Eighteen Years After Armageddon

Darnell Roberts
5 min readSep 11, 2019

Before I became enthralled with Politics…

Before I ever picked up a clipboard or rang a doorbell for a candidate…

Before that audacious Senator from Illinois (by way of Hawaii) ever thought about running for President, thereby changing the course of my career…

I worked on Wall Street…

Just like in the movies…

Only it was even more scandalous and succinct in real life…

I sold dreams for a living…

It was Spring 2001. Fresh outta college and fresh outta excuses. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.

Alan Piosi. That was his name. That was the man I met by chance who would invite me to an Open House for “Financial Advisors”.

I went…

I left a different person.

And I was smitten. With the lifestyle. I had no idea how much work was involved.

As a newly stamped “Stockbroker”, thought that when I passed my Series 7 Exam, I was going to change the world, live out the life of a character from the movie Boiler Room and meander through Manhattan, driving slow in a fast city build for speed and successful dreamers…

We got free lunches, free tickets to events, free entry to private parties, and all the freedom in the world to do whether we wanted to do.

I had made it, or so I thought…

I had started as a rookie Broker and was placed on the 95th Floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center with Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. That’s what the company was called back then.

I was in the Bullpen. That’s where all the new guys got their start. I felt out of place, as the lone young black guy, born without a silver spoon, a trust fund or a Rolodex of potential clients that could help in my new career. I quickly adapted and showed my mettle, I earned my respect, I was a sponge that soaked up every morsel of knowledge I could.

The Senior Brokers were on floors in the sixties.

We ate at Windows On The World, a restaurant of the 113th Floor, high above the city streets and the stench of the rat race of Gotham City

It smelled like Money…

The woman were exquisite…

I frequently went down there to look at the bezzeled watches and sharply pressed suits worn by the guys pulling in the big doe. Then I would scurry back to the Bullpen, watch the ticker and feed my clients advise form the latest talking heads on Squawk Box.

Jim Cramer. Sigh…

Suzie Orman. Double Sigh…

Shortly after the summer, I took a position as a Financial Advisor at the MONY Group. Our offices were on 39th and Madison.

That was at the end of August, 2001.

Had I stayed at Morgan Stanley…you catch my drift…

I probably would not be writing the words you are reading right now…

It was a beautiful morning on September 11th, 2001. My tiny apartment in The Bronx on the 24th Floor was the perfect backdrop for what was about to happen. Overlooking the Major Deegan, just steps from the birthplace of Hip-Hop at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Close enough to see mayhem, far away enough not to walk through the carnage.

NY Daily News

I has gotten up around 7:30. Engulfed my daily bowl of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch. Cousin Lee, he got me hooked on it as a teen. Curse his name.

The TV was always on, even when I wasn’t in the room. The sound was audible from the kitchen. And then I heard another sound.

It was not from the TV.

It was the sound of a squelch I had only heard during a funeral.

A bellow from the belly of someone who saw death, and knew what they were looking at was not becoming of a mouth that could stay closed.

As I walked towards the door to follow the scream, I causally peered back at the TV to get a glimpse of the news.

It was approximately 8:55am.

I couldn’t move my body for the next 6 hours…

I panicked when I couldn’t get thru on the cell phone. I kept looking out the window for hours on end, holding back the tears and patiently waiting for a signal for safety. That black cloud over the entire city was omnipotent. ..and deafening.

Those haunting images, that funky smell, those loud sirens were clashing with more screams, those flashing lights were clashing with the stumping from the neighbors above and below; those jammed cell phone towers that blocked calls getting through to loved ones and colleagues, those workers, as tourists, and fireman, and cops, and animals, those god awful people who were looting and the very place where corpses were buried underneath the rubble of an edifice revered around the world.

A harrowing, heinous act of destruction, and i saw it all, from my bedroom window.

I will NEVER be able to unsee the smog, the clouds looked like they were filled with ink.

(AP Photo/Chao Soi Cheong)

One hundred and thirteen floors, Gone.

Some of my co-workers, Gone

Some of my clients, Gone

Some of my hopes for America, Gone

I usually never talk about this because the memories are so surreal and circumstances are so unfathomable. But today is a dichotomy. Joy and Pain. Peace and Sorrow. Morning and Mourning…

As the images and footage from the wreckage flashed across the TV screen, my life flashed before my eyes.

I could have been there. I was supposed to be there.

I replayed the stories for clients over and over and over. Nothing can bring those innocent people back, but knowing my company delivered millions of dollars of life insurance we sold gave proceeds to those families in their darkest hour.

That gives me some solace.

Salute to the first responders, NYPD, FDNY and hospital staff. They are the real heros.

Those first responders, many of whom still suffer, emotionally and metaphysically, from the impact of that day, now have access to the care they deserve because of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. And thanks to Jon Steward, who valiantly defended the rights of First Responders, and showed empathy and compassion much greater than any comedic bit he ever wrote or spoke.

“Passing this legislation — there’s no joy. There’s no comfort,” 9/11 first responder and advocate John Feal said. “Yes, I cried with Jon. But that was to exhale. That was to get 18 years of pain and suffering out.”

So today on the 18th anniversary of September 11, 2001, let us reflect and remember. Today’s political climate may feel more divided than ever before, but I hope that we will continue to seek common ground and work towards peace, prosperity, and security at home and abroad.

This day embodies lots of emotions, and evokes a time I thought the world was an apocalypse.

But alas, I am still here. 18 years later…



Darnell Roberts

New York Made, Miami Paid. I used to work for Wall Street, now I work for All Streets. Twitter: @mridontsleep