Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Dealing with Homophobia in the Workplace

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 13 November 2001, at 9: 51 pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

Last night, I presented my perspective on dealing with homophobia in the workplace at the GLBT community center in White Plains, NY.

Following my prepared remarks, I handed out copies of the new recruiting brochure produced by Paul Carey and written by EAGLE - Raleigh member, Deb Davisson, of IBM Marketing Solutions.

The program coordinator agreed to put a stack in the room where the 20-something group meets, too.

I talked about the brochures in the context of IBM offering a barrier-free environment for GLBT employees, and that despite how good we have it at IBM, people are still not yet out en masse.

I welcome hearing others' perspectives on dealing with homophobia at work, including our own internalized homophobia.

[Here's the transcript:]

Dealing with Homophobia in the Workplace
presented by Sarah Siegel at
The Loft, White Plains, New York, 12 November 2001

Lovonia, thank you for inviting me to contribute to The Loft's series on dealing with homophobia in the workplace. And thanks to Mary Seminara for connecting us. Mary is a member of the Tri-State chapter of EAGLE, IBM's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) employee group and she is also active at The Loft.

When Lovonia made the invitation, I said, "Well, I hope it'll be OK that I'll be speaking from my perspective and won't be sharing sad stories because I've had a positive experience at IBM." And I have. And it was OK.

I have felt no career-limiting discrimination for being openly-lesbian at IBM and have observed that high-performing, openly-GLBT colleagues have gone only upward in their careers at IBM.

Still, I'm grateful to have had this assignment for The Loft series because it gave me the opportunity to reflect further.

When I dug a bit, I realized I do have substantial experience with dealing with homophobia in the workplace -- my own. It feels risky to say that; I'm a leader of the GLBT business community and I worry that if I admit my own not-yet-fully-loving pride in my lesbian identity, I could slow down progress.

It's a risk I'll take, though, because perhaps someone who's looking for inspiration to become more visibly proud can see my example as one of someone who has fears, but ultimately channels them to become a stronger, more loving leader.

Over the course of my career, my fears around being lesbian have been wide-ranging, including worries about:
· Coming out to my management
· Coming out to peers
· Coming out to teams I've managed
· Helping closeted colleagues on my teams be fully productive
· Getting my feelings hurt by closeted colleagues who are threatened by my visibility
· Standing out as too unfeminine in the conventional sense
· Speaking out against anti-gay jokes
· Being exemplary at my job to reflect well on the GLBT Community
· Representing the GLBT business community optimally

These are just a sample. In each case, I've acted despite my fears and feel I've been successful.

Today, it seems that any sort of phobia is both more and less understandable than ever. For example, considering the recent terrorist acts, as a Jewish-American lesbian, I can look at myself as more vulnerable than ever in several ways, but I don't feel so vulnerable at work.

In my experience, other than among my loved ones, my workplace is the safest place for me to be myself, now more than ever.

Among the first colleagues to check on me on September 11th were two non-gay, non-Jewish Austrian and British IBM colleagues based in Vienna and Hursley, England.
One's father is Egyptian and the other's parents are East Indian – one Hindu and one Sikh. I was so moved when their instant messages of concern popped up on my computer screen.

Both know that I'm Jewish and lesbian; one even accompanied my partner Pat and me to a Chanukah celebration at our GLBT synagogue in New York City a few years ago and we had a delightful time together.

I mean it about work being among the safest places for me now. IBM and an increasing number of employers are ahead of their in-country governments in their policies toward being equitable to GLBT employees.

IBM offers the added bonus of being a global company, so I've been able to work with people from all over the world throughout my career. I've been out to all of them and we've worked well together and even felt affection for one another.

It has, however, been more challenging to be openly-lesbian when I am working with colleagues in their countries than when they are working in the States with me; that has been due to my own insecurities, rather than any negative vibes sent by them or their colleagues, and that's another example of getting past my fears and ultimately succeeding.

Last fall, I was lucky to be among a panel from the private sector, addressing GLOBE, the GLBT employee group of the United Nations. The group wanted my co-panelists and me to talk about best practices for GLBT employees at our respective companies.

I was moved ultimately when I learned that if I remember correctly, at least 60 percent of the people attending our talk were not native-born, not American citizens, and that they can be deported if their management has a problem with their identifying as not heterosexual.

At IBM, I've never needed to worry about being fired for being a lesbian. By contrast, what a brave group of people, who have opted to trust that homophobia in their workplace will not adversely affect them, or who have concluded that hiding their sexual orientation is not worth it to them no matter what.

I said that any phobia seems more understandable and less understandable at once these days – more understandable because these are uncertain times, but also less understandable as follows:

I have nothing left to lose by being me. All hands are needed on deck now and if my hands are capable, I believe that their productivity will matter more than what shade they are, or that they stroke a woman's smooth face as a daily gesture of love.

Love needs to replace fear, now more than ever. The GLBT Sales and Talent team that my counterpart Joseph Bertolotti and our manager Mike Fuller and I are starting up for IBM is a prime example of love overcoming fear. Again, the fear was my own, not IBM's.

I worried about the risk of leaving to work full-time on appealing to the GLBT Community. I had spent nearly seven years building my reputation as a leader of and had gained respect for my contribution particularly to the revenue-producing section of the Web site; my teams designed, developed and built much of the online store.

My heart wanted to be dedicated to the GLBT mission, but I was nervous about the all-lesbian-all-the-time quality of the role I was going to take on.

I spoke with my non-gay manager about the opportunity without sharing my homophobic reservations and she said, "Sarah, this is an amazing startup opportunity. IBM always looks at startup experience in evaluating people who become general managers ultimately."

I had never voiced a desire to be a GM, but was flattered at her vision. I can remember my own well-meaning, older sisters Deb and Kathy asking me very early on in my career, "Sarah, is it such a good idea for you to be so out at work?" And that was when I was a technical writer, who didn't even know I had management aspirations.

In fact, it was my colleague David Chase's and my leadership of EAGLE – Tri-State that led me to want to be a manager. I realized that I enjoyed helping people be a bit happier and more productive through my influence, and EAGLE gave me a taste of what management was like in that respect.

And I have gained insight through helping to lead EAGLE: I have much to learn from the closeted and semi-closeted among my colleagues and a number of them are open to having a dialogue with me. In my role with EAGLE, they know they can open up to me because it's understood that it's between us.

Before I became a leader of EAGLE, and before I took on the role of helping start up IBM's GLBT Sales and Talent team, it was unlikely that closeted professionals would be drawn to me, as I was too poster-childish for them. Now, we have excuses to talk.

I said that I wasn't planning to tell sad stories, but upon reflection, I realize I've experienced a particularly heartbreaking aspect of homophobia in the workplace and I feel it's worth sharing: I'm going to talk now about the sort of internalized homophobia that hurts other GLBT people and not just oneself.

Even with having the mission to reach the GLBT market and attract, retain and motivate the world's best GLBT talent, sometimes I worry about talking to the particularly closeted among my colleagues for fear of getting hurt.

For example, I have presented myself to some on the one hand cautiously -- because I've got this notion that I need to be super-diplomatic -- and then since I feel tense from being overly-polite, I blurt out on the other hand an impossible question like, "What would it take to make you comfortable enough to come out?" Or "Too bad you couldn't bring your partner to that function; she's probably more appealing than many of the guys' wives."

When I say things like that, I'm making these colleagues uncomfortable and forcing them to respond with their discomfort. The typical result is that both of us feel hurt.

However, when I'm brave and also extend myself more naturally and meet them on their own terms, we have a respectful exchange and even become friendly.

Even as I'm about to talk of my own experience before I came out, I'm having a hard time relating to some colleagues' position that it's not self-hatred that keeps them closeted, but rather self-consciousness. There are truly private people in the world; obviously, I am not one of them.

Ideally, I should come to realize that not everyone wants to be as self-disclosing as I do and I'd like in turn for all of the more quiet among us to respect that I wish to be open about my sexual orientation.

I like how my colleague Rob Shook sums it up: "No one should need to hide his or her sexual orientation out of fear [of retribution]," he says.

As long as it's not fear that's motivating the non-disclosure, then I say, Terrific.
My challenge, as a super-open sort of person, is imagining that there would be any other reason than fear for keeping my sexual orientation to myself.

I do respect that there are other reasons, but in my experience, it was fear that kept me from telling colleagues about my lesbianism at my first job out of college.

I need to keep fresh my memory of how it was for me when I was closeted at work. Nothing anyone could have said to me would have helped me till I was ready to be visible.

Once I was ready, though, I wish there had been more in the way of resources around me, like there are at IBM. At Sears Technology Services – the technology arm of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in Schaumburg, Illinois, before much of it became part of IBM -- I was entirely out on my own 10 years ago.

How gratifying it was earlier in the fall to participate in a weekend gathering of the EAGLE – Midwest chapter and see two guys I used to pass in the halls in Schaumburg all the time. If we had been part of a company that had had a GLBT employee group back then, we could have been not so isolated.

During that same weekend, EAGLE hosted a GLBT employee group panel that included reps from Sears' GLBT employee group, which was formed following my move to IBM, and that was also satisfying.

Through our work, so far since June of this year, Joseph and I have discovered what we call the Outness Continuum. We have had a number of experiences both with colleagues and customers, who are not fully-out, but who are in any case eager to help us in our mission.

Recognizing all that I've just said about the potential tenderness of exchanges with semi-closeted and closet colleagues, typically, I'm more comfortable speaking with the often non-gay client team directors and managers about the mission and how Joseph and I can help them sell more to their clients whenever we have a GLBT decision maker for them to meet.

Joseph and I find that they respond to our enthusiasm and understand that what we're doing fundamentally is the same as any classic relationship- selling model, that we're using our network in order to sell. Personally, it's easier for me to be enthusiastic with non-gay people of both genders because somehow, less is riding on their response.

Again, with closeted colleagues, my own homophobia bubbles to the surface and has to be channeled compared with non-gay colleagues, who typically don't bring the same fears to the exchange.

Internalized homophobia is so poisonous because when I'm talking with someone who feels it's too dangerous to be out, part of me always loses a bit of my footing; I think to myself, What do they know that I don't? Why am I so brazen?

Ultimately, I remind myself that I get past my homophobia and come out to people for several reasons:
1. As a Jew, my parents raised me to be openly-proud of my heritage
2. I don't feel I can pass as non-gay, and don't want to try to
3. Being openly-lesbian has become a leadership opportunity; I've become somewhat of a mentor for GLBT colleagues who aspire to become managers, for example
4. I'm convinced there are more potential career and spiritual opportunities for me by being out than by being closeted, at least more of the sort of which I'd prefer to take advantage

For example, in my current GLBT Sales and Talent role, our team presents routinely to Doug Elix, who leads IBM's largest and most thriving division, IBM Global Services. It's a tremendous opportunity to get feedback on my performance directly from one of IBM's wisest leaders.

And it's the ultimate example of homophobia not being at work in the workplace – just the opposite. Doug speaks of what we're doing as helping burnish IBM's reputation in the market and among prospective employees – not the GLBT market, but the market at large, and not GLBT prospective employees, but all prospective employees. He says, "Keep in mind the star-burst effect your work is having."

I'm reminded of having hired an employee last year, who said he decided on IBM because his sister's a lesbian and he liked IBM's diversity commitment.
I said I'm out also because I prefer the sort of spiritual opportunities that being so affords me:

For example, last Friday, a leader of one of our competitor's, Accenture's, GLBT employee group invited Joseph and me to be the outside speakers that Accenture brought in for a special Diversity program; employees from the various employee diversity groups at Accenture in New York City attended, including the GLBT employee group.

The program marked the debut of the GLBT group in joining the rest of the family of diversity employee groups at Accenture. The group was formed last May and after our presentation, we got to meet with the members of that group in particular.

Yes, I relished that a competitor gave IBM an opportunity to demonstrate thought leadership; and yes, it felt good from the standpoint that we're already working together on projects around the world; and it was nice to connect for the purpose of celebrating our respective employees' diversity, but there were additional opportunities that felt particularly spiritual as well:

I felt like Joseph and I were visiting from their future. Their status as an employee group reminded me of IBM circa 1997 and I was moved that I was able to play a part in their early progress. I'm all for competition, but I'm also all for the advancement of all GLBT businesspeople.

In the elevator on the way out, one of the Latino participants said, "Good presentation. What's next for you?"
"I'm going to speak at the GLBT community center in White Plains on Monday about dealing with homophobia in the workplace and how it's not really the non-gay people who are the problem," I said, "but us, being our own worst enemy."

I responded with no self-consciousness because I was still inspired by the premise and success of the program at Accenture, and then it struck me, this guy might be gay himself. And I walked away from the exchange hopeful because he seemed receptive.

The spiritual part is knowing that there's a positive star-burst effect and a loving quality to my career that extends beyond any prior job. I feel like I can re-affirm for my sisters Deb and Kathy enthusiastically, "Yes, it's a great idea for me to be so out at work," but they came to that conclusion themselves years ago as they watched my progress.

My hope is that I'm able to deal ever-more effectively with my own internalized homophobia, so that I'm natural with GLBT and non-gay colleagues alike, and that unswervingly, I heed my own declaration that love needs to replace fear, now more than ever.

* * *

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Out & Equal Excellence Award IBM Acceptance Speech and Presentation

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 10 October 2001, at 6: 30pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

I was honored to represent IBM in accepting this year's Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award and was advised to focus graciously on the people conferring the award, and not on IBM.

Selisse Berry, executive director of Out & Equal and the award giver, stated a number of the highlights that distinguished IBM and that earned it the award, including that IBM provides more than just basic health domestic partner benefits and the specifics, that IBM held a Leadership Conference with attendees from eight countries, and that IBM recently formed a dedicated GLBT Sales and Talent team. I said the following:

Excerpt of Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award IBM acceptance speech:

I am thrilled that IBM has earned this year's Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award.

Standing here, I knew I'd be reminded of being in 7th grade. When I was 12, I entered a science fair project in the Connecticut State Science Fair. It was 1977, and the project won an award for being on a popular theme, namely, providing an alternative energy resource; I made the case for wind power.

Standing here reminds me of that first important award of my life, and the recognition feels similar: Out & Equal is acknowledging IBM for its efforts in supporting the case for tapping alternative energy.

Everyone in this room whom I've had the pleasure to meet is an exciting energy resource, and the most compelling energy of all is that of Selisse Berry, the Executive Director of the Out & Equal...powerhouse....

* * *

During the conference, IBM was also well-represented, since Paul Carey held a session on GLBT employee recruiting and I served on a panel along with Rhona Berenstein of PlanetOut Partners and Wes Combs of Witeck-Combs Communications on being effective employees and employers online. Rhona spoke of IBM, Capital One and US Airways and Wes spoke of American Airlines, Coors and HRC's Worknet. Here's the transcript and visuals from my section of the presentation:

Top 5 Tips for Being Effective
LGBT Employees and Employers Online

Delivered at Out & Equal Workplace Summit 2001
by Sarah Siegel, Program Director, GLBT Sales and Talent, IBM

The following tips work for us in reaching lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender employees online and we believe they can work for anyone interested in appealing to this remarkable group; if you plan to inform, recruit or motivate LGBT employees:

1. Endure; have stamina
2. Be credible
3. Find a role model
4. Join a professional LGBT organization
5. Inspire loyalty.


I'm grateful to have a history of being effective online.

My previous manager, Jeanine Cotter, the VP of Web Strategy and Design, gave me an seven-year anniversary T-shirt that reads, " seven years, 11 versions," which reminds me of my first tip: Endure; have stamina.

Typically, these days, when customers hear the story of how the company transformed itself into an e-business, they marvel and want IBM's help to do the same for them, which reminds me of the reactions I get when I talk to people who are impressed with IBM's achievements in the LGBT arena.

It's sort of like the occasional writers, painters or musicians who seem wildly popular all of a sudden, but who, in fact, have been practicing and honing their art for years. IBM coined the term e-business in the mid-90s and has been inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual employees since 1984, when it added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.

That leads me to my second tip, which is: Be credible. If you are not with an organization that was born on the Web, then it's key to have a good offline story that you can tell if possible. Offline gestures, such as Domestic Partnership Benefits for employees, feed online success. It is much easier to build LGBT employee commitment when the organization has a solid record of treating all employees fairly.

I hope that all of us here today discuss lessons learned and best practices, so that we can collectively shrink the amount of time needed for each of our organizations to be more effective, and even wildly popular among LGBT employees.

Like a number of us here who've worked for corporations for the past decade or longer, I have had e-mail access courtesy of my employer for my entire corporate career.

I've been using e-mail, the Web, and more recently instant messaging, to be effective in helping IBM and myself reach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, with positive results, and I'll provide examples of some.

Ten years ago, I found Kathleen Dermody, the leader of LEAGUE, AT&T's LGBT employee group. Her e-mail address was in an article I read -- I can't even remember where -- and when I contacted Kathleen online, I was the only out LGB or T person I knew of at work; I was based in Schaumburg, Illinois at the time.

Kathleen was entirely generous in sharing with me her experience of leading LEAGUE. She was a friendly face, no, a friendly voice, no, a friendly screenful of words to me in my isolation then.

As it turned out, my partner Pat and I moved to New Jersey in '96 for Pat's job, and coincidentally, we live one town over from Kathleen and her partner Karen, and we get together regularly.

Kathleen was a role model for me, along with AT&T; they demonstrated that employees and employers could be visible effectively among the LGBT community. So the third tip is: Find a role model.

Of course, it's a special pleasure to find kindred spirits in your own organization as well. The online directory of NOGLSTP members led me to Rob Shook, the first openly-gay IBMer I was able to identify.

NOGLSTP is the National Organization of LGBT Scientists and Technical Professionals and I was a member electronically, since the organization is based in Pasadena, and since most of the conferences where members got together were scientific, rather than technical.

Rob was based in Boca Raton at the time, so like Kathleen, Rob was another friendly screenful, rather than a colleague whom I could meet in person, at least initially. I was still in Schaumburg, with a joint venture of IBM and Sears at the time, and I was so glad to know that I was no longer the only openly-gay person I knew of who was affiliated with either company.

The fourth tip, then, is: Join a professional LGBT organization. The Out & Equal consortium did not exist back then, and now it does. Nearly a decade ago, NOGLSTP helped me affiliate with an organization where I could meet others online who were interested in advancing LGBT people in the workplace and marketplace.

Rob and I did get to meet in person when IBM first sponsored the National Gay and Lesbian Business Expo in New York City. Together, we presented "Cruising the Information Super-highway," which included our top 10 tips for creating successful Web sites.

We also enabled IBM booth visitors to create their own home page. This was in 1995 and we hosted the home pages of nearly 50 LGBT people on for more than a year, including a number that were created by LGBT IBMers, who were IBM product demonstrators at the Expo.

As more LGBT IBMers saw the content, they were excited that IBM was hosting it, that IBM was so visibly welcoming LGBT customers. That enthusiasm reminded me of the fifth and most important tip, which is particularly for employers: Inspire loyalty.
The rest of what I have to say relates to the importance of inspiring loyalty in current and future employees. I believe it's the secret to succeeding in attracting, retaining and motivating LGBT talent and it's what makes any employer popular in the LGBT workplace and marketplace.

Before we had diversity network groups in the United States, where U.S.-based IBMers from diverse constituencies could get together in person, LGBT IBMers joined the Friends of Dorothy electronic distribution list. Carol Vericker, who just retired from IBM, started the anonymous list in 1993 and it spread by word of mouth.

It had 100 U.S.-based members and served as the foundation for EAGLE, the LGBT employee group that would form three years later.

I specified the United States because IBM in Canada started its LGBT employee group in 1991, five years before the U.S. chapters of EAGLE were formed. And now, there are EAGLE chapters that have begun in Australia, the U.K. and Mexico as well.

All of us who are members, plus a number who prefer to remain anonymously interested parties, are able to meet electronically more actively than we could through the distribution list because now we've got an electonic bulletin board and repository for our self-created profiles.

The profiles include LGBT IBMers from all over the world, whether or not a formal EAGLE chapter exists in a particular country yet. For example, here's one that I like of Mikael Boe Larsen from IBM in Denmark especially because it features two photos of him with his husband at their wedding.

Here's a poignant one of a necessarily anonymous gay IBMer from Singapore, where it's illegal to be gay; his photo shows him going into the surf in full scuba gear, so that he's unidentifiable, yet still registering his presence.

Here's mine. When you scroll down, which I won't do here, you can see that I've included a selected autobiography in pop music.

You might wonder how I had the time to put together such content and that's the beauty of this database: All IBMers can access it and all can add to it on our own time. An IBMer from the UK contacted me to let me know that he also loves "Illusion" by the British R&B group, Imagination. An Australian colleague told me that she also loves Sandra Bernhard as a singer.

The only unique challenge I see in informing, recruiting or motivating LGBT employees online is the periodic anonymity requirement.

LGBT employees at IBM are making progress in their willingness to be out in proportion to gestures made by IBM to demonstrate repeatedly that it welcomes LGBT employees. Friends of Dorothy was a list of 100 people. That was in 1993. Now, there are 850 members of EAGLE worldwide. And this month marks the premier issue of an online EAGLE newsletter, which will be debuting on National Coming Out Day, I'm happy to e-mail it to anyone who gives me his or her card.

This past summer, Bruce Brothers, an EAGLE member in Boulder, was moved to organize three online teams of openly-LGBT IBMers for IBM's seasonal fitness challenge and published a weekly motivational e-zine that was a hit with the IBMers who joined the teams.

Sharon Lum from San Jose led another team and Michael Batal led the third one from LA.

It didn't matter that teammembers were from all over the country, since they were online teams.

The teams charted their progress online as well, and knowing that my team was counting on my participation led me to getting into the best shape I've been in in a few years.

I even made a new friend and recruited an additional EAGLE member; Frank was fairly new to IBM and contacted me because he saw that we were on the same team and both worked in the same Manhattan office building.

We've had lunch a few times and I don't know that I'd have met him as soon without Bruce's team bringing us together. Among other terrific benefits of working for IBM, all of the freedom that IBM provides its employees online yields remarkable loyalty, as I've described.

Here's a very recent, profound example of being an effective employer online: My manager Mike Fuller specified Gay and Lesbian and GLBT in the listing he created for our team on IBM's internal job postings. Nearly 100 people from Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. responded to it.

Like the LGBT Web content that hosted in 1995, the GLBT job posting generated energy, excitement and best of all, still further loyalty among LGBT IBMers worldwide.

It was historic for an IBM job posting to contain the terms Gay and Lesbian and GLBT, even though it wasn't the first time IBM was dedicating headcount to the LGBT market.

Four years ago, my IBM Procurement colleague Irwin Drucker went to his management with the idea of being a program director for Gay and Lesbian Supplier Relations, since IBM had established a similar program for companies owned by other historically-underrepresented groups, such as women-owned businesses.

Irwin's management saw the wisdom of the idea and said yes right away.

This time, Mike thought it would be a good idea to post the position and see who emerged. Within a day of posting it, he received more than 40 requests for an interview.

And the credit for that huge, swift response goes to David Chase, a leader of EAGLE, for e-mailing it to the EAGLE Council of Delegates; it fanned out through the network from there.

That was a recent example of being an effective employer internally and I look forward to Rhona telling you how PlanetOut Partners helped IBM demonstrate externally its effectiveness as an employer of GLBT talent worldwide.

[IBM in France employee recruiting portal -- IBM posted a recruiting banner on that linked directly to this page.]

Earlier, I mentioned instant messaging. It has become still one more tool for IBM to engender LGBT employee loyalty. In July of 2000, we hosted the first IBM Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference.

Nearly 100 IBMers from eight countries participated. It was an intense few days of warm community and we needed a way to sustain what we had begun building at the conference. So we created the GLLC instant messaging list and all of the attendees imported it. More than a year later, when asked, "You there?" I still answer my IBM colleagues with pleasure, "Yeah."

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Today's Events

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 11 September 2001, at 1: 40pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

I hope and pray that everyone associated with the EAGLE database is safe, along with our loved ones. I am. My loved ones are, to my knowledge.

I took an early-morning meeting at home in Montclair, NJ, then drove in to Manhattan, to 590 Madison. I was channel-surfing, as I always do in my car, among the NYC-based pop radio stations when Jammin' 105[.1] FM announced at ~ 9 am that there was an accident at the World Trade Center on the 100th floor. I live 14 miles from midtown Manhattan and I can see the World Trade Center from the Meadowlands during my drive.

It looked like the set of a Sylvester Stallone/Bruce Willis/Arnold/Tom Cruise movie. I thought I was crazy. Everyone was driving with only one eye on the road, especially as we drove around the curve toward the Lincoln Tunnel, where all of us had a distant bird's-eye view of the damage. By then, all of the pop radio stations were broadcasting emergency news about two plane crashes.

I called my assistant Jean on my cell phone to let her know I was on my way in, but more so so as not to feel alone in the experience. I got voicemail.

So this was what I sounded like in a crisis. Disbelieving. Human natureish. Not super-mature. Also, not insane, hysterical or panicked. But definitely not cool either. I reached Pat on the cell phone as it sunk in that it wasn't fiction. She said, I turned on my computer and saw it on Still, it didn't occur to either of us for me to turn around and come home, but by then it would have been impossible anyhow.

My stream of traffic was among the last they let into the tunnel, I guess, around 9:15 am, because two police cars made us move over, so they could race through. I saw a total of two people smiling today and one was in Stamford, CT, in a parking lot of an A&P, where I had to go for a detour, as the fire dept. put out a fire at a small store across the street. What a contrast with what I had witnessed earlier in the day, but no less tragic for any of the victims.

I got into the office, turned on Sametime, heard from a number of colleagues, including my manager and my counterpart Joseph, which was especially comforting, since not much else seemed to be going routinely. Then I went to visit Jean. She was stricken. Much of her floor was huddled around a TV.

Back upstairs, I passed a manager, rubbing the back of one of her employees. I saw a visiting Client Executive of one of our major accounts climb on her hands and knees on a neighboring desk to peek out the window down at the raging sirens as they passed.

Next time I passed the employee, a First Aid person was administering to him as he lay on the floor. I imagine that one of his loved ones was in the World Trade Center this morning.

A Sametime message was waiting for me when I returned from the ladies room. Mike was telling me to go home. I told Jean that I hoped she could do likewise.

I wrote out the Shema, the central prayer of Judaism, on the back of my business card and left it by the employee's ThinkPad, which was still on, so he'd see it whenever he got back to gather his things. "My prayers are with you," I added in English. The employee wears a yalmulke to work, so I figured I wasn't being inappropriate.

When I left the building, the guard opened the door for me, which is never done, so I know they were on high-alert to see who was coming and going. At the advice of the garage attendant up the street, where I had parked, I drove straight north on Madison Ave. The entire way up, I could see the monster-cloud in my rearview mirror. I listened to Peter Jennings of ABC News the whole way.

At 122nd St., my cell phone rang. It was Mercy Godoy, Mike Fuller's assistant, seeing how I was doing, and whether I had gotten out of the city yet. I told her I felt lonely, driving by myself northward and not even certain that I'd be able to leave the city when I got to the top of it, but also grateful for her call. Before and after her call, the cell phone was not operational.

Three of my first attempts to leave Manhattan were thwarted. It took me 90 minutes, but by 12:30, I was able to turn onto 181st and take the Cross Bronx Expwy. to 95 North, and finally to my mom's house. I felt that I had left a war-zone, and that that was not an overstatement.

As I made my way up Manhattan, every neighborhood, impoverished and privileged alike, was full of pedestrians with troubled expressions, but also a respectfulness for the occasion and I saw a lot of direct eye contact among them and also with me. It seemed that so many of those I looked at looked back at me. We were mirrors of one other's expressions. I saw parents on the Upper East Side and in Harlem, holding their kids' hands tightly as they took them home from school.

Blocking off one of the cross-streets in Harlem, I saw a big 4x4 with "Ridgefield Fire Department Chief" emblazoned on it. I looked closely and saw that it was labeled in smaller font below, "Ridgefield, New Jersey." That was one of the most touching sights, that a New Jersey fire dept. chief came to help.

Once in Stamford, along the way to my mom's house, I noticed that the synagogue, where we belonged, and where my mom still belongs, looked deserted. Only the "Israel Solidarity Day: Sept. 23rd, New York City " placard on the lawn was a visible sign of humanity there. At the Jewish Center, also on my way home, there were several cars in the lot, the same Solidarity placard, and two big security guys standing in the driveway -- not typical. The Italian Center's parking lot was full, but no one was on the tennis courts. The public golf course was free of golfers.

I reached Pat, who said that this felt to her like Pearl Harbor and that she was happy I was OK and that she'd see me whenever New Jersey was accessible again. I was so happy to ring my mom's bell and hear her saying, "Thank God," as she came down the stairs to open the door. I'm signing off now to spend the rest of this unbelievable day with my mother.