The Day that Eternally Transformed America and My Life

Hilary Kramer

Hilary Kramer is an investment analyst and portfolio manager with 30 years of experience on Wall Street.

Our Lives Forever Changed

Lieutenant Timothy Edward Coyne, the father of my children, is a heroic, courageous and patriotic decorated NYPD officer and truly the finest of New York’s finest.

On September 11, 2001, Tim was assumed dead for many hours because he always started at 8:00 am working his lower Manhattan beat that spanned the immediate area around the World Trade Center. However, Tim had worked a double shift from 8:00 am on Sept. 10 until 1:00 am on Sept. 11 and had been given permission by his commanding officer to arrive an hour later than his usual shift’s 8 am start time to let him vote in the local neighborhood elections.

Tim was just leaving home in Brooklyn when he received that call that an American Airlines Boeing 767 had slammed into the first tower. He grabbed his badge and headed across the Manhattan Bridge, catching a ride with an ambulance to the 1st Precinct Command — a precinct that that includes the towers, all of Wall Street and lower Manhattan.

Tim ran into the north tower right before it was about to come down. He could hear the thump of the bodies hitting the ground as those desperate to escape the flames jumped from the building’s upper floors – many holding hands with strangers – to avoid getting burned alive. Tim also gazed at the plaza in between the north and south towers and saw that it was full of bodies that had landed from above. Suddenly, Tim felt the world shake and a thunderous roar as the building collapsed in an implosion that turned these architectural marvels – once the tallest buildings in the world – into a mess of rubble consisting of twisted steel, concrete, broken marble and wires.

Screenshot (9)
Hilary Kramer provides commentary on FOX News the week of 9/11

He escaped through the tower’s main doors seconds before the collapse and was blown 20 yards before he quickly took shelter under a fire truck right outside the World Trade Center. He was one of the few so close to the collapse that actually survived the destruction of the buildings. Just like his father who fought in hand-to-hand combat in Germany during World War II, Tim shook off the toxic asbestos powder that covered his body from head-to-toe and was on his feet, ready to serve his city and country bravely.

He spent the next 12 months assigned to the Ground Zero morgue. It meant tagging body parts and even removing them from the rubble. Sometimes, he had to use saws and tools to do so. In the days before the Red Cross was there in full operation, Tim helped the families that congregated in his make-shift morgue in Brooks Brothers identify loved ones from very little remains had survived. Usually it was a wallet on what was left of a torso or a watch on part of an arm. After that year, Tim was still part of the 1st Precinct that encompassed downtown Manhattan and he continued to work at Ground Zero. This meant that he was exposed to all the poisons that we have since learned are carcinogenic killers.

The Physical and Emotional Ramifications

Today, Tim lives on countless medications. For instance, there are the steroids and special medications that fight his lung infections and the asthma that accelerates so fast that he ends up in the hospital for days after an attack begins. Tim’s sinus passages are completely burned and scarred. He lives with a constant infection that flares up and then requires medications which leave him sick from the side-effects.

The worst of these medical conditions have developed over the past 10 years as his esophagus has started to grow lesions that must be scraped and cleaned out. Meanwhile, he has had to watch his fellow 9/11 first responders die of this cancer epidemic. In fact, there are two main types of esophageal cancers killing these first responders. One is Squamous cell carcinoma and the other is Adenocarcinoma.

Like so many other first responders and soldiers, Tim lives in psychological pain that is impossible to comprehend. He was numb and depressed for years afterwards — but forged ahead every day. The trauma has a life of its own and is so hard to treat. While you can’t see the condition known as “PTSD” (post-traumatic stress disorder) because it doesn’t show-up on a CAT scan or any MRI, it can be one of the most destructive medical conditions as its effects have to be endured every single day. Only the miracle of having our beautiful children with us helped Tim find new meaning amid the physical and emotional pain he has faced daily since 9/11.

The Unthinkable

For me, 9/11 proved that the unthinkable is possible.

America can be hurt in the most visceral of ways — something that seemed impossible until the events of 9/11. Just because we’re the biggest and most powerful country, it doesn’t mean we’re untouchable. In fact, it makes us a target.

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The terrorists took advantage of our kindness — of our open society; sitting in cockpits and chatting with some of the toughest and most decorated former military fighter pilots.

Had those men only been warned of the possibility, had they only been told of the remote potential of hijackings by terrorists — well, these tough guys wouldn’t have been caught off guard. They were trained defenders. On that day, those pilots would have done whatever was necessary to save their passengers and crew.

But all our training is moot and for naught if we allow ourselves to be blindsided.

I keep a photo in my office of my dearest friend, Captain Cholene Espinoza, on an Air Force training mission. In the photo, she is circling the World Trade Center to ensure that the U.S. Air Force could intercept any planes heading toward the buildings.

Captain Espinoza, along with her fellow pilots, kept timing herself to make sure she could fly from the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base to the twin towers in less than three minutes. Given that these photos were taken seven years before the 9/11 attack, I keep it in my office to remind me that those in charge of protecting us knew what was coming, prepared for it and then dropped the ball by failing to warn the American people.

There are always multiple reasons for any action or event. In this case, I cannot help but think that our Commander-in-Chief from January 1993 to January 2001, President Bill Clinton, was too busy defending himself against impeachment and trying to cover-up the immoral acts that he committed right in the White House Oval Office instead of focusing on America’s security and safety. All the while, the terrorist organization known as al-Qaeda grew, expanded and plotted.

Forever Changed but Never Broken

For me and many others, 9/11 changed our perspective of how we see our lives and the world around us.

We are now a country where we see our personal responsibility in a very serious way. We are now in a world where we have to always be on the lookout to protect our surroundings and our neighbors. Each one of us has a role in keeping this country safe.

In 2010, an SUV was left with a massive amount of lit explosives right in the middle of Times Square. A street vendor noticed the smoke and the running engine, and immediately sought out a mounted policeman who, on his ‘high horse,’ could see the explosives brewing. He cleared out the area — using good Samaritans — until his backup arrived. Thousands of lives were saved. This is our new country. Let me also add that the mounted unit of NYPD officers on horseback is a special detail that earned its way back into the relevancy of the police department after that act of courage and example of effectiveness.

As for today, the 18th anniversary of  9/11, it is a sad day of remembrance for thousands murdered, all those injured and all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, not only in New York, but also at the Pentagon where terrorists crashed a third plane and in a field in rural Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a fourth hijacked airliner crashed. In the latter instance, the plane’s passengers and crew fought back against the hijackers to prevent the plane from reaching another target. We also should remember those who served and sacrificed in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as those who are now struggling just to get out of bed each day… all in the name of defending our great country.

By our acknowledging the sacrifice, it makes all the acts of courage and selflessness not something that was done in vain. I thank you all. We thank you all. I hope that you take a moment to reflect on our country’s progress and resilience and your own personal experiences over these past 18 years. As I look at how far we have come since 9/11, I see the most notable achievements of our country and am proud when I realize how we persevered as a people and forged forward with our lives.

From ‘Devastation to Rebuilding’

Eighteen years later, the 9/11 tragedy has become cataclysmic and shattering history, but it did NOT break us!

We continue to forge ahead, to innovate and to break new ground. Our technological and medical advances are breathtaking. We now have wearable devices, 3-D printing, big data, new energy sources and machine learning for better decision making and more efficient spending. We also now have cloud computing and storage, autonomous driving vehicles, digital data encoded in RFID (radio frequency identification) barcode tags and smart labels, affordable security systems via iPhone technology and streaming media. In medicine, we have cancer vaccines and drugs that are on the verge of finally really fighting cancer (without killing the patient in the process), advances in diabetes monitoring and treatments, robotic surgeries, genetic engineering and more than I could possibly list here.

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We are an America that feeds the poor and provides health care to the elderly and unfortunate. We also are an America that prevented a global meltdown from an imploding financial system — and that’s not hyperbole.

As we watch the debt drama in mainland Europe unfold into a seemingly unsolvable albatross and the United Kingdom’s struggles to try to turn a theoretical – “Brexit” — into a reality, it is important to remember that the United States has binding values and moral fiber to keep it intact amid political discord. Yes, that’s right, “political discord” is healthy and our country was built to become stronger though dialogue, despite disagreement. None of us should ever think that America is anything but the best and that we are the luckiest people on earth to live here with all her freedoms and opportunity.

Living Our Beliefs Out Loud

I recall clearly after the twin towers fell, with white fluff floating in the New York City air outside our windows — a combination of asbestos, burning paper and flesh — that one of my most talented financial analysts, Jacob, came to me and said, “Hilary, I feel most sorry for those people who went to work this morning in the towers and thought to themselves ‘I don’t want to do this work — I am not happy being at this job.’ I wonder how they felt when the flames were moving closer to them or when they were being forced to jump.”

Jacob was trying to tell me that we must be happy with our pursuits and our daily life because it is so fleeting. I asked Jacob what he wanted to do and if he needed time off or wanted to make a change. He said he wanted to pursue an MBA and have his own business. On that day, I promised him that I would pay for his entire MBA as long as he matriculated into a top 10 school. I was so proud to see Jacob graduate from New York University’s Stern School of Business with his MBA.

When the towers came down, I was living a life that was a fantasy come true. Just imagine this, I was in my 30s and working as a money manager of more than $5 billion in assets. My career was flourishing with private deals and investments that were growing from ideas into billion-dollar businesses.

I was a contributor at Fox News, which gave me an amazing way to educate and impart my insight and knowledge to everyday Americans and investors. But I suddenly wanted to give even more of myself and aid people who didn’t have the insight and experience that I was privy to in my Wall Street world.

Being the American Dream of ‘Living through Giving’

I decided that helping individual investors make decisions by educating them was overwhelmingly important to me. I wanted to make a difference in the area of life that I have, frankly, focused on obsessively in my professional life.

I wanted to share my wisdom about how Wall Street really works. I wanted to offer my stock selection, macro-investing and quantitative analysis, as well as my own propriety system of choosing the right investments to as many people as possible. I wanted to lift the veil of secrecy and show everyone who wants to invest and build a fortune that this is something that can be done. The ingredients are all available and the recipe is not being hidden anymore.

Two years after 9/11, I resigned from my position on Wall Street so I could write a book, “Ahead of the Curve,” and provide much-needed advice that investors weren’t hearing from others. I have done this though my investment newsletters, trading services and public talks about how to approach money and investment opportunities in a way that can really build wealth.

In more ways than I can count, 9/11 was a major turning point in my life, as well as for many other people. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 have forever changed America. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives and we saw our iconic World Trade Center literally collapse. This was a business complex which represented everything American — from entrepreneurialism, to capitalism, to the greatness and largesse that is the United States of America’s unique and well-oiled machinery of progress, innovation, growth and wealth creation.

NEVER FORGET

For me, there are two worlds and it is divided into the “before” and the “after” 9/11. There is the life before the towers came down and then there is a life that is totally different. The world I live each day is filled with the anguish and heartache of having that which we believe in and relish the most — love, family, country, safety, security and optimism about the future — come crashing down. All the rules were broken on 9/11 and I was shaken deep down to my core. There’s this terrible emotion defined by our saying, “This can’t really be happening.” I am talking about those events in life that we have no way to stop and, worse, no way to fix or make better. I am speaking of the lost sense of security when all that we love and all that provides the core of security and happiness, once seemingly built out of the toughest indestructible materials, suddenly slips through our fingers — like sand — even though we desperately try to hold it. I pray that no one will ever have to wake up and then, in a sudden shock, realize that the unfathomable nightmare really is reality and wasn’t merely a bad dream that will fade and be forgotten.

For many years, just waking up to the date “September 11” brought immediate sadness to virtually every American. There was a solemnness that defined the day. No one wanted to plan events or meetings on 9/11. It seemed disrespectful for the day to be anything other than a time to reflect and memorialize the still unbelievable events in which our country was attacked on its own soil.

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The heinousness of using our own American airplanes as weapons of destruction is so horrible that it is still shocks me and makes me physically ill to attempt to comprehend it. There were those who perished and those who were injured. In addition to the first responders, there is a much larger group of Americans who are suffering. There are those in our military that ended up fighting in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A generation of soldiers are now scarred emotionally and physically from the sacrifices of their service. The other heroes are the caregivers, who include, and are mainly made up of, wives and husbands, as well as their children. These brave and selfless souls also need to be recognized on this day of remembrance.

In the hours, weeks, months and years that followed, this country’s patriotism was ignited, and I watched with pride as men and women went to work and wore their American flag pins on their lapels. There wasn’t a dry eye during the singing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at sporting events. Just the uttering of “9/11” reminded us of the day that changed America forever.

Every 9/11 since then has brought back memories of the horrendous day that would have us reflecting on how we first heard the news, what we were doing when we learned that one plane and then another had hit the World Trade Center buildings in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington and that Flight 93 had crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after heroic passengers and crew chose to fight the terrorist hijackers.

We always need to tell the story to our children and children’s children. We need to make sure that the tragedy and the many lessons of 9/11 are taught in schools and universities. We must fight to hold on to the memory while continuing to do what we have so successfully done as a country: to keep moving forward.

Hope and Resilience

Tomorrow, Tim may again take that painful trip to be at Ground Zero. Maybe. He sometimes sits at home in the dark on 9/11. Interestingly, he doesn’t reminisce. These 9/11 anniversaries are the only days he doesn’t talk. In fact, he stops talking at least a week before each year’s anniversary. When he does go to Ground Zero, he just stands there with the cops who worked closely with him.

For me and many others, the memories of 9/11 spur thoughts, moral questions and philosophical issues. The date 9/11 also serves as a marker of time from which we see can how our lives have progressed since then. For those who were there at Ground Zero and for those who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years since, it is an awfulness that will haunt them until they rest in peace.

But they did it for our freedom. Thus, we need to do all we can to take care of our country’s protectors. All of us — as individuals — are our neighbor’s keeper.

So today, as we mourn those who we have lost, I hope you also can take a moment to remember that our uniquely American mix of hope, resilience and ingenuity will continue to drive our great country forward.

May the Almighty God Bless America this day and every day.

With love and respect for all,
Hilary Kramer
Hilary Kramer

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