9/18–20 years on — the first trade @ ML

I woke up this morning thinking about the week leading up to 9/18–2001. We worked every hour that God gave us from 5am on 9/12 to get to the point where the first trade went through the systems of 95 Greene Street in Jersey City where our Fixed Income trading team had taken up residence. The Herzog facility at 525 Washington Street in Jersey City was repurposed as the Merrill Lynch equity trading floor and we were back in business. Just thinking about it right now has my spine and my brain tingling with pride, the joy of success, the pain of loss still fresh in our minds. The cheering as the first trade went through was like Eli Mannings winning pass in the Superbowl against the Patriots (I am not even a Giants fan and I loved that). Just unbelievable!

To get to this point we literally had to rebuild our global (and metropolitan) network using GRE tunnels over the internet, via fiber poked through a recently drilled hole between 570 Washington Street and UUNet in the building next door (more coming on that in the next few days). We had to send army trucks into NYC through an empty Holland tunnel to get backup tapes from the World Financial Center. Restore the data and systems from those tapes in brand new servers in 101 Hudson Street and 95 Greene Street, which were literally being provisioned as fast we could unpack the boxes. When we started at 5am on 9/12 there was about 25 of us in Greene St. By 9/15 there were >5000 people in a building with a fire limit of 1100; heck people were even writing code using the WiFi from 95 Greene Street in the rooftop bar of the pub next door.

We didn’t have time to think or time to grieve (that came later) we just had to work and work and get the job done. There were so many people who went above and beyond it would honestly suffice to say that every single person was a legend in their own right. There was no politics, no b/s, no rank, there was just survival.

Here are some highlights from November 2001 town hall where we tried to encapsulate the good things that had happened and preserve them in a culture that could persist.

Sorry for the nostalgia, but there is no greater achievement for me than what we did together after 9/11’s tragedy. It will stay with and haunt me forever. On the positive side many of the lessons I learned have guided my career from that day forward and I have certainly tried to live each day to the fullest I can.

Andy is CTO of Fintech Innvovation Lab, CEO of Sand Hill East and Board member at Zscaler, Guidewire, Pure Storage, Moogsoft & Skyhive. Startup Advisor to many!