JOSEPH DANIELS’ CEO JOURNEY WITH THE 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM: FROM SORROW TO IMPACT
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is one of the more darkly beautiful, deeply harrowing experiences one can have when remembering that tragic day almost 25 years ago.
The story of how Joe Daniels, CEO of the project, landed the role and shepherded the project through on budget and on time is just as compelling.
A Personal Experience
On Sept. 11, 2001, former America250 CEO Joe Daniels, who was at the time working with consulting firm McKinsey & Company on a study with American Express, boarded the E subway train to head to Amex’s offices in lower Manhattan, as he had done every day for the previous several months.
“I got on the E train, I remember it skipped, it was supposed to run local as it's a local train, but it ran express and it pulled into the World Trade Center stop and the doors opened,” Daniels recalls. “There were a whole bunch of people rushing in. It seemed like it was rush hour, but at the end of the day everyone was trying to get out of the World Trade Center versus the morning when they were trying to get in. I remember thinking that that was a little odd, but didn't think much more of it than that. I made my way up to street level at the northeast end of the World Trade Center Plaza, which is in front of the north tower. When I came up, there was just a whole line of people staring up at the north tower.”
Daniels tells of a “gaping hole” in the north tower, with “black smoke pouring out of it.
“A few minutes later, with all of us staring up, I remember seeing the first person jump from the building,” Daniels says. “And I remember even then thinking how bad must it be for someone who's a thousand feet in the air, a hundred stories up, to feel like the only thing they could do was jump.”
Joseph Daniels was there for the impact of United Airlines Flight 175 into the south tower just after 9 a.m. local time in New York.
“All of a sudden, this huge fireball exploded out of the south tower when United 175 hit it at 9:03,” Daniels says. “And at that point, I remember this huge fireball, first as light and then sound. Then it was dead quiet. A split second later, this roar ripped through lower Manhattan. Everyone around me, including me, started running north. I was trying to make my way back to my apartment in the West Village.”
As Daniels trekked back to his neighborhood, he saw the hopeful people who wanted to help, waiting for patients who would never arrive.