Bill Barrett woke on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and turned on the television to see the first of two airplanes hitting the World Trade Center. He left his Pacific Palisades home and rushed to his downtown Los Angeles office.
With reports that hijacked aircraft might be bound for Los Angeles, Barrett, chairman of Fiduciary Trust International of California, evacuated everyone from their headquarters at 440 South Flower St. in Citicorp Plaza. Then they waited.
In New York City, a second hijacked airplane struck the South Tower. Eighty-seven employees who worked in the 90th floor offices of Fiduciary Trust's parent company, Franklin Templeton Investments, were trapped and killed.
"I knew the head of human resources," Barrett recalled Monday. "She perished that day trying to help people get out of the building."
After the terrorist attacks, Barrett said the employees did their best to recover, but it took about a week and a half to identify the 87 lives lost. He oversaw international conference calls with staff and spouses of employees who were trying to find their husbands, wives and children in New York.
"That was one of the most excruciating, heartbreaking conference calls I've ever sat through," Barrett said. "In some cases, some people were found alive. In some cases, they were found dead. And in some cases, they were never found."
About a month after 9/11, Barrett flew back east to find the company operating out of a building in New Jersey, resurrecting itself in a makeshift space. He said he spoke to a woman who worked in the trust department in the collapsed tower. She recalled that when the plane hit, she called her husband on his cell phone. He did not answer, Barrett said, and the woman luckily got into the last elevator out of the building.
"I had just started with the company then," Barrett said. He was scheduled to be in the New York offices the week of Sept. 11 and stay in a hotel that was destroyed on that tragic day.
A colleague who ran the company office in Tokyo arrived in Los Angeles on Sept. 10 to have lunch with Barrett and other employees, and then flew to New York that night. Luckily, his colleague's plane arrived late in New York. So on Sept. 11, he slept in at his hotel and never journeyed to the World Trade Center.
"There's so many stories like that," Barrett said.
Eleven years since the horrific events of 9/11, many employees have left the company, and others have joined who weren't around at the time. With the passage of time, Barrett himself feels disconnected from the events that happened hundreds of miles away.
But still, Tuesday will be a day of somber reflection at his company, Barrett said; they will have a minute of silence for the victims. If only for a moment, they will stop to remember.