9-11 Part 1: Remembering Terror

Personal Money Planning |


By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Although I’m writing this article in August, I don’t need a crystal ball to assume this coming week will be filled with remembrances and analysis (including myriad conspiracy theories) surrounding 9-11.

It’s both interesting and sad that as I write this the Taliban are marching into Kabul as the Afghanistan president flies away. I have no doubt that we needed to go into that country to rout out Bin Laden and his minions; as for the rest that follows, that will be debated long past my life.

Twenty years ago, this coming Saturday, I was getting ready to head down to Dallas to take one of my required continuing education courses to maintain my Certified Financial Planner® designation. While dressing, I came into our den, where my wife, Joanne, was watching the news. It seemed a strange time for the news to be on. I saw both of the Twin Towers burning. It was instantly clear that this was no accident, but a terrorist attack; whether by domestic or international terrorists, I did not know.

Whether the class was still going to be held, I did not know, but without it, my license would expire in two weeks and with it, my livelihood. I hugged Joanne goodbye—each of us would have to deal with this apart.

Listening to the radio on what seemed like an endless drive to the Metroplex, I started to fill in the blanks about the attack on the Pentagon, the passengers fighting back over Pennsylvania, and the collapse of the towers. Stopping for gas on the way down was a bit eerie. Fears of shortages had already caused prices to rise. People talked in hushed tones and moved as if in a daze.  I became very aware that my genetic features made me stand out. On a day like this, it was not a good thing.

The class did go on—none of us really had a choice. No speaker showed up as his plane was diverted to who-knows-where. The skies above the United States were strangely quiet. A recording of the previous year’s lecture took the place of the missing speaker. I have no idea if we followed the rules on this one (ironically it was our biannual ethics training requirement), though I’m not sure that anyone really cared. We were like most of the country, not remembering how we made it through the day—and never forgetting it.

Eventually a television was rolled into the back of the hotel conference room, so that we hundred or so financial advisors could keep up with what was going on. While Internet and video connections on cell phones were years away, the phone part worked. Every one of them was pressed to an ear at each break, and every electrical plug was charging them while we attempted to concentrate on the material before us. The calls connected us to offices and staff, clients, vendors, and family. Since the financial industry is heavily represented in New York City, many of the calls did not make it through on that day. Though they did not know at the time, many in the room lost friends.

I do not remember the drive home. Heck, I don’t remember much of the next few days. I do know that my television was never turned off. One memory from the continuous coverage seared into my conscious. I’ll tell you about it next week.



Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing.