As the anniversary of September 11th draws near, I wanted to introduce you to Claudia Martinez Foster. Claudia Martinez and Curt Foster were married in October of 2000. She was talking about starting a family. She loved children. She loved makeup. She had a fun life, and she had a job on the 105th floor of Tower One, World Trade Center. On September 11th, 2001, Claudia got up in the morning. She went to work, and she never came home.
I was introduced to Claudia’s story through a project called Project 2996, where bloggers were randomly assigned a victim of September 11th. We were asked to write about that individual every year for as long as we have a blog, to remember that person’s story and their sacrifice.
I was randomly assigned Claudia, and I couldn’t believe it for a lot of reasons. Number one, we were the same age. She was 26 when 9/11 happened, and I was 26 as well. She worked in the insurance industry as a broker assistant, and I worked in the insurance industry at Kemper Insurance as a national staffing manager and weirdly enough, the week before September 11th, I was in Tower One on the 35th and 36th floor as part of my job at Kemper Insurance.
Now a lot of people have 9/11 memories which they just throw out there. They talk about what they were eating or where they were. My 9/11 memory starts the week before when I was at the World Trade Center for training. While there, my office overlooked the Statue of Liberty. I visited Windows on the World and enjoyed a drink by the harbor. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, this is the corporate life. I have totally made it. I am finally a human resources executive.”
I left that trip on Friday, September 7th. I returned to work on Monday, September 10th and woke up late on Tuesday, September 11th. When the news broke, it hit me, I had just been there. I had made a whole bunch of new friends and we had over 200 employees in that location.
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Our VP of Human Resources called an emergency meeting. We were assigned a phone tree; those were the days before cell phones. I worked the phones all day long. I called co-workers who worked in the World Trade Center and I called their family members. I couldn’t just take the word of a relative who said that my co-worker was alive. I had to physically talk to them to be certain.
Out of all of the employees we had at Kemper Insurance, all of them had survived. It was such a blessing for them and for their families.
But it wasn’t a blessing for Claudia Martinez Foster or for the thousands of people who woke up that morning, were simply doing their job and died in the line of fire in a global war of terrorism.
I often think about all the people I met during my training visit to the World Trade Center; about the people in the elevators, the people working at Windows on the World, the people working at restaurants or at the gift shop, and people going up to work on the top floors. Many of them gone, gone for what is essentially a stupid reason.
They lost their lives because they went to work.
On September 11th, Claudia Martinez Foster lost her life at work and I will never stop writing about her. I will always remember her. I will always remember her story.
I pay tribute to Claudia, talk about old Labor Day traditions, and the emergence of the “New” Labor Day in a recent episode of Let’s Fix Work. If you would like to hear more, listen to the episode here.