Remembering 9/11: The civilians
By Jackie R. Broach
As a young girl, Angie Shoemaker watched as the twin towers were built and remembers hearing the pounding of construction that sounded throughout Manhattan as workers started the project.
“When they were finished, I remember it just added to the whole skyline,” she said. “It was a special vision. I used to lean my cheek up against the side of the building and just look straight up. The sight was magnificent. I can’t describe it.”
It was a practice she kept up into adulthood.
Angie and her husband, Bob, worked on Wall Street as municipal bond traders for more than 25 years each before they retired and moved to the Pawleys Island area 14 years ago. They live in Willbrook Plantation.
Angie spent six years at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center and was the company’s first female vice president, heading its short-term municipal department.
She can’t count how many people she knew who died when the towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, but she knows the numbers are in the triple digits.
“We never tried to get a roster,” Bob said. “We almost didn’t want to know.”
More than 650 Cantor employees died in the attacks on the twin towers. Angie had supervised, trained and worked side by side with many of them.
“It’s not a stock exchange floor, it’s a trading room and you form a very close bond with the people who work there with you,” Angie said. “Some people you get to know better than your own husband, wife, sister, brother. They were young, strong, vibrant people in the prime of their lives.”
Bob worked across the street from the twin towers at Merrill Lynch and knew 12 who died from Cantor and several other firms.
Ten years after the attacks, the faces of many of those who died are still fresh.
Among the dead are Don Jones who worked for Angie and led a conga line at the Shoemakers’ wedding. They see and hear him and others who died in the attacks every time they watch their wedding video.
She also remembers Dave Meyers, who rode the commuter train with her and talked to her every day about his beloved parrot or his repeated trips to the Olympics, John Welch who loved to regale her with stories about his young children and Jay Corcoran, who was on one of the hijacked flights that day.
Corcoran had flown out to help his mother interview doctors about possible treatments for a brain problem. He was supposed to have flown back the next day, but changed his plans so he could go home a day early to help a friend who needed him.
“I could go on and on forever,” Angie said.
Added to that, the couple have many friends and family who are police officers and firefighters in New York City.
“We were fortunate that none very close to home were killed,” Bob said.
The Shoemakers’ son-in-law, who worked across the street from the World Trade Center, was trying to leave the area when the second plane struck right above him. One of their daughters who worked in the same building, was away on vacation that day and another daughter, who had worked in the building, had recently left for another job.
Bob and Angie were playing golf on the morning of the attacks.
“It was that beautiful morning like you hear about and we were having a good time,” Angie recalled. “Then a woman came out screaming into the air that a plane had gone into the World Trade Center.”
The Shoemakers went inside to see what was going on and watched on TV as the second plane hit.
“I’ll never forget that feeling,” Angie said. “My legs just turned to rubber and caved. I knew it was going to be bad, but then I saw the buildings fall and I knew everybody in Cantor was just gone.”
The sight of people jumping from upper windows to escape a more painful death inside is forever burned into her mind’s eye. They were from the floors occupied by Cantor.
“We knew it was her building right away because we saw the antenna on top,” Bob said. “The people jumping out those windows, we knew those were people we knew.”
When Angie worked at Cantor, Bob talked seriously about getting her a parachute in case there was ever an emergency at the building. He didn’t because the windows were sealed and it never occurred to them they might be blown out.
“Had I done it, we would have left the parachute there and possibly there might have been a survivor from those top floors,” he said.
After the attacks, the Shoemakers walked around in shock for months, Angie said. She was angry that the government had let down its guard and hadn’t prevented the attacks.
“We just couldn’t shake it,” Angie said.
That’s what led her to the real estate business. She and Bob used the work to help keep their minds off the attacks and all that had been lost, both in human life and freedom.
But they’ll never be able to forget and they wouldn’t want to.
“That’s when you get complacent,” she said. “I don’t ever want to see people going through that again. We can never, never forget.”
For the 10th anniversary, the Shoemakers will put out an American flag, like they do every year, and they encourage others to do the same.