Mikkelsen Shares First-Hand 9/11 Experience on 94.1 Radio
The Point 94.1 (KKPT-FM), a Little Rock radio station, featured Robert Mikkelsen’s story during today’s morning show regarding his experiences on Sept. 11, 2001. Here are two clips of his discussion this morning:
Below you will find a story Robert previously published about Robert Mikkelsen’s experience during the 9/11 attacks while he worked in Manhattan. Robert is a Financial Advisor and Asset Manager at Cardinal Investment Group in Conway, Ark.
A Day of a Million Stories
Originally published September 11, 2013
My name is Robert Mikkelsen. I was born and raised on the south shore of Long Island about 40 miles east of New York City. I began my career in financial services in 1980 working in the Wall St area of downtown Manhattan. On two separate points in my career I worked in the world trade center. Interesting enough, each time on the 104th floor and in each of the two towers.
Commuting to any major city is difficult, however the last part of my commute was the 10 to 15 minutes it took to reach the 104th floor. The first elevator would take you to the 78th floor, from there you had to transfer to a separate group of elevators to get to 104th floor. The elevators would travel at speeds of up to 35 miles an hour. You could hear the displaced wind in the elevators howl as you climbed. It was quite an adventure!
Once you arrived, it felt like you were on top of the world. Panoramic views in all directions. Some days you entered the building and it would be cloudy outside the lobby area and my office would rest above the clouds in sunshine. On very windy days the drawers in your desk would open. That would give the perspective that the buildings were designed to sway 8 feet in any given direction which was another quite unique experience.
From within the financial services industry my specific job description was as an equity trader. My role was to buy and sell stocks on behalf of my company. There were thousands of equity traders in the Wall Street area. Equity traders are a fraternal bunch. Even though we were fierce competitors, we were friendly competitors. It was commonplace to socialized with your competitors and over time we would socialize as families. Many are still dear friends to this day.
September 11, 2001 was a bright clear and sunny day. A touch of fall was in the air. My commute was the same as any other day. I drove into Manhattan with a colleague of mine and arrived at the office at 7:00 a.m. My offices were in Rockefeller Center were about 3 miles north of the World Trade Center.
Since it was cool outside we would open the windows to let in Manhattan’s version of fresh air. At 8:46 a.m. we heard a tremendous rumble from a very low flying jet. We all ran to the window, but it had already past. No of us made to much of it at the time. Within minutes we had heard that a plane had hit One World Trade Center.
Brokerage firms on Wall Street have direct telephone connections to all the other trading desks in the area. So once we heard where the plane had hit. We knew what firms and friends were affected. We immediately tried to contact our friends at Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of One World Trade.
We had an open line with five of us and ten or so of the people from Cantor Fitzgerald just minutes after the plane hit. Everyone was talking over each other.. “are you guys ok?” They responded, “yeah for now.” Another shouted, “were not getting out of here!” Another shouted out “we need to go to the roof now!” At that point, the phone line went silent. With tears in our eyes we bowed our heads in prayer.
Buy this time the breaking news headline on CNN was an aerial shot of the world trade center on fire. Knowing the exact location of their offices I realized that their judgment to get to the roof was their only chance. Still none of us realized America was being attacked.
At 9:03 a.m. our country watched in horror as the second plane hit Two World Trade center. Not knowing if this was the beginning or the end of the attack, I order all our staff to evacuate our offices in Rockefeller Center. Everyone stayed calm as we walked down 20 floors to the street. About 25 of us took refuge in a small restaurant located below ground level a block or so away from our office. It was there the reality of the last 30 minutes started to set in.
With cell phone service no longer available, we used the restaurant land line to call our main office in Connecticut. Lists of phone numbers were given to the staff instructing them to call our loved ones and tell them we were safe. That’s all we could do!
By this time all the bridges and tunnels in and out of Manhattan were closed. I took some comfort that I did have my car and that at some point I would be able to get out. I just didn’t know how long it would take. I also knew of a foot bridge at 116th st that crossed the east river that I would use as a last resort.
Finally around noon I make the attempt to leave. Five people I worked with lived on Long Island and we all left together in my car. My primary goal was to head north and get off of Manhattan island. I made it up to the Bronx and found a small bridge that got us out of Manhattan. I had to drive 75 miles north before I could find an open road heading south east toward home.
The most surreal part of the day came as I was driving back to Long Island on The Whitestone Bridge. Off to the west was Manhattan. The towers were down, the smoke and dust filled the air, and four F-14’s were patrolling the skies.
I spent the next few weeks helping relocate brokerage firms that lost their offices in downtown New York, as well as attending as many memorial services for friends and former colleagues as I could. It was a sad time, but in other ways it was a loving time. Everyone understood the magnitude of what had happened and we just tried as best as we could to make a difference.
I was blessed that I wasn’t on the 104th floor of One World Trade on 9/11/2001. Five years before the attack I was. I worked for a brokerage firm called Cantor Fitzgerald. In 1996 I was offered a partnership at the firm which for other reasons I declined. Had I accepted, I am reasonably confident I would not being sharing this experience today.