I was at the street corner of the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11 as the first plane struck. I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the events of 9/11. While my journey has had its own set of challenges and unexpected turns, I’m acutely aware that many faced far worse, irreparable hardships due to the events of 9/11. The experience varies from person to person, and my story is just one among thousands of survivors.
It was the second week of my freshman year at NYU’s pre-med program. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I was commuting on an X1 Express bus approaching WTC when the first plane hit. And I was outside and hit by debris when the second plane struck.
In the days that followed, I dropped out of school, lost a $80K scholarship, and didn’t care much. The hardest part was thinking about the parents of my friends who perished. Even now, specific smells and sounds can instantly transport me back to that day.
But I was blessed in unexpected ways as a result of this tragic event. Fast forward 22 years later. It’s ironic how that day shaped everything in my life going forward.
- After leaving school, I took up a sales job that taught me critical life skills.
- I later moved to upstate NY and started school again. Got heavily involved in EMS.
- I met a bunch of people there who changed my thinking, many becoming lifelong friends.
- A teacher got me curious about a subject (statistics) I had previously avoided. Another helped me double-down on that interest and change majors.
- I met my future wife.
- Another friend convinced me to skip medical school and do a hotel AI start-up in 2005 that seeded my later aspirations.
- Today, I’m a proud father and the CEO of Videoquant where I get to unwind how video influences decision-making & human behavior, a nod to the teachers who cultivated my interest in applied math, the formative sales job I took after 9/11, and my time as an EMT interacting closely with people – all of which were set in motion by that fateful day. My journey continues with the invaluable guidance of Tripadvisor’s founder, who serves as a current advisor to Videoquant.
Above all, the enduring lesson from 9/11 for me is one of resilience. Twenty-two years after that day, I’ve come to deeply understand the essence of grit; everyday business and personal challenges feel small and navigable in comparison. I’m reminded of a memorable line from the late comedian George Carlin, who quipped about swimming in New York City’s polluted rivers as a kid: ‘I was tempered in raw shit!’ That sentiment resonates deeply with me. This forged resilience empowers us to tackle challenges and take risks that deter others.
As we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of that tragic day, my thoughts are with all the survivors and the loved ones of those we lost. While I will always mourn the tragedy of 9/11, I’m also grateful for the unexpected ways in which it has shaped my life.
May we all find some measure of peace and reflection today.