By: Maryling Yu, Director of Product Marketing, SunGard Availability Services
It is 6:05am on September 11, 2001. I am sitting on an airplane at the San Jose airport, waiting to fly to San Diego to give a speech. Our departure time is 6:25am, so I am quickly reviewing speaker’s notes on my laptop when the pilot comes on the intercom and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, you may or may not have heard that a jet liner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center this morning. And now, another one has crashed into the South Tower. We are now sure this was an act of terrorism, and will not be pushing back from the gate just yet. Sit tight, I’ll be back with an update again soon.”
I feel shock and horror, and a sudden stab of worry about my boyfriend. He had just accepted a new job with Morgan Stanley, and had flown to New York City for new hire training that started September 10. I don’t know for sure whether he is in the World Trade Center, but every hair on the back of my neck is standing up.
Oh no, I think, I bet he IS in there. I grab my cellphone to call him, and see that I’ve missed several calls, all from his family in Chicago. They have left me six increasingly frantic messages on my phone asking me if I know exactly where his training was being held. I call my boyfriend’s phone and get sent straight to voicemail. I try again. Voicemail again. So I dial his boss at Morgan Stanley, Mr. C., who answers immediately.
I lie to him and tell him I’m his employee’s fiancée. It isn’t entirely a lie…my boyfriend had proposed to me, but I just had not accepted (I am waiting for the NASDAQ to come back from the depths of the abyss so that our stock portfolios can “heal” and actually finance a wedding). Mr. C confirms that my boyfriend is, indeed, in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, on the 61st floor. I ask if he knows whether the Morgan Stanley employees are safe. He tells me that no one has been able to get through. He does not know anything.
Now I am panicking. In fact, I am hysterical. I hang up on Mr. C and call my boyfriend again, and this time, when I get his voicemail greeting, I burst into tears. I get so hysterical, in fact, that the flight attendants ask me to de-plane. I drive home and turn on the TV, and the first thing I see is footage of both towers falling. I hear Peter Jennings say, “These towers peeled like bananas. It’s hard to see how anyone in them could have survived.” I fall to my knees in horror. I say out loud, “He is dead.”
Alone in the small apartment that we share, I wail and throw things around. I curse myself for not marrying him when I could have. For letting money be a reason to delay happiness, for having a fight with him on the phone the previous night, for letting him fly to New York at all. For not living by Suze Orman’s fundamental tenet, “People first. Then money. Then things.”
Today is also September 11. With the passage of so many years, it is somewhat less painful to examine the events of that day and try to draw lessons from it. Amazingly, there really are no new lessons – we knew then, as we know now, that people come first. People are irreplaceable. I’ve just told you why from a personal perspective, but from a professional perspective, this is true as well.
My company, SunGard AS, is a leader in business continuity and disaster recovery, and I’m so glad that they recognize that people are at the center of business, and therefore, should be at the center of business continuity planning. Why this is not immediately obvious to other companies – even companies in the business of DR – boggles my mind. What’s the point of recovering your data and applications, if there are no people around to use them? Who is going to recover your data and applications in the first place? And exactly what makes companies think that their people will leave their families and loved ones in the event of a true disaster – like 9/11 – to go to a far-off recovery site and recover their data and applications? We’ve already learned – and from 9/11, no less – that they won’t.
Which is why SunGard has custom-designed mobile recovery units that can show up at your location, and an innovative new partnership with Nav Canada that allows employees to bring their families with them to live in recovery facilities designed like a resort hotel, giving them peace of mind and freeing them to perform recovery functions. At the end of September, we’ll announce another of our exciting partnerships coming down the pike that will create even more holistic solutions for true business resiliency – but I don’t want to let any cats out of any bags yet. Suffice it to say, we are thinking of and planning for everything – and we’re not forgetting the most important thing: PEOPLE.
As for my own 9/11 story, it has a happy ending (unlike so many others). My man survived completely unharmed. The worst he suffered were scuff marks on his Brooks Brothers shoes, in which he ran down 61 flights of stairs, and then from the fallen Towers all the way up to Alphabet City, where he was staying.
Oh, and yes, I married him. We just celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary 4 months ago.