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At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2011, the first plane hit the World Trade Center‘s North Tower, stopping stockbrokers and passersby in their tracks outside the New York Stock Exchange. (Ting-Li Wang/THE NEW YORK TIMES)
At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2011, the first plane hit the World Trade Center‘s North Tower, stopping stockbrokers and passersby in their tracks outside the New York Stock Exchange. (Ting-Li Wang/THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Locked inside the NYSE on Sept. 11 Add to ...

Since our inaugural Top 1000 issue in 1984, Report on Business magazine has been reporting on the highs and lows in business, from around the world. Some of the juiciest stories, however, were the ones we never reported. Read all 12 articles here.


I had just finished a report from the New York Stock Exchange when the CNN anchor cut to the stunning scene at the World Trade Center. It was one of those perfect fall days, clear and crisp under a pure blue sky. And against that sky, horror. I stood there on the floor of the exchange and watched as the second plane hit. Minutes later, there was a collective gasp from the traders around me, as the electronic news crawl high on the wall told us that the Pentagon was under attack, too.

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For a few minutes, we all thought the markets would still open, and the traders were tense, braced for a huge drop. Instead, we watched on our TV monitors as the two buildings fell. The debris that blew across Lower Manhattan also blew into the exchange, its open stairwells filling with smoke and causing panic–were we on fire, too? Then came an announcement over the NYSE’s PA system: As a potential target for attack, the exchange’s emergency response system was about to be activated. We could either leave the building or be locked in. I opted to stay, and iron gates soon rolled down over the exits, sealing us inside.

With phone lines across Lower Manhattan dead–except for one line that miraculously still worked and was mobbed by all of us reporters, calling in updates to our respective networks–most of the people locked in had no way of reaching the outside world. I watched, helpless, as friends and colleagues waited in agony for news of loved ones who worked in the towers. Traders I knew to be fast-talking and jocular were quiet and anxious.

That day taught me perspective. The pain felt by others–and it was a pain that would only swell in the days to come, as hope for missing loved ones turned to the agony of loss–was a reminder that I was among the lucky. There were the dead, of course, but also the grief-stricken, and those whose own narrow escape would haunt them forever. There were the people I knew who were unharmed, but who saw things nobody should have to see. And there was an entire city that suddenly felt victimized and exposed.

When we were released two hours later, it was into eerily silent streets filled ankle-deep with dust and scattered documents. Some rushed toward the debris, looking for news of friends and family. I walked north, to the bureau. My producer and I were assigned to the makeshift morgue set up at Chelsea Piers, where dozens of doctors awaited the wounded. As the hours ticked on, we all realized the same thing: There were no wounded. There would be no survivors.

Amanda Lang wrote the Off the Clock column for Report on Business magazine from 2004 to 2009. She is the senior business correspondent for CBC News and the author of The Power of Why.

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