John N. Tognino (FCLS ’75), chairman of the Fordham University Board of Trustees, met with colleagues and friends from the Wall Street and Fordham communities on June 13 to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001 for a leading Chinese magazine.
Chinese journalist and author Helen Yi Chen asked Tognino to organize the group interview at the Lincoln Center campus for a special issue of BQ Beijing Youth Weekly devoted to the ten-year anniversary of 9/11. Chen said her aim was to share the experiences and emotional responses of those who witnessed the events of 9/11 first-hand—accounts that remain unknown to most Chinese readers.
Her article, to be published nationwide in China in August of 2011, will also trace the life journeys that have unfolded for each interviewee since the events of that tragic day.
On September 11, 2001, Tognino was traveling down the West Side Highway on his way to work as the executive vice president of the NASDAQ Stock Market when he saw the first plane crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Despite the onrush of emergency vehicles to the financial district, Tognino’s first instinct was to go directly to the NASDAQ building to make sure all the members of his team were safe and accounted for.
This decision put him in the vicinity of the falling towers, leading him to become completely cloaked in soot and having to make his way by foot to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to escape the chaotic scene.
While Tognino said his first response was “one of great anger,” that feeling soon turned into a resolve to do whatever he could to help. He recalled how he and his NASDAQ colleagues immediately reassembled in Trumbull, Conn. where they set up a telephone center to assist broker-dealers from around the country, all of whom had been affected by the events of 9/11 in one way or another.
Lisa Carroll, who is now the associate director for NASDAQ but on 9/11 was the director of special events, recalled arriving at Trumbull to man the phones and asking Tognino, “What’s the script?” To which he replied, “There’s no script. You pick up the phone and you ask people, ‘What can we do to help? What do you need?’”
|John N. Tognino recalls being completely cloaked in soot as he tried to reach the NASDAQ building on 9/11.
Photo by Ryan Brenizer
Also interviewed were Jack Hughes, president & CEO of JP Hughes Consulting LLC; Karen Kaiser, partner, Strategic Initiatives, LLC; James Toes, FCRH ’85 (Economics), president & CEO of the Security Traders Association; Kimberly Unger, Esq., executive director of Security Traders Association of New York, Inc.; and Joan Cavanagh, associate director of Campus Ministry at Fordham University.
The themes of regeneration and hope emerged in the stories recounted by all the interviewees. Taken together, their accounts presented a portrait of camaraderie and compassion amongst those in the Wall Street community in the days and months following the tragedy.
Toes, who worked as a trading manager for Merrill Lynch at the time, described the impact of September 11 on his particular neighborhood, which lost many people who had worked in the financial sector.
Toes said that he continues to see the resilience of the human spirit in watching the growth and development of the children who lost parents on 9/11. “They are an inspiration to us all to keep on going,” he said.
Cavanagh reflected on the great losses suffered by the Fordham community that day, including relatives, friends, colleagues, children, and alumni.
“Ten years later, I still can’t believe that happened,” she said.
Both Cavanagh and Tognino noted the role the University played in beginning the healing process, bringing the Wall Street and Fordham communities together in memorial services soon after the tragedy. Those communities will come together again this September 11 for an event at Fordham to mark the ten-year anniversary.
Chen’s connection to Fordham comes by way of her involvement with the Beijing International MBA program (BiMBA), a consortium of Jesuit business schools at Peking University’s China Center for Economic Research. Through writing about BiMBA, Chen forged a friendship with Tognino, which has led to her current 9/11 project.
In thanking the interviewees for their participation, Chen said that she hoped that the sharing of 9/11 stories would act as a bridge, helping to open a gateway between America and China.
– Nina Romeo