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CAREERS – making it in New York

Nine months after the terrorist attacks that shook the world, several Western Australians working in the US share their thoughts on the impact of those events.

TWO common themes become apparent when Western Australians living and working in New York talk about the events of September 11.

The first is an unprompted consensus that that fateful day last year was an unusually clear and beautiful one, until it was interrupted by the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The second is a similarly uniform proximity of anyone working in Manhattan to other potential targets – with any number of famous buildings housing the biggest names in corporate America scattered throughout the district.

Take Lisa Johnston, for instance.

As a consultant with recruitment firm Michael Page specialising in media and advertising, Ms Johnston’s office had a commanding view of the events of September 11 from the 28th floor of the Chrysler Building – arguably the next most prominent New York skyscraper after the Empire State Building.

She had just returned from a trip to Florida when news passed around that something had hit the WTC.

The office convened in a conference room to watch the events, both across town through the window and on television.

Ms Johnston said she did not remember being stressed about what was occurring and even returned to work for a short while before the decision was made to evacuate.

Outside, she vividly recalls New Yorkers were talking openly to each other on the street and delivery vans were surrounded by people hungry for news of what was going on.

Heading for home, she observed the rush of panic buying – as she herself looked to find some food for her largely bare pantry.

There were 35 messages from Australia on her answering machine when she finally got home.

Did these events make Ms Johnston re-evaluate her commit-ment to living in New York, a city where she is a relative newcomer?

“Definitely,” she said.

“There is a part of me that says: ‘Let’s not let the bastards ruin your life’.

“[But the] threat of future attacks is there.

“I live by Penn Station and work in the Chrysler Building so it is always there.”

Ms Johnston said things had now returned to normal, so to speak.

“We have all been affected at a deeper level, but it is not obvious day to day,” she said.

“From a collective point of view everyone is getting back together.

“For most people this is their entire history, they don’t have the opt-out option with a flight on Qantas.”

David DeLoub points to the key buildings around his own offices on Park Avenue where Alcoa is situated in an architectural landmark.

The corporate finance and financial risk management expert at the resources giant’s de facto head office in New York (the CEO and about 60 staff have relocated there from Pittsburgh where some key corporate functions remain) points out offices of leading banks and insurance companies which are close by and could be considered terrorist targets.

The MetLife building, which straddles Park Avenue, is only a few blocks away.

Mr DeLoub was on a phone call to a friend in Sydney who saw the events on his living room television, mid conversation, and relayed what he saw to his incredulous mate in New York.

“We went to the conference room and watched it on TV,” he said.

“We left pretty shortly, a couple of buildings would be considered targets close by.”

Mr DeLoub said things had basically returned to normal, though one obvious change was in housing prices, as those who lived downtown (near the WTC) looked to shift uptown where he lives with his wife and son.

Deutsche Bank Securities director Tim Andrew is one who has seriously considered leaving New York since the events of September 11.

Married with two small children, Mr Andrew said he and his wife had debated the pros and cons of staying in the financial capital with the remaining risks; he points out that his office on West 52nd Street is next to another potential terrorist target, the Rockefeller Center.

“We don’t want to go home, ultimately we do, but not yet,” he said.

Mr Andrew said the issue was a constant topic of discussion with his Australian friends in New York, some of whom were moving their families out of the city.

It remained a big factor in every major decision – careers, family, schooling – but at the end of the day “we know we could get hit by a bus tomorrow”.

“If something big happened in Manhattan again, I think the thing to do would be to pack and leave,” Mr Andrew said.

Paul Ezekiel had, perhaps, the closest call of the New York-based Perth people WA Business News spoke to.

Then an investment banker in a building close to the WTC, his fiancé was working on the 25th floor

of the first building when the

plane hit, knocking her to the floor.

“Everyone she worked with had been there in ’93 when it was bomb-ed,” Mr Ezekiel said, explaining

that there had, fortunately, been

a rapid movement towards evacuat-ion.

The pair met relatively quickly, outside his offices and, as a qualified doctor, he volunteered to help the injured before realising that there was little he could do before emergency services established some form of infrastructure in the area.

These days Mr Ezekiel finds the mid-town area much quieter than it was, with terrorist rumours continuing to circulate.

“There is probably psychological trauma here that is greater than everyone thinks,” he said.

“You have to be fatalistic. The reason I am here is for the culture and everything this place offers.”

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