Accounts from the South Tower

I will never forget that day.

I was driving to work in Burwell that cloudy fall Nebraska day and normally I listen to the radio on the way; but on this day I was listening to a worship CD when my phone rang. It was Kim and right away I knew something was very wrong, through tears she said “Are you listening to the news?”. I hadn’t been so I turned the radio on and listened simultaneously to the news and to her describing what she was seeing on Fox News.

Stunned doesn’t begin to expain how I felt. I new dozens of people who worked in those buildings. Having sold Mutual Funds for over 6 years I had dealt with people in those buildings for a long time. Even though I had only met a few of them I felt they were personal friends.

I Immediately got off of I-80 at Cozad and tried to call Oppenheimer funds in New York, when there was no answer I called the office in Denver. A somber and shaken receptionist told me that they didn’t know anything either.

Not knowing what to do I drove on to the bank wondering if there was a Wall Street, did Oppenheimer Funds even exist anymore? What was I going to tell my clients? Were my friends in the tower ok? Then as the news continued to come in I had visions of “Red Dawn”. I was so confused. This can’t be happening in America.

Stephen had since left Oppenheimer Funds as an inside wholesaler and gotten a job trading bonds at Keefe, Bruyette, and Woods on the 89th Floor. I didn’t find out that he had died until weeks later. My new inside wholesaler was telling me how that day had impacted him, his co-workers and family. Then he remembered “You knew Stephen didn’t you?”

I will never forget that day.

My feelings went from complete disbelief, to scared, to sadness, to steely resolve. When those planes hit the towers, the pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field they attacked all of us. Even in the middle of Nebraska I felt the attack in a very personal way. Even before I knew that I had lost a friend.

This is the greatest country in the world and I know we will be ok. I am confident that we will do whatever it takes to defeat this enemy, as we have all the others, and many years from now we will be stronger than ever.

I will never forget that day.

Stephen Mulderry, victim
Keefe, Bruyette and Woods
Portraits of Grief: Family and Basketball
Mr. Mulderry called from a conference room on the 87th floor, where he was apparently with about 12 other people. His brother, Peter, spoke to him. Here is his account:
I called over to his office. One of his colleagues picked up. He said, “Yeah, we’re okay, but my God.” Then Stephen came back to his desk. He said, “What’s up, brother?” — his usual salutation. “Are you all right?” I asked. He said, “Yeah, I was just over at the window, but my God, I don’t know if people were falling or jumping, but I saw people falling to their death.” I said, “Oh, my God.” He said, “They’re human beings.” Then he said, “I gotta go. The lights are ringing and the market is going to open.” In the background, I can hear the public address system, which I later learned was saying there has been an accident, the safest place is here.
[While they are off the phone, the second tower is hit; Peter can’t get through to Stephen; he calls other family members; they haven’t been able to get through either.]
I would try intermittently. My girlfriend was working at CNN as a producer, and I spoke to her, and she said, “Isn’t Stephen in that building?” It was very tense. The phone rang about 20 minutes before Tower 2 fell. He said, “Hey brother.”
I let out a real big groan of relief.
“Thank God, you’re okay.”
He said, “I’m really not.”
“You’re not out?”
He said, “We’ve tried everything. We tried to go up. We tried to get down. It’s just too hot and it’s too much smoke. We’ve found a room, a conference room, and we found a phone that works.”
There was one phone, I came to understand, and he was having his time with it.
He said, “I need Mom’s number.” My mother had recently moved to a new home and none of us had really committed her number to memory.
I asked, “Are you sure there’s no way out of that room?”
He said, “No. Like I told you, we tried everything. We’re just going to wait for the firemen to come get us. But it’s a long way for them to come, and the smoke’s really bad. Some people are talking about throwing the fire extinguisher through the window, but I know that will be the end of us. But if someone panics and does it, there’s nothing I can do.”
Then he said, “I really gotta call Mom. In case I don’t get out, I love you brother.” He wasn’t crying. I said, “I love you, too.”
He got through to my mother on her answering machine.
I haven’t heard the tape. [The essence of the message is:] A plane has hit the building, I don’t have much…I just want to tell you I love you. No matter what, I’m going to be okay.
[Stephen also called a friend and left a message on her tape.] “He got her answering machine. He told her, whatever happens, he was going to be okay. He had said all the prayers his mother had taught him and he was going to be fine.”
I think there were 12 other people in the room; it was on the 87th floor, a New York State office, and a conference room. Mainly it was men from the trading room — mainly college athletes.
I feel pretty strongly that people had passed out in the room before the end.
Stephen did say, “We tried to get to the roof.”
Interview by Jim Dwyer

Source: Accounts from the South Tower

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Gary Trobee is a certified coach and a seasoned leader with over 20 years’ experience mentoring, coaching, and encouraging leaders and their teams.