Where Were You on the Morning of September 11th?

I was driving from Austin, Texas, to Houston. Looking for a sports talk show, I could only find a news station on the radio. I heard the announcement that a small plane had crashed into the tower. I thought, “How strange to let a small plane get so close to the towers.” In a matter of minutes, I heard that another plane had crashed into the second tower and that it was, in fact, a large airliner as was the first plane. Upon arriving at Stage Stores headquarters in Houston, Lee Bland, director of LP, took me straight into the cafeteria where large televisions were set up. Most of the corporate employees were gathered around in silence watching.

I was driving from Austin, Texas, to Houston. Looking for a sports talk show, I could only find a news station on the radio. I heard the announcement that a small plane had crashed into the tower. I thought, “How strange to let a small plane get so close to the towers.” In a matter of minutes, I heard that another plane had crashed into the second tower and that it was, in fact, a large airliner as was the first plane. Upon arriving at Stage Stores headquarters in Houston, Lee Bland, director of LP, took me straight into the cafeteria where large televisions were set up. Most of the corporate employees were gathered around in silence watching.

I was shocked, stunned, and angry. I placed three phone calls to make sure none of my close friends in Boston were flying that day. Like so many people, I now faced the ordeal of getting home. I was over a thousand miles from home with no airlines flying in the next few days. I drove back on the 12th and arrived on the 13th. Upon checking in the rental car, I was surprised to learn that someone else had just driven in to Charlotte from Los Angeles.

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I recall driving back home to Charlotte thinking about the Kennedy assassination. I was in high school at the time. It was a very similar feeling of fear for our country, sadness, and grief for so many people.

One of the positive things I take from this tragic event is I came to know Bob Senn of the Fire Department of New York City. He was there and lived through it, although many of his friends and fellow firefighters did not. He, along with so many others, are my heroes. [Read Bob Senn’s retrospective on page 45.]

Following are the memories and perspectives of a number of retail executives. There are still others on our website, LPportal.com. Please add your own memories to these on the website.

Integrating Corporate Security, Loss Prevention, and Business Continuity Planning

Keith White, Senior Vice President of LP and Corporate Administration, Gap Inc.

My memories of that day are burned into my memory bank. I remember having a very early breakfast with my wife when the first plane hit the trade center and the news broke on TV. It was such an unbelievable day that everything slowed down and the mere shock and audacity of the event was very paralyzing. I remember making decisions about closing stores and getting traveling executives back home that would have been a big deal under any other circumstance, but on this day they seemed small and routine because they paled in comparison to the people who were directly impacted in New York.

Personally and professionally I grew tremendously that day, and I think our country did as well. The innocence we had as a country was lost, and the confidence I had as a leader was shaken. This event was bigger than anything any of us had seen previously or, I would argue, since. However, I do think I’m better, stronger, more careful, and much more thoughtful when it comes to devising and providing protection strategies in my professional and personal life.

Since 9/11 here at Gap Inc., we ultimately integrated corporate security, loss prevention, and business continuity planning into one organization, which I think was brilliant. The synergies you get from all three organizations combined with the capability of scaling our response has served us well.

Adding the Word “Terrorism” to Our Retail Vocabulary

Ken Bierschbach, CPP, Senior Security Specialist, Meijer Stores

I was getting a coffee with a colleague when we walked into the cafeteria. People were huddled around the television saying that a plane had just flown into one of the towers in New York City. My first thought was simply that some small plane had gone off course, and some poor pilot had begun their day quite badly. Within about thirty seconds of watching, the second plane flew into the tower, at which point my initial thought changed permanently. We spent the rest of the day in and out of our conference room watching TV and keeping up with the reports.

This event put the word “terrorism” into our retail vocabulary. Mischief is something every retailer experiences from time to time, but now having to consider the possibility of significant mayhem occurring was a thought process that hadn’t really been at the forefront since the riots of the sixties brought about civil-disturbance directives. From a corporate standpoint we began to consider the possibility of terrorist-like events occurring at our stores and how we would respond. At the retail level there was increased vigilance on the part of our customers, which caused us to deal with frequent reports of suspicious people and packages. While that has leveled off over time, September 11th most certainly left a permanent mark on all of us.

Shift in Focus from Traditional Shrink Reduction to True Asset Protection

Tina Sellers, Vice President of Loss Prevention, GameStop

I was just about to leave the house to go to work when they cut in on Good Morning America to show the first plane crashing into the tower. Beyond thinking about the poor people inside, I just assumed it was an accident. Then the second plane crashed, and I told my husband I’d be late coming home that night. I spent the day on the phone trying to locate my New York regional LP manager and all of our district managers, as well as tracking how close our stores were to ground zero and the Pentagon. I was three months pregnant at the time and remember thinking that the world would be a very different place in my son’s childhood than it had been in mine.

Air travel became cumbersome and much more time consuming in the first months after 9/11 and has continued to be a very different experience than what it was prior to that event. But the major impact of 9/11 was that, I believe, it was the trigger that began the evolution to real corporate security. Our profession is more respected and our opinions more sought after now than they were prior to that day. There was a definite shift in focus, as well as in budget allocation, from traditional shrink-reduction programs to true asset-protection measures.

Enhancing Internal Plans and Collaborating with the Public Sectors

Lisa LaBruno, Vice President of LP and Legal Affairs, Retail Industry Leaders Association

I remember driving into work on an absolutely gorgeous day with the clearest blue sky I had ever seen. I was listening to the radio when they broke in with a special report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At that point I thought it was “just” a small, private plane. I arrived at my office a few minutes later and several of my colleagues were inside my office looking out my window at the World Trade Center in the distance. I called my husband, who was a police officer, and as I was looking out the window, I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember screaming at my husband that a second plane hit, and the phone going dead. Panic sunk in at that moment. My colleagues and I watched out the window in horror as the buildings fell one-by-one. I worked for the Archdiocese of Newark at the time, which is the largest Catholic diocese in New Jersey. The archbishop, bishop, priests, and nuns worked out of our building, so the natural reaction was to gather together and pray, which is what we did.

I remember leaving my office and driving directly to my parents’ house. Despite the fact that I was a grown woman living on my own, I felt this strong need to be with my family, in the “protection” of my parents. As I drove to my parents’ house, every fire station’s doors were open, sirens were wailing. I remember lying on my parents’ couch that night looking through the skylight in the ceiling and worrying about other planes falling from the sky. I remember gathering at the home of a police officer’s wife with other wives and girlfriends and waiting for our husbands and boyfriends to return from New York where they were helping in what was still a search-and-rescue effort. I remember these strong, “nothing can get the best of me” guys walking into the house after a day of digging in the rubble full of soot from head to toe and defeated; they had not rescued a single person alive.

I was scheduled to fly to Atlanta on September 12th for an interview at The Home Depot. My flight was cancelled. Before 9/11, I wasn’t inclined to move to Atlanta, but I wanted to proceed with the interview anyway. After 9/11, I was ready to leave New Jersey. I got the job at The Home Depot, moved to Atlanta, and started my career in the retail industry.

Retailers are much more keenly focused on incident preparedness and response now because of 9/11. Enhancing their internal plans and collaborating with the public sectors on ways in which retailers can help in recovery efforts is now much more common.

Increased Security for Food Processors, Distributors, and Retailers

Dan Faketty, Vice President of Loss Prevention, Winn-Dixie

I was in my office when the first plane hit the tower. Shortly after that I was advised that a second plane had hit, at which time I reported to the board room to view the events on TV. When the plane hit the Pentagon, the problem became personal for me and my company at the time, Harris Teeter, as we had a store in Pentagon City that was located directly across the street from the Pentagon. During the remainder of the day and night, associates from that store were running to the grounds of the Pentagon with shopping carts filled with water, band aids, dressings, and anything they could pull from store shelves in order to assist.

Both my personal and professional life took on a new importance. Above and beyond the enhancements to airport security, I cannot fly today without paying particular attention to those around me. This is especially true if anyone leaves a bag unattended, even for a minute or two. From a professional standpoint things changed almost immediately as I was part of a team of LP executives who was put together by Chuck Miller, then vice president of loss prevention (now retired) from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Miller and the team began developing recommendations on increasing security for food processors, distributors, and retailers. The short-term result of this team’s efforts was a series of recommendations that were forwarded to these three business segments across the country. These same recommendations would eventually be placed in a comprehensive manual titled Food Security Manual for Processors, Distributors, and Retailers that is still in distribution by FMI today.

Another outcome of 9/11 was it helped many LP executives convince senior management to the need for capital investment in upgraded physical-security equipment. It also helped some justify the need for additional staffing, which some struggled with prior to 9/11.

An Overall Heightened Sense of Security in Our Day-to-Day Operations

Mark Stinde, Senior Director of Asset Protection, 7-Eleven, Inc.

I was divisional director of loss prevention for the Northeast Division of The Home Depot in South Plainfield, New Jersey, a little more than thirty miles from the twin towers. I was walking down the hallway when someone stepped out of the gym in our office to inform us that a plane had just struck one of the towers. We watched the TV in the gym as the second plane hit. The next several days were very difficult as many of our associates were directly impacted, several suffering the loss of either friends or family. Home Depot immediately stepped up and supported the recovery efforts in both New York and D.C.

All of us were impacted by those events both personally and professionally. I have personally become more cautious and aware. On a positive note, the events reminded me of how precious life is and how uncertain things really are. 9/11 also made me realize how proud I am to be a part of this great country and proud of those unselfish people who put themselves at risk to protect all of us every day.

There have been several changes in how loss prevention and corporate security executives address risk because of 9/11. There is an overall heightened sense of security in our day-to-day operations even now, ten years later. From mailroom procedures and access controls, to a more formalized approach to disaster recovery and preparedness, all of us in retail loss prevention have become much more vigilant overall.

New Respect for Our Soldiers Risking Their Lives Serving Our Country

Melissa Mitchell, CFI, Director of LP and Inventory Control, LifeWay Christian Stores

I was in a meeting with a vendor who had flown in to meet with me. My administrative assistant opened the door and insisted that I step outside. I didn’t really take a good look at her just then, as I was irritated that she had interrupted the meeting. I asked her if it could wait, but when she answered, I could hear her voice rise a bit. When I got outside the door, she looked panicked and started saying something about a news alert on TV and how terrible it was. My first thought was that there was a gun in the kids’ school. Finally, she got the words together to say a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and she thought we were at war. I actually laughed. I told her that this was probably a Cessna or other small plane, and, yes, it was sad, but not an act of war. She had a death grip on my arm and insisted that I go around to an office where there was a TV. As we rounded the corner, I saw the news broadcast at the moment the second plane hit. I remember thinking that it looked so graceful. A fellow U.S. Air Force veteran was standing next to me. We looked at each other and said “Bin Laden” almost at the same time. To this day I have no idea what made me think that. Had you asked me about the first Trade Center bombing, I would have been unable to name him as the suspected mastermind.

I went back and told the vendor what had happened. We just sat in my office for a while, until we heard another commotion in the hallway. Someone came in and said that a plane had hit the Pentagon. I called my husband, who was also Air Force, to try to figure out which of our friends were stationed there at that time. We later learned that a friend had been killed in the towers.

Although I am a veteran, my military service was during a time when we were not at war. We have a very close friend who enlisted immediately following, and because of, 9/11. I tried to talk him out of his decision because of my own selfish fear that he would be killed. He asked my husband and I to honestly tell him that, were we in the same position—young, unmarried, with no dependents—would we not do the same thing? He ultimately did two tours in Afghanistan and a tour in Iraq. I thought I had a profound respect for the military because I had served my country, and I knew what a great military we have. I realize now that I knew nothing about respect for our soldiers until I saw my friend risk his life serving his country.

Because of 9/11, we now acknowledge that we live in a world where bad things happen, even on our own soil. We understand that we have to have partnerships across federal, state, local, and other private sectors because we succeed or fail as a country, not as separate entities. We have become deliberate and intentional about learning how we can protect our employees and our companies in this changing landscape. We no longer operate under the misconception that there is really no re-inventing the wheel in loss prevention.

Crisis Management—The Foundation Upon Which Our Industry Was Built

Christopher McDonald, Senior Director of Loss Prevention, Dollar General

I was participating in a new training program at Babies”R”Us in Douglasville, Georgia. It was one of the few times that I was actually in town for the week and close to home in Atlanta. It happened to be my son’s second birthday, so I stayed local so I could be home to celebrate with the family. I remember that business in the store just immediately died off that morning, which we thought was strange. My wife called me and several of us went next door to the Best Buy store where we learned the news from twenty wide-screen TVs on their wall—very surreal. When we stepped outside to walk back to our store, one of the team said, “listen.” We stopped for a minute and the common response was, “I don’t hear anything.” That was very odd given the store was in the flight path for the Atlanta airport. The planes had stopped flying.

Given September 11th is my son’s birthday, I can frankly say it makes me very appreciative of what I have and how life’s turns can be so random. Any other week of the year would have virtually guaranteed that I would have been on a plane. But instead, I was able to be nearby during a crisis. When we had my son’s “official” party the following Saturday, we had fifty people at our house who all wanted to gather and celebrate a happy event after a week of sorrow.

Both personally and professionally, I think 9/11 made me more protective of things in life. Personally, I’m much more specific with my wife about where I am and where I’m going each week; calling her before I take off and when I land. Professionally, we have a standing rule in my team that electronic calendars must be up-to-date, so if we ever have a catastrophic communication failure we know were each team member is. We weren’t that detailed in 2001 and spent hours tracking people down. While I hate micromanagement, I want to have access to my team members in the event of an emergency. This has come in very handy in many smaller emergencies since 2001 and makes me appreciate a lesson well learned. Because of this rule we know where everyone is and can turn on a dime with the right people in the right place. It’s saved me many worries on many days.

While I would opine that as an industry we should continue to charge forward into both the technological and business acumen that retail affords our profession, we should also be very mindful of the foundation upon which our industry was built—that has always been crisis management. Whether it is a national crisis such as 9/11 or a catastrophic weather event, such emergencies allow us to show the professionalism and skills that are the basis from which we have grown our industry. Today, I would say as an industry we are more prepared, have focused our emergency and crisis-planning tools, and are relied upon by many government agencies as self-sustaining professional teams who can support and get our businesses back on their feet and serving our customers.

An “Innocence Lost” Feeling That Will Forever Exist

Mike Lamb, Vice President of Asset Protection, The Home Depot

I’ll never forget. I was in my office at our Atlanta-based Store Support Center and first became aware when a TV news report indicated that a plane had apparently struck one of the towers. Simultaneous to hearing that, my wife was in New York City on a business trip and was just exiting a cab at the base of one of the towers. She phoned me to ask what was going on and could I obtain more information on specifics. I watched in horror as seconds later, it was reported a second plane had struck the other tower. I cannot explain the fear upon realizing this was a planned terrorist attack. I immediately told my wife to hail the next available taxi and get out of there. Fortunately, she was able to make it back to JFK airport, but, of course, all air travel was immediately discontinued. I’ll also never forget how my fellow Home Depot associates came to her aid and escorted her out of the area where she remained for a week before she could make it back to Atlanta.

Personally, it was a shocking reality of how as a nation we are vulnerable to these types of horrific acts of terrorism and an “innocence lost” feeling that will forever exist. Professionally, it was a sobering reminder of how both in the public and private sector, much work needed to be done. There has been enormous change for our industry simply based on the notion that an event like this one should never again be repeated. Hopefully, this tragedy will serve as a constant reminder for all us.


The List of Issues to Deal with Was Mindboggling

Bill Turner, Senior Director of Retail Operations, Cole Haan

I was sitting in my office at Walt Disney World in Florida. As vice president of guest operations services, I was in charge of six operating divisions, one of them being security. We were without a director of security at the time so I had temporarily moved my office to the security complex, which also included the Communications Center and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the Florida property (42 square miles). I was about to begin my 9:00 a.m. weekly staff meeting in the EOC when my senior security manager walked in my office, turned on the TV, and said, “Something is going on in New York.” We went into the EOC where we had seven TV feeds and, as the directors gathered for our meeting, we watched the second plane hit. I immediately activated the EOC, and the calls were made. All members showed up within a half hour.

Besides trying to figure out what was going on like everyone else, we were now faced with what to do with 55,000 employees and upwards of 250,000 guests on the property. The Magic Kingdom was on “early admission” so there were guests in the park. When all of the EOC members were assembled, we made the decision to close the Magic Kingdom and keep all other parks, water parks, and public venues closed. So now, what do you do with all of the guests occupying 22,000 hotel rooms with nowhere to go? The list of issues to deal with was mindboggling—communication internally and externally; how to keep guests entertained; how to accommodate guests who were preparing to fly out, but now could not; whether or not to open on September 12; what did safety and security need to look like going forward, both immediately and in the future; what would happen to our business as a travel destination; how can we reassure the public that we are a safe place to visit; and a myriad of other issues. Needless to say, nobody left the EOC for almost 36 hours.

Obviously our experiences and challenges were a bit different than a typical retail store, although there are close to 500 retail locations on the property, but a lot of the issues would be similar to those of a large, regional mall. The subjects of awareness, preparedness, and action plans around terrorism are now major parts of most retailers’ crisis plans where they virtually, for the most part, didn’t exist before. In the case of Walt Disney World and the Disney organization in general, physical security and crisis planning, while very good before, are world class today.

Reengineering Corporate Security to Anticipate, Mitigate, and Handle Catastrophic Events

Paul Cogswell, CSO/Vice President of Corporate Security, Safety, and Compliance, Ceridian

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was home with our youngest daughter watching it live on TV. She had the flu and my wife had an engagement that could not be rescheduled. I remember watching with disbelief and thinking immediately about a time eight years earlier when I had just left the World Trade Center from a morning meeting and later found out that a device exploded in the Trade Center parking garage as I traveled to the airport.

My immediate concerns were that of my family and friends, having been a New Yorker for most of my early life. As the days unfolded, I learned I lost a good friend who was former FBI, a cousin who was an investment banker and whose father was a New York City policeman, and a business acquaintance who worked with an Insurance firm.

At the time I was the director of corporate investigations for Sears, Roebuck and Co. in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. One of our immediate concerns was the effort to locate, communicate, and return home over 300 employees who were traveling internationally. It was a harrowing, but instructive time.

The corporate investigations unit was honored to work with the FBI in gathering financial intelligence that lead to the capture of a number of individuals responsible for the direct and indirect support of this heinous undertaking. I have a letter of commendation from the FBI that sits on my desk for the great work our team did during the weeks following the event. It is there as a reminder that we need to be aware of how important our ability to work together is.

Several months after the incident, the corporate investigations unit was in New York and traveled to the site. We got a tour of the excavation by a retired fireman who lost his son. He volunteered at the site in hopes that their family could find some closure. He showed us the firehouse which, despite the complete devastation, remained standing. It had hundreds of fire helmets from all over the world from individuals who helped. In memoriam they left them there and the New York Fire Department placed them on the wall. It is a memory about the goodness and resilience of the people of our country that proves the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said that “Character is forged in times of conflict, not in times from convenience.”

The face of corporate security has changed dramatically since then. Counterterrorism efforts have become part of private and public sector culture, and security departments were reengineered to anticipate, mitigate, and handle catastrophic events. Business continuity plans were no longer just an academic exercise to keep on the shelf, especially as they relate to the new challenges post-9/11. Private and public sector security partnerships were forged that made the flow of intelligence more consistent and rich in content.

If we look back at a snapshot of September 10, 2001, of the security industry and compare it to one taken today, most of us would recognize that a great transformation has taken place; one that has elevated the craft and brought tools, techniques, talent, and acumen to the profession. More importantly, the industry has realized how important vigilant service is to the organization.

If I could pick one thing that has evolved from those events for our industry, it would be the willingness for us to share intelligence, best practices, and the weight of responsibility amongst our colleagues. As truly collaborative as we have been, I believe that those events served to further that goal within our industry. More than anything else, I credit that day as being responsible for changing each of us in a fundamental way toward our attitude of stewardship and service.

“This changes everything. America is under attack.”

Gary Johnson, Vice President of Loss Prevention, The Vitamin Shoppe

September 11, 2001, started off as a great day…cool, dry air, perfect blue sky, sunny. For some reason I was running late that Tuesday, but otherwise the commute into New York City was routine; that is, until I passed the Statue of Liberty, approaching Manhattan. I could see smoke high in the sky coming from the World Trade Center. Almost immediately, radio stations began reporting sightings of a small aircraft hitting the north tower. Shortly after 9:00, as I headed toward the Holland Tunnel, I could see the towers, the smoke, and then suddenly, I saw a commercial airplane emerge through the smoke. Flying at an extremely low altitude, the airliner banked and slammed directly into the south tower.

I knew instantly that this was no accident. The Holland Tunnel was immediately closed and cars were rerouted. Office workers evacuated buildings and ran into traffic. Chaos broke out and no one was getting through that tunnel into Manhattan.

Cell phone service was intermittent initially. Fortunately, I was able to reach Sara Mays, our regional LP manager, who lived in the city. I was director of loss prevention for Barnes & Noble at the time. She was already at the office and took the lead on administering our emergency plans and providing updates to our leadership.

The ability to maintain communication was considered a key failure in the 9/11 attack. As I was navigating my way back to my home office in New Jersey, I was able to reach our travel agency and identify the various Barnes & Noble associates who were flying that day and, thank goodness, we had no one on any of the hijacked planes.

We did have numerous folks traveling that day. We took steps to notify the families of our business travelers to let them know their loved ones were safe. Being outside the city with access to a land-line enabled us to reach everyone.

Then, I received a frantic call that I never expected. Unbeknownst to me, my brother-in-law who lived in Texas was in the city for an appointment with a client at the World Trade Center. He was in the midst of mass chaos as everyone in lower Manhattan was trying to get out of the city. Remember, Manhattan is an island. With bridges closed, tunnels closed, roadways closed or restricted, even the savviest New Yorker could not find a way out. After miles of walking and hours of waiting, he ultimately was able to get on a ferry to cross the Hudson. He then got on the first, albeit overloaded, commuter train westward to a destination where I could then drive him the remaining twenty miles to my home. As he got off the train, he had to be cleared by the medical and hazardous-materials team at makeshift treatment centers set up in the train station parking lot.

The sentiment I most remember thinking was, “This changes everything. America is under attack.”

Food as a Part of the Critical Infrastructure of the Country

Bill Heine, Senior Director of Global Security, Brinker International

I was scheduled to speak at a training conference on the morning of September 11th in New York, so I flew into Newark on a late flight on September 10th. I was tired and decided to deviate from my normal routine and catch a cab from the airport instead of getting a rental car. When we landed it was raining. As I approached the line to the cab stand, I quickly decided I was not going to stand in the rain and wait, so I went to the rental car counter and got a car.

I woke up the next morning to find the rain gone. It was a beautiful day outside. The sky was bright blue; the rain clouds long gone. The World Trade Center towers were framed in my hotel window. For some reason I had the TODAY show on TV, with the sound turned down as I was getting ready for my presentation. I looked out the window and saw smoke rising from the top of one of the towers. I assumed the restaurant was on fire. I remembered hosting my LP team there for drinks a few years prior. I turned the volume up on the TV and they were talking about a plane flying into the tower, and were trying to get confirmation. I went back to the window and stood just staring at the building and the smoke pouring out of the tower. As I stood at the window, I realized there was an actual hole in the building. I could not take my eyes off of the smoke pouring out of the building. I could hear them talking on TV about it being a small commuter plane.

As I was staring at the building, something came from the right; another plane, flying at an odd angle. The wings were dipped, it hit the other building, and a fireball shot out of the other side of the building. I knew I needed to do something, with forty restaurant managers down in the hotel meeting room, along with a training staff. I needed to make some phone calls. The first phone call I knew I had to make was to my Dad. My parents knew I was in New York, and I knew they would be watching one of those morning news programs. My father was at the Redskins vs. Eagles football game on December 7, 1941. He often spoke of how surreal it was to be there and hear the P.A. announcers calling for various military and government officials to leave the stadium. I now know how he felt. When I got my Dad on the phone, he said, “This is no accident; this is war.”

After speaking to my boss and other members of my family, I went down to the meeting room, cancelled the training, and notified all of the attendees to go home. We closed our restaurants in the market and sent everyone home. I walked outside the hotel. I could not see the twin towers from the street level, but I could see F-16 fighters flying low and fast, several of them. At one point they looked like a swarm of bees.

I went back up to my room. As I went to the window I saw a completely different scene. Instead of the twin towers framed in my hotel window, they were gone. All I could see was heavy, billowing smoke. It did not dawn on me that the buildings had collapsed. I assumed they had become engulfed in fire, and somewhere in all of that smoke the buildings were still there. It did not take too long before I realized the buildings had collapsed.

My boss told me our CFO and treasurer were at an investors’ conference, and, if I was in a safe place, to stay put until we had everyone on their way out of New York. It was at that moment I realized how lucky I was that I went ahead and rented a car the night before. I found out later in the day that we had one employee on the plane that crashed in Shanksville.

After making sure all of our people were either on their way home or in a safe place, I decided it was time to notify Hertz that I was taking the car to Dallas. They said my car was for local rental only, and they would charge me $3,000 if I drove the car to Dallas. I said, “Charge me” and on September 12th, I set out for Dallas with another employee in the car and one to pick up on the way. Ever since then on every trip I take, I rent a car that I will have no problem driving back to Dallas from wherever I am, no matter how short or long a trip I am taking.

One of the biggest challenges we had as a result of the airline shut down was getting out payroll. After 9/11 we made a major push for direct deposit and electronic payment for our employees. In addition, today I get a daily report of who in our company is traveling that day, where they are going, and their flight information.

In December, 2003 President Bush signed a Homeland Security Presidential Directive that placed food as a part of the critical infrastructure of the country. Our security program changed. I keep that rental car receipt under the glass on my desk to remind me of how important it is to be prepared for anything.

Thinking of Retail as Potential Targets

Jackie Andersen, Business Development Manager, Retail, Axis Communications

I was getting ready for an early flight from California to the East Coast. I remember hearing early reports of a plane hitting a World Trade Center tower and assumed it was a small plane. As I continued getting ready, it became apparent it was more serious, so I stopped getting ready and sat in front of the TV, knowing I would not be getting on a plane that day.

I then remembered my mother was clearing out my recently passed step-father’s office in the second tower and became worried when I could not reach her cell. Fortunately, I did find her safe nine heart-wrenching hours later. When the Pentagon was hit, then the plane down in Pennsylvania, I knew we were truly “under attack” and in the midst of an event that would change our world.

From that moment on, I knew nobody would trivialize being a security professional. I realized that regardless of the industry, there would be more focus on security going forward. It gave me a perspective I never had on early responders and the risk they take every day. I was heartened by how such an unspeakable tragedy could galvanize a community, country, and world. It changed our culture. It clearly showed us that the U.S. was not as secure as we thought we were. Personally, it made me understand that I needed to give back, and it became a priority from that day forward.

As an industry, 9/11 made how we think of and plan security a very important part of corporate mindset. Security was no longer a tolerated expense, but a necessary expense. It made security professionals globally rethink more wide-reaching strategies. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost and billions in revenue were lost with the ripple effect still affecting us today. We began thinking of retail environments as potential targets rather than places deploying straightforward LP strategies.

Rethinking Just How Vulnerable We All Are When in Public

James Carr, CFI, Director of Loss Prevention, Rent-A-Center

I was at the Pep Boys corporate headquarters in Philadelphia for a quarterly business review. I was a divisional director of LP at that time. I remember meeting in the boardroom with the operators when we were interrupted after the first tower had been hit. We quickly scrambled for the closest TV to witness the second tower being hit.

Since all the airports were closed, I had to figure out how to get home to my family in South Florida. I was able to purchase a train ticket from Philadelphia to West Palm Beach, but had to wait three days for a seat. The train took 36 hours, with not one empty seat. I was happy to be home.

Professionally, 9/11 changed everything immediately. What was once thought of as an unthinkable or highly unlikely event is now much more a reality. You have to assess the gaps in your program and develop initiatives and actions to mitigate your risks and protect your coworkers. In addition, you have to rethink just how vulnerable we all are when in public. Can I take my kids to the mall or a football game? Can I safely travel abroad?

Taking Crisis Management and Physical Security to the Next Level

Paul Jones, Global Director of Asset Protection, eBay

I was planning on taking the day off as we were in the process of moving from Florida to Ohio when my wife alerted me to the news of the first plane. After seeing the news, I headed to the office at Sunglass Hut. As vice president of loss prevention, I began our crisis management of the situation. We had several stores at the World Trade Center and were concerned about our associates. We later learned that everyone was safe. The Sunglass Hut stores and LP teams were a very close knit group, and everyone did an exceptional job through very rough circumstances.

On a personal note, I remember that night I went to a store in Miami looking for an American flag, but had to visit several stores because they were selling out. I got a few flags and put two on my car. I remember thinking, “Why as a proud American didn’t I already have some flags?”

Over the next few days we had a travel freeze and continued to prepare and plan for any unforeseen events. I remember the entire team, including our senior vice president of HR, watching the mass at the National Cathedral. At the end of the mass when the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung, the entire team was in tears. It is still emotional now to think about it. At that moment it was very clear we were at war with an enemy that I didn’t know a lot about. I had a flight the day the travel ban was lifted, and I remember myself and a colleague had a plan in case anyone attempted to approach the cockpit, which seems pretty silly now, but we were on high alert.

The event has made me more aware of the entire issue around terrorism. I have read a bunch on it, was certified as CHS3 (certified homeland security), and I will never forget the sight of the folks falling from the towers and the firefighters running in. Whenever I travel abroad, I am on high alert of potential threats because of the fact I am an American.

I believe September 11th was pivotal in prompting loss prevention executives to take crisis management and physical security efforts to the next level. We had to learn on the fly to build programs for attacks like 9/11 and the anthrax letters, which most of us had little to no experience with.


Random Events Are Difficult, if not Impossible, to Control

Bill Titus, Vice President of Loss Prevention, Sears Holdings

I was in the air flying to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for a routine store visit with Nancy Erichson. At that time I was SVP of loss prevention and risk management for OfficeMax. When we landed, pagers and cell phones began going off. Someone said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. When we exited the plane, we stopped at a bar across from the gate to catch up on the news. Just as we walked up, the second plane hit. By then it was obvious that there was a coordinated attack under way.

Nancy and I met with our Florida team and made the decision that we needed to return to Cleveland right away. With no planes flying, we tried to find a rental car. Ultimately, we found one in Orlando. We started our road trip with a quick stop at a Sears store for some additional necessities and hit the road. Two days later we arrived in Cleveland. Shortly after getting back, I found out that some people I knew were on the flight out of Boston headed for Los Angeles; a flight I took many times when I was with T.J.Maxx.

The events of September 11th caused me to think about how I protect my family, loved ones, and those customers and associates under my care from the random nature of these types of attacks. It also started me thinking about the thin veneer of society. Certainly there have been significant security upgrades and process changes, but to me the biggest take away from 9/11 is how random events are difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Even Non-LP Associates Are More Cognizant of Informing LP of Suspicious Activity

Frank Johns, Chairman, Loss Prevention Foundation

I was vice president of global loss prevention for Office Depot on September 11th. That event and others that followed dramatically changed the way we did business. The most important area of concern was physical security, looking for unusual activity at store level, including powder after the incidents of anthrax that came shortly after 9/11. It made my team become much more focused on a risk-avoidance strategy.

Personally, it became such a pain to fly that I began driving anyplace that was under five or six hours by car. Since then, ten hours is even okay. From a loss prevention standpoint, 9/11 has made even the non-LP associates more cognizant of informing loss prevention of suspicious activity. Before, we were never aware of all of the incidents that were transpiring in the field. But after 9/11 everyone became aware, and informed loss prevention of any issues.

It also put a new emphasis on installing business continuity and crisis management plans within a company. Most companies had neither, but this tragedy put much more urgency on developing these strategies to protect customers, associates, and company assets.


“Is there anything else we should be doing, boss?”

“Yeah, hug your kids.”

John Selevitch, Contributing Editor, LP Magazine

I was living in Los Angeles working as the divisional director of LP for Staples, so we were three hours behind the rest of the country that morning. Then, as now, I am a creature of habit. I would wake up at 5:30 a.m., make a pot of coffee, walk the dog, turn on the local news, jump in the shower, get dressed, and fight my way through LA traffic to my office in Santa Ana. I remember thinking as the TV came on around 6:00, seeing Katie Couric and Matt Lauer instead of my local news people, “This can’t be good.”

After that got my attention, I listened to Katie and Matt speculate how a “small plane” could have hit the north tower about 15 minutes earlier. Watching live video of the smoldering tower, I watched in absolute horror, as no doubt millions of others would, while what would later be identified as United Airlines flight 175, slammed into the south tower. The rest of that day is a blur of phone calls, emails, news accounts, shock, and sadness.

From a work perspective, our first priority was to account for all traveling field personnel. After my own team, we went through other functions, including HR, regional vice presidents, district managers, and others. A process that should have taken 15 minutes max, took an agonizing three hours. Never again. Every position I have held since then always has a process in place to know who’s traveling and where.

From my own perspective, I have always felt thankful. The Staples corporate headquarters is located outside of Boston, and American flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, the first plane to hit the tower, was my flight of choice each time I headed home. It usually left late, as it did that morning, but it was seldom full, so I usually got upgraded. Thinking about that always leads me to remember one of the last instructions I gave that day. One of my regionals asked, “Is there anything else we should be doing, boss?” I said, “Yeah, hug your kids.”

More Alert and with a “What If” Attitude

Gene Smith, President, Loss Prevention Foundation

On the morning of September 11th, I was in my office at Downing & Downing in Mentor, Ohio, talking on the phone as usual. I do not recall who I was talking to, but that person told me that they just heard that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. I hung up the phone, walked into the conference room, and turned on the television only to then watch in awe as the second plane hit. Just before the second plane arrived, the rest of the staff and I were discussing that we hoped the first plane was an accident. When the second plane hit, we knew instantly it was no accident. I distinctly remember getting the feeling that what I was watching was something that was going to lead to something much larger than just two planes hitting the towers. I remember wondering if the towers could survive such a direct hit and subsequent fire. I had flashbacks of having taken a dozen or more trips to the top to show visitors the observation deck. I remembered how tall they really were and how my young son had taken a picture looking straight up of the tower front. At the time I thought that was a wasted photo, but now I cherish that picture more than ever. I also recalled how I had dinner once in the Windows of the World with my ADT national account reps, Bill Morris and Tony DeSefano. It was cloudy that day and we were above the clouds. I also remembered watching a helicopter fly by below us…then in absolute disbelief, I was brought back to reality when the first tower fell. We were stunned! Then all we could say was “Oh my god!” It is one of those times you really don’t want to believe is real. Similar to watching the news reports about President Kennedy’s assassination—shock and disbelief. I started thinking about how many people were on those planes and how many people were still in the tower, and then before my eyes the second one went down. All you could do was think of the thousands of families and how they were watching in horror as their loved ones were perishing before their eyes.

Since 9/11, I personally have become much more cautions when flying or when I am around large groups of people like at sporting events. I spend more time trying to be more alert and with a “what if” attitude. Every time I travel I think about how much more of a hassle it is now than before 9/11. I am always monitoring my surroundings and trying to be aware of suspicious people. Who thought it would ever have happened? It could happen again. I feel my personal freedom has been restricted. Going across the border to Canada and returning was like driving to another state. Now I feel instead of going to a good neighbor, I am truly going to a foreign country. Corporate America has become much more focused on the potential of a crisis or business interruption due to a terrorist attack. I remember doing bomb-threat planning in my days in retail loss prevention, but it was not near the extent that is done today. It has clearly become more important to every company in America. It even became a major part of our LP certification program.

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