Notre Dame’s Mendoza College Reflects on September 11

"I got down on my knees in the middle of the sidewalk and prayed," said Angela (Smith) Cobb ('93), a senior consultant for Deloitte & Touche in New York City. Fifteen minutes earlier when the first plane struck, Cobb had been in her World Financial Center office, directly across the street from the World Trade Center. After evacuating the building, Cobb could see that the Trade Center was crumbling. While her colleagues stood mesmerized by the sight, Cobb removed her dress shoes and started walking. She made it several blocks south when the second plane hit. "I saw the second plane crash and suddenly it was a different world. It became clear that this was not an accident." Minutes after offering her heartfelt prayer, Cobb encountered two strangers who walked her 88 blocks north to safety. Someone noticed that she was barefoot and gave her a pair of socks to wear. The strangers whowalked north with Cobb let her stay at their apartment until she could makearrangements to leave the city. "People are opening up to one another and caring for one another in a way they never have before," said Cobb. "There is a consciousness about what is important that wasn'tthere before September 11."

Warin Suwannacheep (MBA '00) stood helpless as people jumped from the Trade Center to their deaths. When the second plane hit the building before her very eyes (a consultant for Morgan Stanley, her office was on the 68th floor of 2 World Trade Center), Suwannacheep started running south. As 2 World Trade Center collapsed, Suwannacheep caught a subway to her apartment in Brooklyn. She went back to work that Thursday at Morgan Stanley's Brooklyn office. "We've tried to get back to normal, but I'll never forget what happened on September 11. In one day my office was completely destroyed; I lost everything."

At the same time that Smith and Suwannacheep were escaping Ground Zero, Joe Prochaska ('73), controller for Aon Corporation-a Fortune 500 company specializing in risk management and insurance brokerage-was watching CNN from his home in Chicago. The Manhattan branch of Aon, a global corporation with headquarters in Chicago, occupied the 92nd to 104th floors of 2 World Trade Center. Prochaska and his Chicago colleagues sprung into action, setting up a 36-line phone center that took thousands of calls, 24 hours a day for four days straight. "We knew we had to give employees' families and clients a number to call, so we fired up 800 numbers on our Web site and on television and radio stations in New York City." Aon's phone center created files for each WTC employee. "When a file grew thicker, we knew there was a problem," said Prochaska. Teams of Aon employees in New York created cell phone trees, culling information where they could and relaying it back to the Chicago phone center. Phone bank staffers also directed upset callers to Aon-provided crisis counseling. Aon had more than 1,100 employees that worked in 2 WTC; 180 are missing and presumed dead. "A lot of our people spent weeks going to memorial services. I'm not sure any of us will declare life 'normal' the way we used to. We're all still a little shell-shocked," said Prochaska.

The University of Notre Dame was quick to respond to the events of September 11. Father Malloy canceled classes and activities, declaring 9/11 to be a Day of Prayer. That afternoon, an estimated 7,000 students, faculty and staff gathered on the South Quad to celebrate a special mass. Within 24 hours of the tragedy, the College had established an informational Web site for MBA alumni concerned about ND friends and family. Marita Connor (MBA '98), director of MBA alumni relations, designed and maintained the site. "Our web site had more than 1,000 'hits' during the months of September and October," said Connor. "It gave MBA alumni peace of mind about the safety of their friends."

Domers also gave generously of their time and talents. "Our MBA studentsraised $14,000 and the MIS club raised more than $5,000 to help in relief efforts. It's a fitting expression of the care and compassion of our community," said Dean Carolyn Woo. Before the September 22nd home football game against Michigan State University, students in the master of science in accountancy program handed out more than 30,000 red, white and blue ribbons attached to a card inscribed with the peace prayer of St. Francis of Assissi. Three hundred ND students organized a collection during the game that raised more than $270,000 for the families of New York City firefighters and police officers.

In November, the College's Business Advisory Council devoted a half-day session of their annual meeting to a discussion of the effects of 9/11 onbusiness. Dorothy Dolphin, chair of the board of Dolphin Holdings in Minneapolis said that she has seen a dramatic shift in the staffing business. "We have talented people, but no orders to fill," said Dolphin. Similarly, Zein Nakash (MBA '91), vice president of marketing and environmental affairs for SuperClubs Resorts, reported that the travel industry has been hit hard. "After September 11, the phones started ringing off the hook with cancellations. After the anthrax scares, we were hit with another wave of cancellations. People don't want to fly or leave the country. For the first time in 25 years, we've had to lay off staff.

"While many businesses are suffering, several board members' companies emerged from the tragedy stronger than ever. Air travel across the board plummeted following the events of September 11, but private jet travel is another story altogether. Ken Ricci ('78), chairman and chief executive office of Flight Options, Inc., said, "After the summer, we were preparing for a slow down. But after September 11, business immediately picked up. In the month of October we had more sales than we had in the whole first quarter of the year. Our industry is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth." Unposted travel destinations and familiarity between passengers and pilots make people more at ease with private jet service.

The chairman of the New York Blood Center, John R. Mullen ('53) experienced first-hand the public's reaction to 9/11. "Traditionally, we have had difficulty getting people to respond to blood drives. But within a matter of hours of the WTC being hit, we had more than 700 people lining the streets near our New Jersey facility. They waited hours to give blood." said Mullen. The greater challenge to the New York Blood Center, which collects and supplies nearly ten percent of the United States' entire blood supply, is convincing people to keep giving. "We were prepared for a crisis, but few patients came," said Mullen. "Now-given the short shelf life of blood-our task is to keep people motivated to keep giving."

John Ryan's Mine Safety Appliances Company (MSA) equipped rescue workers with the necessary gear to search for survivors in the World Trade Center rubble. MSA supplied a high-tech thermal-imaging camera that allowed firefighters and police officers to "see" through thick smoke and debris. Under police escort, MSA trucks, loaded with inventory from their Pittsburgh headquarters, arrived by 2:00 pm on September 11 at Ground Zero. Within three days, MSA had shipped more than $7 million worth of goods to the site. Ryan ('65), MSA Chairman and CEO, also sent a quarter of his sales force from around the United States to Ground Zero to train rescue workers to use MSA products. In addition to the Evolution 4000, MSA also makes gas masks, including the MCU2P and the Millennium mask. Demand for these products, which have twice been featured in Time magazine, has skyrocketed. "We are in the process of doubling production," said Ryan. "Before we had plenty of stock; now we are sold out."

Fiber-optic lines damaged by the September 11th tragedy provided an unexpected opportunity for TeraBeam, a Seattle-based wireless technology firm that transmits data via lasers at a gigabit per second. Merrill Lynch employees, relocated from Ground Zero to midtown Manhattan and Jersey City, needed to access their data, which was housed in a facility next to the World Trade Center. Using transportable laser transmitters (which are about the size of a small satellite dish) TeraBeam was able, in a matter of days, to set up a system that allowed Merrill Lynch to connect their people to their data. TeraBeam's unique partnership with Merrill Lynch garneredsignificant media attention, including articles in The Wall Street Journal, Time and The Washington Post. "The service has been working terrifically well," says Dan Hesse ('75), chairman, president and CEO of TeraBeam. "Merrill Lynch wouldn't have taken a chance on us under normal circumstances. But it's worked so well for Merill Lynch that they are planning to keep our services in addition to the fiber-optic lines. A lot of potential clients have learned about TeraBeam from Merrill Lynch.