Nineteen years ago this morning, New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, became scenes of great and historic tragedy following abhorrent acts of evil on a day that would simply become known as 9/11.
Nearly two decades later our nation still grapples with the events of that morning, which have left an imprint on the national psyche. Rarely present in public discourse today, there remains a permanent cognizance of September 11, 2001, among those of a certain age who remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that morning.
I was working in my office at Fidelity Capital in Boston preparing for a day of meetings, many of which would be canceled or turned into distracted conversations about the day’s events. It feels like yesterday to me.
As always, tragedies present opportunities for grace, and 9/11 was no exception.
In the days and weeks after September 11, 2001, stories began to emerge about acts of heroism and bravery. Many first responders who arrived at the scene that morning paid the ultimate price in valiant attempts to rescue others. The actions of the passengers and crew of United Flight 93 who attempted to take control of their hijacked plane is the stuff of legend. Volunteers came from across the country to dedicate themselves to the months-long recovery effort in southern Manhattan where the Twin Towers fell.
There were stories of heroes like Welles Crowther, the so-called “Man in the Red Bandana,” a trader at Sandler O’Neill who made multiple trips into the World Trade Center to lead others to safety before meeting his fate when the towers collapsed.
Crowther’s story is captured in a book I recommend because his short life was one of heroism and inspiration. Our alma mater, Boston College, annually recognizes his sacrifice and uses the red bandana as a symbol by which to praise him.
Maybe those who paid the highest price in New York that morning were first responders at the scene who streamed into those burning skyscrapers in an attempt to get to those who were trapped. An estimated 400 public safety workers – firefighters, police officers, emergency medical workers – lost their lives. Some who survived continue to cope with physical and psychological harm incurred at Ground Zero. According to a report published this week, more than 125,000 people, including 79,000 first responders, have enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, and at least 18,000 have been diagnosed with a 9/11-related cancer according to federal statistics.
Through our government market segment, Empower serves the needs of first responders from coast to coast. Thanks to the special rules set forth by the tax code covering 457(b) plans, these workers receive special treatment as they prepare for retirement because of the often difficult requirements of their duties. It is the least we can do for these workers, and Empower is proud to serve them.
It has been much remarked upon that 2020 has offered particular challenges due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Once again, stories have emerged this year about acts of heroism among public sector workers – particularly public health workers, doctors, nurses and schoolteachers whose duties put them in harm’s way.
As an organization, we’ve earned the trust of many public sector employers and their retirement plan participants who rely on us to help them achieve the financial security they will want at the end of their careers. It is not a duty we take lightly.
If you are reflecting on 9/11 today, please remember those who will walk into the fire for the rest of us.