When Emily Landis Walker walked out of the Wall Street subway on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 had already hit the World Trade Center. Emily Walker was working for Citigroup in building 7 of the WTC complex and she ran. Emily Walker is still here to speak about it.
Months went by after 9/11 that she doesn’t remember. Emily Landis Walker kept going. Something inside of her brought her back to life.
Emily Landis Walker had no idea at the time that she would become an instrumental part of history, sitting on the bipartisan commission set up to investigate the attacks on New York and Washington.
The commission’s report, published on July 22, 2004 called for a sweeping overhaul of the United States’ response system to possible future terrorist attacks. Emily Walker’s work focused on liaising with the victims’ families and also on private sector preparedness, included in Chapter 9 of the report and titled “Heroism and Horror.”
For one and a half years, Emily Landis Walker devoted her life to working on the panel. After interviewing many of the companies that had been housed in the WTC complex, she developed a national standard for emergency preparedness.
In addition to working on private sector preparedness, Emily Walker acted as a liaison to the families of September 11 victims, who were instrumental in pushing a reluctant President George W. Bush into setting up the investigative panel. Emily Walker thought she would be prepared for the role, after losing her mother at a young age and then her brother to cancer at the age of 30. And Emily was there.
However, there were times when she couldn’t do it anymore. Emily spent hours on airplanes in tears. Emily Landis Walker sat with the brother and sister of Betty Ong, one of the flight attendants, as she listened to her phone call”from American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the WTC’s north tower, to a reservations desk on the ground. Emily was crying harder than they were.
Since that day, 9/11 has become a “defining moment” in Emily Landis Walker’s life. No matter how much Emily wanted to turn away and pretend she wasn’t there and none of this happened, it did. Even last week in New York City at the annual event of Voices of Sept 11th, Emily Landis Walker was reluctant to attend. So much comes rushing back. But she did. And Emily Walker has turned the experience around to become something positive that she can contribute to the future of emergency preparedness.