The Foreign Service Journal, September 2021

FOCUS 9/11, TWENTY YEARS LATER 22 SEPTEMBER 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL Nancy Ostrowski is a Foreign Service officer with USAID and the author of two nonfiction books. She is married to Brian Ostrowski, a Diplomatic Security special agent. In addition to surviving 9/11, she has experienced a major earthquake and been evacuated from two civil wars. She is currently attending the Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at the National Defense University. I n September 2001 I was an industry economist attending a National Association for Business Economics conference (themed “In a New York Minute”) at the Marriott World Trade Center. The 22-story hotel was situated between the twin towers and was connected to the north tower. My boy- friend and I were also guests of the hotel, having come up from Virginia the weekend prior. We were still in our room on the 18th floor when the first plane struck the building. The lessons I learned from this experience have served me well in the Foreign Service through subsequent terror attacks, civil unrest and evacuations. 1) HAVE AN EXIT PLAN. Just before my trip to New York, there was a fire in the high-rise condo building where I lived in Alexandria, Virginia. As a result, the first thing I did when check- GETTING OFFTHE In a compelling personal account of the 9/11 attacks, one FSO offers tactics for surviving when catastrophe strikes. BY NANCY OSTROWSK I ing into the Marriott was to locate the nearest emergency exits. When I heard the loud rumble of the first plane’s impact, I didn’t have to waste time figuring out where to go, and was able to exit my room immediately and with less panic. 2) LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. In researching the hotel prior to my trip, I came across an article about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. That was the first time I had heard of Osama bin Laden. The night of Sept. 10, I was walking