I Can’t Let Go of the Memory

By Rebecca Shafer, JD

I am alive and so is my family, which means I don't have the same rights to September 11 grief as some of my co-workers at Marsh and AON. I know this and though each year memories fade of colleagues lost that day and I lose contact with survivors permanently scarred by the events, it is hard to let go.

Each year I try.

For those who don't know, my life-long career in workers’ compensation was greatly affected by the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. The two companies where I spent the majority of my workers’ compensation cost-containment career were located in the World Trade Center buildings. My former employer and workers’ compensation leviathan, Marsh, was on floors 93 through 100 in the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center. This was precisely at the point of American Airlines Flight 11 impact, 8:46 a.m. My other company, AON, a colossal insurance brokerage and risk management firm, for whom I led the workers’ compensation cost containment practice in the mid-1990’s, was also located at the site, on floors 98 through 105 in 2 World Trade Center, the South Tower. It was struck on floors 77 through 85 by United Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m. and collapsed first at 9:59 a.m.


Marsh, then called Marsh & McLennan, was the first major broker to institutionalize the practice of workers’ compensation cost containment. I led the development effort and Harry Taback was my boss (photo at right), a huge proponent of providing the service to their clients. He was lost that day and left behind three daughters and a wife. Several years later, I had moved from Marsh to AON and Richard Keane from Wethersfield, CT, took my place running Marsh’s worker’ compensation cost containment practice. He occupied my old office at Marsh’s Hartford, CT, location but traveled into NYC for a meeting in Tower 1 Sept. 11 and was killed. My fortune at his expense was similar to colleague Pamela Newman's, an account executive at AON who was lucky enough to be traveling OUT of NYC Sept. 11, 2001. She subsequently became the defacto collector of lists of those who were safe, those who were not, and those who were still missing as reports rolled in that horrible day and the days that followed. These events and near misses have left me with the chilling remembrance that it could have been me. It continually reminds me that today is really the only day we have.                                                                                                            


So great were both companies' losses in 2011 that I came out of retirement; so many of the risk management experts died that day, working on the affected floors that additional help was needed by those of us who had left the company prior to that day. I still have not been able to return to retirement. My missed retirement is nothing though compared to Richard's death. He left behind five sons and a wife.


I don't make plans on Sept. 11 because I feel I need to keep the day sacred, to remember the victims. Several years ago, when my hometown Storrs, CT, wanted to have its annual Town Parade and Fair that day, I objected and another date was chosen. Each year, I spend the anniversary indoors, watching TV coverage, usually all day, and often wonder who else, affected on the margins as I was, does the same thing. In 11 years, survivors remarry, children grow up, companies merge, employees leave – it is a whole new landscape out there and many people in our industry do not know the history of colleagues that were lost before they entered the field. But it is as if those directly touched by the attacks have a tattoo of 9/11 on their souls – a permanent mark.


I have a tribute book published by The New York Times, Portraits of Grief 9/11/01, which lists each victim like a Who's Who of Tragedy. There's something about that book; it sits there and I can't get rid of it, but it's not something one digs into often, either. I even thought I would give away the book last year – it had been 10 years, after all. But I looked inside and just couldn't throw it away or donate it because that didn't seem right. The book’s publisher, the New York Times, was one of our favorite clients; we all worked together on a workers' compensation consulting project for the New York Times. Bob Ferris (photo above left) had a soft spot for the New York Times account. Bob was one of my consultants at AON Management Institute and I remember driving with him once on our way to the Trade Center for a meeting down Henry Hudson Parkway on the west side of Manhattan because our Manhattan office had been recently relocated to the World Trade Center. Rumor had it that the rent was cheap because of the prior bombings at that location. It was a long drive and we could see the towers in the distance. They were massive, and as we got closer to them we had a casual conversation about "Wow, they are soo big. What if there was ever a fire in there?" We were thinking “fire” as the worst case scenario but we never really thought it could happen because, well, so many safety measures are in place, right? But Bob was killed and is in that book. This kind of magical logic that keeps me tied to my grief. I cannot help myself. And, frankly, I'm not sure if I should give it up because it would be like throwing what little I have left of them away, too.


Marsh and AON have done a remarkable job with their memorial websites. If you care to share the memories of those who have made an imprint on this industry in the past, their websites are below.
Marsh Memorial: http://memorial.mmc.com/
You can read Becki's past essays on the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks here and here.


Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.


 Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Contact Mstack@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com. 

MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php


Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.


©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Tribute to Marsh and AON Colleagues Killed Sept. 11, 2001 — 10 Years Later


It is human nature
to forget and move on from tragedy. Most of us do … eventually. But those of you new to Work Comp Roundup may not know our ties to Sept 11, 10 years ago today. We will never move on, only adapt.
Nestled in the World Trade Center Towers were two of the largest insurance brokers in the world, Marsh and AON – giants in workers compensation. As Roundup’s founder, I had been an employee of both companies and had recently retired when the towers fell. Nearly 600 people, so many friends and colleagues, were lost that day between those two companies. Some of these people were key to the field of workers' compensation cost containment, working beside us and supporting our efforts to build cost containment into formalized practices. They helped bring cost reduction to many companies.
A horrible day, with information coming in slowly and unsurely about survivors. On TV, they told us how exit procedures “should” be working. Many tried to evacuate but were told everything was under control, so they went back into the building. Some, who were leaving despite the "all clear" messages, found people crammed so tightly in the stairwells from the 35th floor down that it was difficult to get out. Firefighters were trying to get up the stairs; building occupants were trying to get down.
Myself and everyone who had worked for Marsh and AON, or was still working there, were calling around, trying to find out who was missing, who had checked in, and who were known to be safe. Several senior company employees were doing their best to keep as many people as possible informed, while also making plans to get to New York to help. AON is based in Chicago, so some there were trying to decide if they should go to New York or wait to be given direction. At AON, Pamela Newman told us who had been located as news slowly trickled in; news was slow because there were no longer office phones. At Marsh, Jim Connolly was letting me know who was found while trying to organize a remote response. One supervisor, Phil Petronis, was found. Another, Harry Taback, was not. As the first broker to institutionalize workers compensation cost containment, Harry and Phil were at the helm.
Since many were still turning up at local hospitals, there was a lot of people-matching going on. The list of victims was not firmed up. Who was traveling? Who was in the building at that time? Who got out?
Harry, my former boss at M&M PC, a unit of Marsh, was on the impact floors at 1 World Trade Center. We saw the son of a colleague from AON, Bob Ferris, on TV holding a photo of his dad – looking, looking. We learned days later Bob did not make it. In many cases, we didn't actually hear that someone didn't make it, but rather we just never heard that they did, or we saw that a memorial service was scheduled. Even the safety experts on the news were people from the company — experts in building safety. While we waited for information, professionals talked about what fire can do to a building – or a person.
Many of us did not like working in such huge, tall buildings, and had been disappointed to have our offices moved to that location. Some of us were safety professionals who knew the dangers of being in such a large building. They imagined the impossibility of getting out of such a building if it were to burn, and we talked about it once when we saw the buildings looming ahead of us as we drove down the Henry Hudson Parkway on the west side of Manhattan enroute to the World Trade Center. No one ever imagined this, however.
Sept. 11 was a day of meetings at the Trade Center. The man who replaced me when I left Marsh, Richard Keane, sat at my old desk in Hartford, CT. That day he made a rare trip to Marsh’s New York office. It was a meeting I would have attended. He was killed that day, and left five sons and his wife.
The only blessing is that Marsh, on floors 93 through 100 in the North Tower, 1 World Trade Center, was smack-dab at the point of the AA Flight 11 impact, 8:46 a.m. I’d like to think they neither saw what was coming, nor suffered. We will never know. Apparently, almost no one above floor 92 survived.
AON was on floors 98 through 105 in 2 World Trade Center, the South Tower. It was struck on floors 77 through 85 by United Flight 175 at 9:03 a.m. and was the first to collapse at 9:59 a.m. Some people above the point of impact in this tower were able to escape but it is from this tower where the horrible images of employees jumping comes from. It is something I cannot get out of my head. It’s hard thinking that your colleagues may have had to make that kind of choice.
The events were so tragic that some of us will no longer work in high buildings. When we have to stay in hotels, we request “low floors,” accessible by fire equipment. We make sure we know where the fire escapes are and how the windows open. We pay attention to evacuation drills. It will be like this for the rest of our lives.
One friend I know still works for a broker in NY and was in the Trade Center Sept. 11. She had to crawl out over some of her dead colleagues to get to the stairwell. She made it out, but is a very quiet person now. A regular day at the office turned into a war-like memory. No one expects that. She and I simply never talk about it.
Life marches on. There was a need. Insurance may not be the most glamorous business – but it is a necessary business, and all of the Marsh and AON employees were dedicated to the business and to each other. Injured workers deserve compensation and companies must budget appropriately to stay in business. There will always be a need for insurance.
My focus changed. Those of us who had been retired from Marsh and AON, quickly accepted assignments to do whatever was needed to help. I had been retired, but went back to work to help complete several projects for AON that employees who died in the Trade Center would not be able to finish. I finished Lisa’s project as an outsourced risk manager for a Stamford-based company. She worked off-site several days each week at this position, but on Sept. 11, 2001, she was in her office at AON in lower Manhattan, in the South Tower.
It is human nature to forget. To heal and move on. But, for those of us touched by this horrible event and lucky enough to survive – we know – if we forget, there is no one left to tell the story.
Marsh and AON have done a remarkable job with their memorial websites. If you care to share the memories of those who have made an imprint on this industry in the past, their websites are below.
Marsh Memorial: http://memorial.mmc.com/
Author: Rebecca Shafer, J.D. Rebecca is a national industry leader in the field of workers’ compensation cost containment. She can be reached at RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com   www.LowerWC.com and https://blog.reduceyourworkerscomp.com

Aon and Marsh Colleagues Are Missed

We miss our friends and colleagues lost in the World Trade Center on Sept 11, 2001. Marsh and Aon, two industry giants, the largest insurance brokers in the world, both very influential in the field of workers' compensation cost containment, were both located in the World Trade Center Towers. Between the two companies, nearly 600 people were lost. For those of us in the insurance industry, we all knew many people who were killed that day. I am proud to have been an employee of both companies. 

While the world was in shock, it was especially difficult for employees of Marsh and Aon. We were calling around to our friends, trying to find out who was missing and who had checked in and were known to be safe. At Aon, Pamela Newman kept me and others informed of who had been located. At Marsh, Jim Connolly was letting me know who had been located. Our boss, Phil, was found. Our other boss, Harry, was not. I had been retired, but went back to work for Aon to complete several projects that had been in process.

Many of the employees traveled, so it wasn't easy to figure out who had been at the office that day, and who had been traveling. The lucky ones were traveling. We lost our bosses, safety and loss control professionals, claims experts, friends we had known during our entire working lives. George, Harry, Bob, Lars, Adam, Richard and many other would not be found. The days that followed were excruciating for the country, but especially difficult for Marsh and Aon as we learned who among our friends and colleagues would not be coming to the office any longer.

Seeing our colleague, Bob Ferris's son hold up a photo of their dad on national television as they hoped he was at a local hospital or someone had seen him, brought unspeakable sorrow. We waited by our phones for calls that never came. It's still hard, some of us do not go into tall buldings, others don't speak about it. We all realize life can change in an instant.

Marsh and Aon have done a remarkable job with their memorial websites. If you care to share the memories of those who have made an imprint on this industry in the past, their websites are below.

Aon Memorial: http://www.legacy.com/aon/Sept11/SearchResult.aspx?location=WTC

Marsh Memorial: http://memorial.mmc.com/

Author: Rebecca Shafer

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