9/11 – And the Man in a Red Suit

Where were you 18 years ago when the planes hit the World Trade Center?

I vividly recall that nightmarish day. Some of my co-workers and I watched the tragic situation unfold on TV after the first plane struck. We all thought this was a terrible accident, as did the national newscasters. The disturbing scene of billowing smoke high over the skyline of lower Manhattan looked like the aftermath of a bomb blast.

How could this have happened, we wondered?

How could a commercial jetliner crash into one of the most iconic buildings in America? It was a perplexing question, but not for long. It was obvious this was no accident after the second plane hit. Rather, it was the worst attack on the American homeland since Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese during World War II.

President Roosevelt called the Pearl Harbor attack, “A date which will live in infamy.” The same can be said of 9/11.

My office at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was near the White House. The EEOC was evacuated as rumors spread about other planes targeting Washington. Then another jetliner flew into the Pentagon. Fear spread. Panic ensued. People were stunned.

A nightmare became reality: the USA was under attack!

The Red Suit

I was concerned about my co-workers in EEOC’s New York District Office, which was located in an auxiliary building of the World Trade Center complex. Fortunately, everyone was safely evacuated. Then the Twin Towers fell. Bystanders scampered for cover. A colossal dust cloud engulfed the area for blocks. Later, our New York office crumbled to the ground.

One of my coworkers there told me a story about the man in a red suit. The story epitomized the horror of the day. Larry observed some of the trapped employees jumping from the higher floors of the World Trade Center as walls of flame drew near. But Larry couldn’t get one person out of his mind: the man in the red suit who was in free fall.

Why, Larry asked himself, would anyone wear a red suit in New York City’s financial district? It didn’t make any sense amid all the death and destruction.

Larry was haunted by this sight and couldn’t stop thinking about it. He was plagued by recurring nightmares until learning the truth in therapy. The man Larry watched jump was not wearing a red suit. He was on fire plummeting to his death. The man had appeared as a flash of red to Larry. This looked like a red suit in his traumatized state. Larry’s mind had played tricks as he struggled to process the horror — like so many others who bore witness to that fateful day.

The Takeaway

We must never forget the 3,000 people who perished on September 11, 2001.

We must always remember the countless families and friends who lost loved ones. Their pain is everlasting.

  • We must always honor the victims, no matter how many years pass.
  • We must continue to educate young people who came of age after 9/11.
  • We must dispel online conspiracy theories with facts.

America must never let her guard down again — and with good reason.

As 20th century philosopher and novelist, George Santayana, famously said:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.


David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberg
David is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter, and literary PR agent on issues of workforce diversity, equal employment opportunity, race and gender equity, and other social justice causes. He is a former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he managed media relations for agency headquarters and 50 field offices nationwide for over a decade. Prior to his public service at the EEOC, David was a young political appointee for President Bill Clinton in the White House: Office of Presidential Personnel, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A native New Yorker and University of Maryland graduate, David began his career in journalism. You can find David online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Good Men Project, Thrive Global, BIZCATALYST 360°, and American Diversity Report.

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  1. Stunning David. Weeping a few times today including right before my flight this afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny day just like I remember it being that day as I sat on top of my desk staring out the window of my highrise apartment in Chicago with my eyes darting back forth scanning the skyline from the Sears Tower to O’Hare as the news was continually being broadcasted from my TV. First thing this morning, I thought about the families, friends and rescuers. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to witness firsthand. Reading about Larry’s realization made me gasp and the tears flowed again.

    I was also thinking about the people who were too young to remember or not even born. How will they understand the magnitude of this? They can’t understand it the same way but my hope is the same as yours and my hope is that somehow we can cultivate a more unified and compassionate country.

    David thank you for this achingly powerful heartbreaking reminder. We must never forget.

    • Shelley: I’m grateful for your taking the time to read and comment.

      More unity, compassion and empathy are badly needed today in the USA, as you so astutely observe. September 11th will continue to haunt countless thousands of Americans for the rest of their lives. Our prayers are with all those affected by this historic tragedy.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, which is most appreciated.

  2. I absolutely agree! I remember the call from my husband, what I was wearing and who my last client was. At the time, we were living outside of Boston where I still see clients. The terrorism changed our lives forever! We must never ever forget, and sadly, yes, we must remain alert. I love Santayana’s quote. I use it quite frequently. Thank you for this!?

    • Darlene: I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment. Everyone has a unique story to tell about that tragic day in history. And it’s important to keep telling our stories to better educate and inform a new generation of leadership who is coming of age in the post-9/11 world of fake news and conspiracy theories.
      I hope Millennials and Gen Z reflect on Satayana’s wise words on Patriots Day and every day.

    • Len: Thanks very much for your valuable feedback. You make an excellent point, with which I agree. Let’s keep hoping and praying for better days ahead — for the USA and the world.
      God Bless America!