Skip to content

Remembering Our Resilience

Stanley Zale reflects on the events - and the lessons - of September 11.

September has become a difficult time of the year for Americans. I can’t believe that it’s been 14 years since that terrible day, a day that frankly began as a beautiful, sunny day in New York.

I worked in an office on the 48th floor, the top floor, of the Time Life building at 51st St. & 6th Ave. From my desk, I had a southwards view and could see the eastern two-thirds of one of the towers. I never made a distinction as to which tower it was; that never mattered. As it turns out, it was tower two.

Shortly after arriving at the office that day, one of my coworkers took a phone call and then quickly told me that she heard a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Our immediate guess was that it must have been a small plane that somehow clipped the building; I was not prepared to imagine anything else.

Since we were on the top floor, we had roof access, so we went upstairs and, from the better view, could see smoke coming from one of the towers. I remember seeing a helicopter by the towers – a traffic/news helicopter, I wondered? But now I’m not sure if it was there. Things were happening so quickly.

We stayed on the roof for a few minutes and went back down to the office. By then, several others had arrived and were all watching from the windows. It was at that moment that we saw a tremendous fireball explode out of tower two; the other plane had just hit.

Over the course of the next hour, we watched the news and called to check on family and friends. I was on the phone with my wife who was watching the events unfold on television, when she suddenly said to me, “Oh, my G*d, the building just collapsed”. I was looking right at it, and from my view, four miles away, the tower was so shrouded in smoke I couldn’t discern that it was no longer standing.

We all know how things unfolded over the subsequent minutes, hours, days, and weeks. No need for me to go there. But I will never forget a moment four months later when a friend of the owner of the diamond company I worked for came to our office with a diamond. He had just been given his safe deposit box that had been in a bank vault in the basement of one of the towers. The box was crushed and burned, and whatever paper was in the box was long gone. But also in that box was a diamond. The diamond, originally colorless, was now covered with a black coating.

The gentleman asked that we re-polish the diamond to remove the coating. My first instinct was to discourage him from doing that; that this diamond that survived the horror of 9/11, I thought, meant it needed to remain as-is. I saw it as a small, permanent testament to the beautiful, clear September morning that suddenly darkened into ugly, nightmarish black. But he was not to be persuaded; we re-polished the stone.

In the aftermath, as we all struggled in our own ways to make sense of what happened – where there was no sense to be made – to somehow find a way to cope, that diamond helped me. As I reflect on it, I see that re-polishing the stone was the right decision. Restoring it to its original beauty stands as a symbol of the strength of the human spirit: at once remembering the past but also committed to making the world a better and more beautiful place.


Stanley Zale

I've been with Stuller since 2006 • Grew up on Long Island • Life-long, and long-suffering Mets, Jets and Knicks fan • Graduate of Ithaca College in upstate NY • Majored in political science • I love listening to Dylan, the Dead, Tom Petty, and opera • I’m undefeated in Trivial Pursuit • “90% of life is just showing up.” ~ Allan Stewart Konigsberg.