I read an article in Time Magazine the other day (they were sitting in the break room) about a man who took charge of his ‘company’ — Morgan Stanley during the 9/11 attacks. I’ll try and be brief, but you’ll get the idea.
This guy had served in the military and ended up in his later years as a security ‘guard’ in the WTC. Having lived through the 70’s, he did a study and found that the parking garages were a weak point for security and asked that the muckity mucks hire more security for the parking areas. They ignored him, it was too expensive, and what did he know anyway? A few years later, someone drove a van into the parking garage under the building and we all know what happened next.
With his company, his credibility increased tenfold. They listened to what he had to say. He told them to always run down the stairs (from the 78th floor) and never up, in fact, he did random ‘fire drills’ with them, getting them to go 2 stairs at a time for about 30 floors, just so they’d get used to evacuating quickly. He timed them and made them do it faster and faster until he was satisfied that they’d be able to evacuate should danger strike. Fast forward a few years.
The plane hit building 1. The announcement over the buildings’ loudspeakers told everyone to remain calm and stay in their seats. This dude gets out his megaphone and tells them to ignore the announcement and to evacuate immediately. They were in building 2. His people made it down about 40 flights of stairs when the second plane hit. Right about where their offices were. While the building swayed, he sang songs from his childhood about staying calm, answered a phone call from his wife and told her to quit crying, that he was getting ‘his’ people out of there alive. When it was safe to keep going, that man led 250 visiting stockbrokers and almost 3,000 other employees to safety. He went back up and was last seen helping people evacuate on the 10th floor. Only 14 of his ‘company’ did not come out, including 4 security personnel and himself. The other 3,000 survived thanks to his quick thinking, preparedness and value of ‘his’ people over his own safety or wellbeing. None of his people ‘went up’ instead of down, saving their lives. The people who did met locked doors and tragedy. His planning and use of common sense and routine surprise safety drills made the difference that day.
We talk a lot about heroes. The ones who follow protocol and do what they are told. We hear less about heroes like this man, who ignore ‘practiced’ knowledge and do what is right, no matter what the men in the big suits say.
Even less about being prepared and practicing ways to ‘get out’ in an emergency, or what to do when disaster strikes. The tornadoes in Iowa, earthquakes in China, floods everywhere, seem to remind us that our time is not guaranteed. Mother nature is fickle. She goes where she wants and does what she will. We are just along for the crazy ride. Do you have a safety plan, an emergency kit, does your family know what to do in case of an emergency? Me either. But I sure do plan on putting one into practice. Very soon.