On the morning of 9/11, Mira Ness, currently CEO at New York University FCU, took her daughter to school as usual. Then, shortly after she arrived to work (right after 9 a.m.), she learned of the attack on the first tower in a phone call from her husband, who worked at the World Trade Center. At the time, Ness was working at the Flushing Savings Bank branch, located at 15th and Irving streets.
Ness and her co-workers went outside to see the Twin Towers that were very visible, and from that location what she saw next was “horrible,” as Ness says she watched on as the second plane tore into the second tower as white ash poured from the sky.
Shortly after, all of the trains in New York City were stopped, and right before cell service stopped working, she received a call from her daughter’s school asking parents to pick up their kids. So Ness went to school, brought her daughter home and started walking toward the Twin Towers to see what was actually happening.
Police and ambulance sirens blaring, Ness continued on – actually going in the opposite direction as those still fleeing the area surrounding the World Trade Center — and darting past police officers still busily closing roads. When she made it back to the bank around 5 p.m., she could clearly see remnants of the first fallen tower.
People were still walking out from the area covered in white ash, and all of the roads and surroundings were covered in white ash. “It was like a scene from science fiction movie,” Ness recalled.
While Ness was looking, the other tower, 7 World Trade Center, a 47-story building, collapsed.
It was at that moment, with police officers screaming “RUN!” that Ness turned and ran as fast as she could to safety, through what was now some 4 inches of white ash covering the streets.
The next day, she was walking home through Union Square and witnessed a group of individuals heatedly arguing in the park, calling Muslims names, including “the enemy.”
Ness spoke up in the middle of it all and insisted that it was wrong to make that assessment. “Emotions were very raw,” Ness said of the encounter. “I remember being scared for my mom; my mother is Muslim.”
Ness and her husband both made it to safety on 9/11, and in the days following, Ness and her daughter did all they could to help volunteers and responders, delivering food, fruit, drinks and more to those dealing with the aftermath of the attacks. And shortly thereafter, Ness moved on to Franklin Templeton Investments, which acquired Fiduciary Trust Co. International that was on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center – where 87 employees were lost on 9/11. “Then it was real for me,” Ness recalled.
All of the firm’s loan and investment records were destroyed, and the firm had little choice but to reach out for copies of documents from customers, who complied with no adverse impacts amounting from the requests, Ness said.
“People understood, and were honest,” Ness said. “When something like this happens, people get united.”