Fenwick remembers close connections and 9/11 losses from time at the World Trade Centers

Larry Fenwick
St. John News
Larry Fenwick, Macksville, worked at the World Trade Centers in New York City prior to their collapse during the 9/11 disaster 20 years ago in 2001.

During the decade of the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s I worked in the investment world of Wall Street and frequently attended monthly and quarterly meetings in New York City. Our home office was located in the North Tower, or known by the name, 1 World Trade Center.

The North Tower was slightly taller than the South Tower, 2 World Trade Center, and when you accounted for the spire which was atop the 1 WTC building the height came to 1,728 ft. Both of the buildings, 1 and 2 WTC’s, were 110 stories tall. Our offices were in the floors above 100, but not on the top floor. The Windows of the World restaurant was located on the 106th and 107th floor of 1 WTC.

The World Trade Center actually consisted of seven buildings in lower Manhattan and the area was so large, employing so many people, that it had it’s own zipcode.

I began my investment training on Wall Street in 1971 and while both of the World Trade Center buildings were under construction during this time neither had been completed. Construction actually began in 1968 but the complex –all seven buildings—was not completed until 1987.

In 1983 I joined an investment firm in Dallas and became the Regional Sales Manager for the Central Division of our firm. I covered the state of Kansas and nine other central states during those years and in 1988 my job changed and I became the Divisional Director of Sales and Marketing for the same firm out of Atlanta and I covered Georgia and 11 other Southeastern states. During those years when we were in meetings in New York we stayed at the Vista Hotel located in the three WTC building connected to the North Tower by an overhead skywalk, or an underground tunnel or corridors as well. The NYC subway system had a large terminal station under some of the WTC buildings. Both of the Twin Tower buildings had some unbelievable banks of elevators—99 each-- to service the building. As in all high rise office buildings you had to know the floor you were visiting to “ get on the proper bank of elevators.” If you were going to the upper 10 floors— where our company floors were located—there was a special bank of elevators that travelled at warp speed to ascend quickly to the top. They travelled so fast that when they began to brake for a stop you truly felt some moments of weightlessness in your body.

Our firm acquired Lehman Bros in the mid 80s and we came into possession of most of their corporate furniture. On one of the top floors at the Executive Dining room of the firm, you entered a huge room that had this enormous table that could seat at least 50 people. It had been the former Lehman Bros partner’s table. When I see some of the pictures of the dining halls of historic castles in England….you can envision the setting minus the armory, swords, and battle ware of that era. You could walk to the west side of the building and look out the large windows to the left, and at night see the illuminated Statue of Liberty in all it’s glory, and then look to the right or toward uptown along the Hudson river and see the Empire State building in midtown, and further up the Chrysler, Pan Am, and so many other notable landmarks of the city. On a clear night it was truly a special moment to feel good about being an American and an American capitalist.

I often think back of the special meetings, and the fellow work associates I shared that time with in those buildings. While standing at those large windows one time a senior officer of the firm came over to me and stated, “Fenwick, this is a long way from Kansas.” I am not exactly sure what I said in response, but in fact he was correct, it was a long way from the plains of Kansas.

On that tragic day of September 11, 2001—20 years ago this week—when America lost so much, I lost some friends as well. In total 2,606 people were killed who were in the towers that day including over 300 fireman who perished in their first responder work to help rescue people. Additionally, 175 people died who were aboard the two planes that hit the towers. Others were killed in two more hi-jacked planes ... one that hit the Pentagon and those aboard United Flight 93 when a group of passengers led by Todd Beamer spoke these words, “Let’s roll,” when they attempted to regain control of the flight deck. The plane crashed into the ground in Shanksville, Penn. but that brave, brave group of passengers prevented the plane from crashing into another target in Washington D.C.

My wife and I have never been back to NYC or ground zero since that horrific day, but someday we will go. I am way behind on a personal promise to visit NYC once a year since I retired in 2002. In 2014 we retired from Fort Worth, Texas and moved back to the Macksville farm that has been in my wife's family since the late 1880s in Stafford County, Kansas.