GMercyU alum Kurt Balderson

Meet Kurt Balderson

Education, 2014

“I remember walking over the crack between the ferry dock and ferry thinking to myself, ‘Am I having a nervous breakdown?’”

Surviving and Remembering September 11, 2001

For Kurt L. Balderson  and the rest of America, September 11, 2001 started out just like any other day. Balderson was a stock trader for the investment bank CIBC World Markets at 1 World Financial Center in New York City, just steps away from the World Trade Centers. He arrived at work not knowing a mere two hours later, the biggest terrorist attack to ever hit America would occur. 

I remember this particular morning was significantly beautiful. On the ferry I took from Jersey City, N.J. to downtown Manhattan, I stood on the outside upper deck as the sun was just rising behind the World Trade Center. I thought I worked in the best place in the world. It was the most prestigious and one of the most elegant. 

Work started as usual: I sat in a morning meeting and at about 8:40 a.m., I went to the cafeteria to grab a quick breakfast before the trading day started. That is when something happened that would change my life forever. 

The building shook.

I was right across the street and had unobstructed views of both of the WTC towers. There was debris flying everywhere. I looked up and saw that the top 30 or so floors of the North tower were on fire. 

For lack of a better word, I panicked. I started to run towards the Hudson River. I was running around hundreds of people who were just staring up at the WTC. I saw my ferry coming across the river and kept on running. 

So many people were getting off the ferry to enter Manhattan. I was screaming, “The World Trade Center is on fire. Get back on the boat”. Everyone looked at me with that blank “New York” face thinking I was crazy. 

I remember walking over the crack between the ferry dock and ferry thinking to myself, "Am I having a nervous breakdown?" 

We were looking back at the burning WTC as the boat pulled out. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw the second plane approaching. I was about 300 yards away and clearly remember reading United Airlines on the side of the plane. I remember seeing everything clearly, but I don’t remember hearing any sound. 

When I arrived home, my wife and daughters were not there. It was my daughter’s first day of pre-school. It was a very lonely feeling as I sat on my sofa watching TV as the World Trade Centers collapsed. 

Finally my wife and kids came home. She kept telling me to call my friends and I kept on responding to each name, “They’re dead. All my friends are dead.” 

Fortunately, I was wrong and most of my friends made it out safely.  However, I did lose four close friends.

The weeks following the attacks were hard. The employees of the investment bank I was working for were displaced because of severe damage to our building. Because we did not have a permanent building in which to go back, I was one of the employees who was let go.

When people ask me what I remember most about September 11, 2001, it really isn’t the debris, the panic, running to the ferry, the explosion when the second plane hit, or the Twin Towers collapsing. My most vivid memory is really of the night before when I said “goodbye” to my friend who worked for Cantor on the 104th floor. We said “goodbye” for the very last time. When we shook hands, he winked and he said, “I’ll see you soon.”  

Balderson followed his heart and began his teaching career in 2009. He earned his master’s degree in school counseling in 2014 from Gwynedd Mercy University and currently works in the Great Valley School District.