Twenty years after the tragic terror attacks on September 11, 2001, we pause to reflect and remember those we lost and the heroes who stepped up in the face of insurmountable challenges.
Using material collected from articles, obituaries, books, recollections, and other sources, the Fraternity has assembled this approximate timeline of September 11, 2001 that includes the ten (currently known) Theta Chi brothers who were affected and involved that horrible day. Special credit is given to the interactive timeline found at timeline.911memorial.org.
In each case, the facts are reported as best as is currently known and available.
We present the following timeline with all due respect, sympathy, and care.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001
6:00 a.m. - Mark E. Schurmeier (Gamma Omicron/Wake Forest 1979), director of Strategic Reengineering in Funding and Investments for Freddie Mac, departs Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. for New York City.
7:30 a.m. - J. Nicholas Humber (Delta/RPI 1963) boards American Airlines Flight 11 in Boston and takes his seat at 22A. He is headed to Los Angeles for business.
7:59 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 11 takes off from Boston for Los Angeles. Eleven crew members, 76 passengers, and five hijackers are on board.
8:00 a.m. - The Risk Waters Group hosts a financial technology conference at Windows on the World restaurant, located on the 106th and 107th floors of 1 World Trade Center (North Tower). Attendees, including Mark E. Schurmeier, begin to gather for registration and breakfast on the 106th floor.
8:14 a.m. - Al-Qaeda terrorists hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and, several minutes later, reroute it toward Manhattan.
8:30 a.m. - Welcome and opening remarks are delivered at the Risk Waters Group’s financial technology conference.
8:40 a.m. - The Risk Waters Group conference's first keynote speaker begins his presentation. Mark E. Schurmeier is among the approximately 80 people who have gathered at Windows on the World for the conference.
8:46 a.m. - Five hijackers crash American Airlines Flight 11 into floors 93 through 99 of 1 World Trade Center (North Tower). J. Nicholas Humber and the other 75 passengers and 11 crew members on board and hundreds inside the building are killed instantly. The crash severs all three emergency stairwells and traps hundreds of people above the 91st floor, including Mark E. Schurmeier, Craig M. Blass (Eta Kappa/James Madison 1996), Scott T. Coleman (Iota/Colgate 1994), Gary F. Lutnick (Epsilon Rho/Rider 1987), William C. Sugra (Epsilon Eta/IUP 1993), and Jon C. Vandevander (Epsilon Beta/Lycoming 1979).
The offices of Carr Futures, Inc., a foreign currency trading firm, are located on the 92nd floor.
Cantor Fitzgerald's corporate headquarters and New York City office are located on the 101st to the 105th floors of 1 World Trade Center, two to six floors above the impact zone.
The floors containing Carr Futures and Cantor Fitzgerald are beyond the scope and possibility of any rescue effort.
8:49 a.m. - Carr Futures vice president Jon C. Vandevander uses his cell phone to call his wife and teenage son and explains that his whole group is trapped on the 92nd floor in a small office because of fire and smoke in the hall. He lets her know that they blew out the window for air.
8:47 a.m. - Learning of the crash, employees of law firm Harris Beach & Wilcox, LLP begin to evacuate the 85th floor of 2 World Trade Center (South Tower). Soon-to-be partner Mark A. Brisman (Kappa Xi/Albany 1990) is not among the early evacuees.
8:50 a.m. - Staff members from Cantor Fitzgerald’s Los Angeles office call the New York office to learn what is happening. According to Anne Davis’ article in The Wall Street Journal:
“The Los Angeles staff, who then put the call on its in-house public-address system, heard a colleague in the New York office say, ‘I think a plane just hit us.’ While the phone call continued to be broadcast over the entire Los Angeles office, the New York office began filling with smoke and people began screaming. ‘Somebody's got to help us. ... We can't get out. ... The place is filling with smoke,’ a person in the New York office was heard to say. Shortly afterward, the connection was cut off.”
Gary F. Lutnick, the younger brother of Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick, calls 911 four times to calmly report on the situation: coworkers were jumping to their deaths from the windows. He calls his ex-girlfriend Ann who was in Hawaii and leaves a voice message: “Hey, baby. It's me. I'm in the World Trade Center and – a plane hit this building and I'm on the 104th floor and it's filling up with smoke. I love you very much, and I'm sorry that we had to go through what it is that we went through. Oh, my God. My life is probably going to end very, very shortly. I love you, baby. Bye-bye.” Also heard on the message are two unidentified men saying, “Let's go. Hold the vents. Is there any vents in here?” and “No. Close the door.”
Gary attempts to call his brother Howard and ultimately calls his sister Edie Lutnick, who happened to still be at home and not at her office on the 101st floor. He tells her that he is in a corner office with the door closed on the 103rd floor. He says that black smoke is pouring in and that he is having trouble breathing. Gary's voice goes silent and his sister cannot hear him breathing. It is possible that Gary passes away while on the phone with his sister.
Since all stairwells leading past the impact zone have been destroyed by the initial crash or are blocked with smoke, fire, or debris, every employee who reported to Cantor Fitzgerald for work that morning perishes. In all, 658 of its 960 New York employees are killed, or 68.5% of its total workforce. Among the 658 are Craig M. Blass, Scott T. Coleman, William C. Sugra, and Gary F. Lutnick.
8:55 a.m. - A Port Authority fire safety employee makes an announcement via the public address system in 2 World Trade Center (South Tower): “Your attention, please, ladies and gentlemen. Building Two is secure. There is no need to evacuate Building Two. If you are in the midst of evacuation, you may use the reentry doors and the elevators to return to your office. Repeat, Building Two is secure.”
Despite the announcement, John W. Farrell (Delta Gamma/WV Wesleyan 1982), a bonds trader for Sandler O’Neill & Partners on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center (South Tower), joins others from his department and evacuates, heading to the 78th floor.
8:59 a.m. - Port Authority Police Department issues orders to commence the evacuation of both towers.
9:00 a.m. - Port Authority Police Department expands the order to include all civilians within the World Trade Center complex.
9:02 a.m. - A Port Authority fire safety employee makes an announcement via the public address system in 2 World Trade Center (South Tower): “May I have your attention, please. Repeating this message. The situation occurred in Building One. If the conditions warrant on your floor, you may wish to start an orderly evacuation.”
9:03 a.m. - Five hijackers crash United Airlines Flight 175 into floors 77 through 85 of 2 World Trade Center (South Tower), killing the 51 passengers and nine crew members onboard the aircraft and an unknown number of people inside the building, possibly including John W. Farrell and Mark A. Brisman. The impact renders two of the three emergency stairwells impassable and severs a majority of the elevator cables in this area, trapping many above the impact zone and inside elevator cars.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) calls for a second Level 4 mobilization, bringing its total deployment to nearly 2,000 officers. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) issues a fifth alarm for the South Tower, deploying several hundred additional firefighters to the disaster. Additional companies and off-duty personnel from across the metropolitan area travel to the scene, including Patrick A. Versage (Epsilon Sigma/Wagner 1990) who heads in from Toms River, NJ, with the Silverton Fire Company, Station 29.
9:20 a.m. - Freddie Mac employees in Washington, D.C. receive a call from a colleague in New York indicating that he had received a call from one of his staff members, Mike Gann, who was also at the Risk Waters Group conference. Gann had told him that that the conference room was filling with smoke, the elevators were not working, and the stairwells were impassible. Gann also mentioned that Mark E. Schurmeier is standing next to him. 911 is looped in, and based on their input, Gann and others begin breaking windows.
9:30 a.m. - Freddie Mac employees in Washington, D.C. repeatedly call Mark E. Schurmeier’s cell phone but do not receive a response.
9:37 a.m. - Five hijackers crash American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. The 53 passengers and six crew members on board perish. The crash and ensuing fire kill 125 military and civilian personnel on the ground.
9:42 a.m. - The Federal Aviation Administration grounds all flights in U.S. airspace.
9:45 a.m. - Evacuations begin in Washington, D.C. at the White House and U.S. Capitol.
9:59 a.m. - After burning for 56 minutes, 2 World Trade Center (South Tower) collapses in 10 seconds. More than 800 civilians and first responders inside the building and in the surrounding area are killed. If John W. Farrell and Mark A. Brisman had possibly survived the impact at 9:03 a.m., it is certain that they did not survive the collapse.
10:03 a.m. - Four hijackers crash United Flight 93 in a field near Shanksville, PA, after passengers and crew storm the cockpit. The 33 passengers and seven crew members on board perish. The crash site is approximately 20 minutes’ flying time from Washington, D.C.
10:15 a.m. - A damaged section of the Pentagon’s west-facing outer ring (E Ring) collapses.
10:18 a.m. - In another call placed to his wife, Jon C. Vandevander says to her, “I love you and tell the kids I love them.”
10:28 a.m. - After burning for 102 minutes, 1 World Trade Center (North Tower) collapses in less than 15 seconds. More than 1,600 people are killed. Had they possibly survived the earlier impact and resulting fires and smoke, it is certain that Mark E. Schurmeier, Craig M. Blass, Scott T. Coleman, William C. Sugra, Gary F. Lutnick, and Jon C. Vandevander do not survive the collapse.
11:02 a.m. - Lower Manhattan is ordered to evacuate
12:16 p.m. - The final flight above the United States lands and U.S. airspace is closed.
5:20 p.m. - 7 World Trade Center collapses after burning for hours.
8:30 p.m. - The President of the United States addresses the nation from the White House.
Click here to access individual profiles of each of these brothers listed above.