. Sue has been a part of my heart and mind for years. I'm glad you got the chance to spend time with her. I really had no need to send you this but, selfishly, maybe I needed to do it for myself. Frankly, given all of the events, I don't know what to think.
Bill, the attached is an excerpt from the 1960 Hayhurst School (here in Portland) 8th grade yearbook. On the right side, above the cowboy with the squirt gun, are side-by-side pictures. The goofy looking guy to the right of Susan is me. The goofy looking gal to the left of me is Susan. Since Susan and I were inseparable, the kids editing the yearbook thought it appropriate to put our pictures together.