How 9/11 Motivated me to Change Careers

by Anne Bradley.


On September 11, 2001, I wasn’t working that day. I was sitting at my home computer

responding to some emails when my phone rang about 8:30 AM. It was my brother, Jim. He

worked at the United Nations, and he saw a plane fly by his window at a very low altitude, did I

hear anything. We both turned on the news to discover the horrors of the 9/11 planes hitting

the World Trade Center buildings. He was rushed to a secure basement location at the UN. I

sat on the Upper East Side in my apartment on the 21 st floor.


At first, I was paralyzed. I didn’t know what to do. I could only stare at the TV feeling terrible.

Finally, about an hour or more later, I picked up the phone and called my closest hospital,

Lennox Hill, and asked if I could come in and donate blood. The hospital told me not to bother,

they were not receiving any live bodies from ground zero. That sent a lightning bolt through

me and I laid down in bed for another full hour while listening to the TV.


Throughout the day, things got worse with the Pentagon being hit and the downed plane in

Pennsylvania. Mid-afternoon, I went outside on the street on 3 rd Avenue and watched while

hundreds of people were walking north to get to their homes and family. I saw one mother

with a stroller being greeted by a man I assumed was her husband, as they embraced and cried.

I did not attempt to go to the grocery store. I knew they were jammed with people stocking up

on supplies. I had food in my apartment.


Over the next few weeks, things seemed to be so sad and depressing. My brother’s apartment

is below 14 th Street in an old tailor’s factory with huge windows that didn’t work well. His

apartment was covered in ashes. When I went to visit him a few days later, the Union Square

subway station was filled with pictures of missing people with phone numbers of their families

looking for them. That was a gut punch. And the smell! It was acidic and horrible.


The next few months were difficult. I worked near St. Patrick’s cathedral where they had daily

(if not hourly) funerals. The sound of the bagpipes was constant.


But finally….FINALLY, September 11 became a motivating factor in my life. For 25 years (more!)

I had worked in the financial world, but I had been a political science major in college and

always followed politics closely. My friend, Kirsten Gillibrand, had been talking about running

for Congress for years and finally in 2005 she announced her campaign for the 20 th US

Congressional district in upstate NY. She asked me to be the treasurer of her campaign.

I went to Forrest for a private conversation about changing careers from finance to politics at

the age of 50. It would certainly be a deep salary cut, but it was also my dream job. He

encouraged me to go for it. Years later, when he was visiting Washington DC, we met for lunch

and he told me that when we had that conversation, the only thing he could think about was

“don’t do it!” I’m glad he kept that to himself.


So in November of 2005, Kirsten won a seat in the UN Congress; I resigned (actually retired

after 15 years) from Ernst & Young, and moved to Washington DC as Congresswoman

Gillibrand’s Deputy Chief of Staff.


In January of 2009, just after we had won re-election to the Congress the prior November,

President-elect Obama appointed then Senator Hillary Clinton to become Secretary of State.

And then, the governor of New York, David Paterson, appointed Kirsten to replace Hillary

Clinton in the US Senate. And I stayed on for 14 years as her deputy chief of staff, retiring in

2019 to return to NYC. Even though I had my dream job in DC for 14 years, I still loved New

York City and I am so glad to be home!