I felt indebted to the Crisis Prevention Institute on September 11, 2001.
I’ve spent most of my career in crisis response work, serving several years with the American Red Cross as a Mental Health Specialist in their Disaster Services Division. I’ve worked for several social service agencies and for a national Employee Assistance firm’s Crisis Management Division. I’ve served as a crisis responder during tornadoes, fires, floods, plane crashes, and other major events. I now proudly serve the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).
I note all this not to impress you, but rather to show you where I’m coming from as I honor the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
And I felt indebted to CPI on September 11. Our simple and clear protocols, techniques, and skills stayed in my mind as I carried out my responsibilities that day. These concepts included the CPI Crisis Development Model
℠, the Verbal Escalation Continuum
℠, the importance of respecting and honoring personal space, and so on.
On that date—and for several months forward—I served as the Crisis Manager for Marriott International. I don’t know how I would have done my job without having completed and conducted dozens of CPI training programs. This is not because I dealt with violence during that time, but because so many of the concepts and skills apply anyway.
I am well aware that our training programs primarily focus on prevention, response, and follow-up to violent events. At the same time, our principles, protocols, and methods apply to a vast variety of events—not just violence. The strategies we teach are incredibly useful in many different life situations because they’re based on simple psychological principles.
Clearing the Way to Safety
On September 11, 2001, the Marriott Hotel World Trade Center was at full capacity, with close to one thousand guests. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) was also holding its yearly conference there.
It was only a hotel, a 22-story dwarf tucked under the colossal Twin Towers. In its final 102 minutes, this Marriott Hotel served as the mouth of a tunnel to safety—an oasis and runway out of the burning towers.
At 8:46 that morning, landing gear from the first plane pierced the hotel roof and crashed into an office next to the pool. That collision set off the hotel’s fire alarms. A cadre of unsung Marriott workers, from managers to porters, immediately began to canvass the entire hotel, knocking on every door to make sure guests took the alarms seriously and evacuated safely.
As the guests headed for the lobby, people escaping from the north tower of the World Trade Center were also flooding in. The two buildings were linked by a door on the hotel’s north side.
The south tower’s collapse destroyed the center of the hotel, and the north tower destroyed the rest of it—aside from a small section farthest from the collapse. This section, which included the Marriott house lounge, managed to survive due to the irony that it was fortified after the 1993 bombing in Marriott’s parking garage.
As the evacuation of all three buildings proceeded, another cadre of Marriott staff did something extraordinarily simple and clear:
As people fleeing the towers arrived in the hotel, Marriott workers pointed and steered them into the Marriott house lounge, where an exit took them to police officers and temporary safety on Liberty Street.
Through their simple and clear actions, these employees undoubtedly contributed to saving the lives of over a thousand people who passed through to Liberty Street. During crisis situations, simple and clear guidelines for directing our decisions and actions work best.
September 11, 2015 is a National Day of Service and Remembrance. We salute the people of Marriott International and all of the professional and citizen responders who responded to all of the devastating 9/11 events around the United States. We honor the memory of victims and offer our caring support to their loved ones.
Beginning at 3 p.m., on 9/11/2015, the 9/11 Memorial in New York City will be open to the public for a special viewing of Tribute in Light on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Memorial provides a meaningful vantage point for the annual tribute. The Memorial will remain open until midnight. Tribute in Light will illuminate the New York City sky just south of the Memorial site.
The illuminated memorial reaches four miles into the sky and is visible within a 60-mile radius on a clear night
Bill Badzmierowski has served as a crisis responder during Hurricane Iniki in the Hawaiian Islands; countless tornadoes, fires, and floods in various parts of North America; the Southern California earthquake; the Wisconsin train derailment; the Egypt Air crash, Air Transat crash, and Alaska Airlines crash; the shootings at Columbine High School; the September 11, 2001 terrorist incidents in the United States; the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta, Indonesia; and a number of other major crisis events throughout the world.