I’ve been with this agency for 19 years. Today marks the 18th anniversary of 9/11.

As I’m sure it does for countless others, this day always prompts a moment of reflection for me. It’s a day that’s still vivid in my mind. I deeply remember the vibrant blue of the sky that morning. It was a sky that compelled you to look at it; a day made for looking up. I can still see the way the smoke and plumes of dust stood out against the deep and clear azure of the sky.

But I mention this not just to catalog the sadness and tragedy of that day. I mention this because 9/11 will always be inextricably linked to CDM in my mind—and my heart.

From my perch in his office, I, along with dozens of others, saw the towers fall.

An early riser, I was in my office on the 31st floor of our offices at 450 Lexington Avenue that morning, slugging away at a launch visaid for Zelnorm, when I saw the news of the first tower incident over my Yahoo! News feed. I immediately rushed to the empty office of Clyde Davis, who had floor-to-ceiling windows facing south, to see for myself what was happening in lower Manhattan.

As the morning unfolded, Clyde Davis’s office became the hub of the agency, with the news on his big-screen TV and his south-facing windows connecting what was happening on the TV with the reality of our rapidly-changing world a few blocks away. From my perch in his office, I, along with dozens of others, saw the towers fall.

But CDM and 9/11 are not linked in my heart and mind just because I saw the awfulness of the day unfold there. They are linked because of the way my work day ended. When the email came from our emergency-services folks to leave and head home, we did. But before we left, I remember hugs and holds and wishes to be safe and strong. I remember the essential goodness of people in the agency—the city dwellers asking the suburban commuters if they needed places to stay; people asking each other if they were going to be okay; people caring for each other deeply in both large and small ways.

On 9/11, Ed had yet to introduce our now-eternal values of Substance, Style, Conviction, and Grace to the agency. But nonetheless, you could feel those very things alive in those moments before we departed the agency that day. You could feel the depth of the caring in the community that is this agency.

That is what I feel when the calendar rolls over to the numbers of 9 and 11. I feel the sadness of that day, but I feel the strength and unique family that is this agency.

I know many of you were not here on that awful morning 18 years ago, but the very things that made us a strong agency then endure to this day—and are vibrantly alive and humming with the walls of every agency in our little corner of the advertising world. 

Caring, community, selflessness, humanity. And Substance, Style, Conviction, and Grace. They are us, today and every day.

by Chris Palmer