The sun was so bright, and the sky so blue, when I woke up today. But I knew today was going to be “one of those days” that are sprinkled throughout our lives. Kind of reminded me of a couple of other sunny, blue-sky days.
Like that Tuesday in September 2001. It was such a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. Coming off of a three-day weekend, I was scheduled to deliver a presentation to the Partners of my firm on future consulting opportunities. I was ready and loaded extra copies into my briefcase for the 9:00 am show.
My client was across the street from our corporate offices so that’s where I decided to start my day in my 46th-floor office. At 8:30 am, I got on the elevator downstairs to trek across the West Side Highway. The never-ending construction necessitated many large, steel plates that would do a good job of covering the holes but made unbearable banging noises every time a car, truck or bus would go over them.
I made it to our offices in the World Financial Center where my project team member met me with a nervous look. “Did you see the plane hit?” What the hell was he talking about?
We walked to the window and looked up at the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Smoke rising and debris falling contrasted with that sunny, blue sky. Our thoughts of a small private plane that lost control were quickly dashed with the explosion of another passenger plane hitting the South Tower.
We evacuated and started the long walk uptown. Stopping and staring in disbelief two separate times to watch those two beautiful towers fall. Never again would they grace that sunny, blue sky.
Over the next several weeks, the world felt like it stopped, and the end might be coming. And even though new priorities took the place of my presentation, the planes eventually took off again. And the Stock Market opened for trading again. And Baseball and Football were played again.
And that horrible time passed.
Or like that Sunday in March 2008. It was chilly, but it was also a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. It was a few days until my birthday, and I was in the midst of the best career project of my life. While incredibly challenging, it was the most rewarding effort I had been tasked with.
While reviewing organization charts of the new department in my living room, the TV was focused on problems at Bear Stearns. They were talking bankruptcy. By now in my career, I knew it was sometimes a fact of life that a company would go out of business, but this was different. Sure, there seemed to be bigger industry issues at play but, more importantly, my father worked at Bear Stearns.
Words like take-over, rescue and job-loss echoed through my head. My father was just as concerned but didn’t have any other information come his way than what we all saw on the news.
Then the news flash came that Sunday night. JP Morgan agreed to buy Bear Stearns for $2 a share. A sobering fact considering that the price of Bear Stearns stock was almost $140 a share, not even a year prior. A demoralizing fact considering my father’s retirement portfolio had a hell of a lot of Bear Stearns stock in it.
For the next several months, the world felt like it stopped, and the end might be coming as more firms, anchors of our financial system, either went out of business or were taken over as the only option they had left. And even though priorities meant my dad had to work for a few more years (at JP Morgan I might add), he was rewarded for his great work with an amazing retirement deal. And that, on top of the amazing returns he enjoyed as the financial system and stock market recovered.
And that horrible time passed.
Yeah, this morning was a beautiful, sunny, blue-sky day. The picture at the top is the view from my apartment. I had another great weekend with my kids but it’s not like we did very much.
You see, many of the places we would normally go to were either already closed or were making their preparations for closure. There wasn’t much food on the shelves at the store so we would have to make do with what we had. (I did have a box of brownie mix so that was a win)
So, we watched a lot of TV and were flooded with the news of more closures across all industries. I have resisted the urge to look at my own retirement account. I don’t need to view the results of a 30% drop in a week. The guidance from all of the experts is to basically stay indoors for two months, limit contact with others, and only venture outside for essential reasons (work, food, health). It feels like the world has stopped and the end could be coming.
This really seems like a horrible time.
But if I learned one thing from those other sunny, blue-sky days…….
It will pass.