I remember that Tuesday morning like it was almost yesterday. Much of my life since then has revolved around the events of that day. I don’t think I will ever forget that morning and evening for the rest of my life.
I took the train into work that morning, making the early train, for once and arrived in downtown Chicago around 7:30. I took a cab to the office from the train station, as the train was running a bit late that morning. When I came out of Union Station, I noticed that where I usually found my cab was not taken up by what can only be described as federal vehicles. The dark black, dark tinted window SUV’s that the feds usually ride around in. I remember thinking whether President Bush was visiting Chicago today as that is the only reason I could figure out. I found my cab and headed to my office, asking the driver what was going on today with all the fed vehicles, he was the first person to let me know that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. My first thought, how the hell does a pilot miss a 110 story building at the tip of Manhattan? I really don’t remember thinking anything of it except a comment that I
doubt that pilot will have a job after that.
I walked into the trading floor for Refco and I knew something was up, the phones were ringing off the hook and Greg Cieply was unusually flustered for before 8 am. I sat down and started my work, grabbing trades, making markets and trying to get a handle on the exact situation we were dealing with. Our office was surrounded by flat-screen TVs with news feeds from all the major networks, CNN, CNBC, and NBC, etc. and all seemed to be showing the same smoke billowing out of 1 world trade. It was hard not to just stare at it. I was just mesmerized by what I was seeing. And then the unthinkable happened, we all saw the second plane hit on live TV. None of us said a word, for what seemed like minutes, but probably closer to seconds.
My mind was frozen; I just couldn’t believe my eyes. The phone began chirping, one after another, and we were all in a fury of business, closing out trades, making markets for those who were trapped so they can begin to get out. We had a direct line to NYC to some of our trading partners, notably Cantor Fitzgerald, and Credit Suisse and they spent their precious minutes of life trying to ensure they closed out their trades to they wouldn’t leave their companies money on the table when it all came to a screeching halt, in a matter of minutes. Most of them would never make it out and that haunts me to this day. Our options trader, located just across the street was giving us a play by play of the events as they unfolded, telling us of the carnage, of the people jumping, sometimes falling, but other times, hand in hand. Thinking about that now, I cannot get through it without tearing up. Just the thought, of holding hands with the one you love on the way to certain death…..how could you not be forever changed after seeing that, my God, such a tragedy.
Being in Chicago, a major financial center, many thought we might be in danger, in fact they evacuated the Sears Tower but we remained open and were the only Forex desk outside in Chicago and New York that did so. Financially, we did well, but my love for the business drained from my soul on 9/11. Money, made on this tragedy, is blood money, ill-gotten gains. Watching those towers fall, I truly cannot express what that did to me and many of us. It was more than a building to us, more than a monument; it represented a part of humanity that was wiped out by some very sick men, so much loss, that there remains a giant hole in my soul to this day.
Years later, I never got over that day and my love for my job and making money in derivatives and foreign exchange was diminishing, the paychecks is what kept me doing what I continued to do. I was a natural they said, had the gift of gab, made people comfortable, was genuine but by 2005 I just couldn’t do it any longer. During a dinner in New York with some old friends from the company, many of them joked how well the company did during 9/11 and how we should have more days like that. It made me sick to look at myself in the mirror. I left the dinner, got on a plane and signed up for the Army in less than a month. I wanted to make a difference and give something back to the country that lost so much, to those who sacrificed so much on that day and the days that continue during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I miss the markets, sure, I miss the city, the bright lights, but I have earned my right to be a citizen of this nation, my right to say I gave something beyond myself, to stand with those men and women at ground zero and say to each of them, I gave something of myself for each of you as a remembrance of what you are, what you gave and what you and your family sacrificed and that can never be taken away from me.
Jaeson "Doc" Parsons