Westmont Magazine Responding to 9-1-1
A collection of alumni stories
Tuesday was the one day of the week Tim Tewksbury ’83 spent in his office on the 63rd floor of Two World Trade Center. The other four days, he traveled to retail outlets in his five-state territory.
A sales and marketing executive for a Wall Street firm, he was proud of his office. “I loved being there at 7 in the morning, taking in the magnificent view of Manhattan,” he says. “It seemed a little frivolous to have that space when I was there so little, but it meant a lot to me to have an office at the company’s headquarters. I always felt safe and secure there, even after the bombing in 1993. I never thought I might be in danger.”
On Sept. 11, Tim was running late. He and his wife, Laura Watson Tewksbury ’83, had just returned from a trip with their three children to visit her parents in Santa Barbara. A good friend of Westmont Coach John Moore ’77 and a former Warrior basketball team captain, Tim even came to campus and spoke at the first meeting of the basketball team.
Still on California time that Tuesday morning, Tim was more than an hour behind schedule, which annoyed him. As he parked his car near the train station in Newark, N.J., he told himself he should already be in the office.
Then he glanced toward New York City and saw smoke pouring from the Trade Center towers. His first reaction was disbelief. The towers couldn’t be on fire. Slowly he grasped the awful reality. Then his cell phone rang, and his frantic wife told him the unbelievable news.
He got back into the car, drove to a nearby branch office, and, with members of his firm, watched their headquarters collapse. Horrified, he could think only of the friends and colleagues who may have perished.
“It was a very emotional moment,” he recalls. “I had to get out of there and go home to my family. I spent the rest of the day at home trying to find out if my boss was OK. After five hours, I finally received word that he was safe, and I broke down in tears. My kids thought someone had died. He barely got out, but he was alive.”
Tim lost only one good friend in the terrorist attack, and he was thankful to hear that many of his coworkers made it out of the building.
“Hearing stories about people’s escapes has been amazing,” Tim notes. “No one had an easy time. Lots of miracles happened that day.”
While Tim was tracking down his co-workers, friends around the country were trying to discover his fate. John Moore was one of the first to reach him. When Tim’s name showed up on a Web site of people reported missing, he got a call from worried, upset Westmont friends.
“It’s been wonderful to hear from people who really care about me,” Tim says. “I am so thankful for my faith and for being able to lean on the Lord during this time.”
A veteran coach of youth sports teams, Tim was touched when many of his current and former players asked about him.
With interest rates dropping, Tim has been busy selling mortgages. “It’s therapeutic to be so immersed in the mortgage market,” he notes. “It’s good to be busy.”
Eventually he will settle into a new office in Manhattan, probably in a tall building. He will feel less secure, but he will continue to trust God.
At 8:50 a.m. on Sept. 11, I walked out of my apartment in the East Village in Lower Manhattan and someone shouted from the corner that a plane had just smashed into one of the World Trade Center Towers. I ran to the corner and saw smoke and flames pouring out of the tower. I got on the subway heading to my work in Brooklyn thinking, like many people, that it was an amateur pilot who had lost control of their plane.
When I got to Brooklyn I realized that I had been very wrong. A group of people who I work with stood and watched as the buildings burned and then collapsed. A collective groan of disbelief and horror erupted from us as each tower was replaced with a tower of smoke and flames.
I had to walk home that day. I was one of the few people walking back into the city across the Manhattan Bridge. People passing me were covered in ash and most were wearing dust masks.
On Aug. 15, 2001, I moved to New York from Boston to start a new job. In a powerful way living through the horrific events of Sept. 11 and its aftermath has attached me to this place and the people here in a way that may have taken years.
The week before I left Boston to move to New York I read in Jeremiah 29 where the prophet writes to the Israelites in Babylon, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce . . . Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Although New York continues to deeply grieve there is also a tremendous current of energy being channeled toward rebuilding and renewing the city. The next era in the history of New York City will need many people who are ready to seek its welfare. I hope that I can be one of them.
Jonathan posed in New York with his parents, Walter and Darlene Hansen, days before Sept. 11.