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What I've learned from 9/11...

On the 18th September 2009 Alex Ferguson wrote for the Reinsurance Weekly email:

Ever since two planes blew away my American Dream, September 11 is always an important day for me.

I don't know what to say, what to do, and what to write. Last week it seemed irresponsible for me to pen "The Weekly," which is my take on reinsurance at its very worst and jovial.

What do you say on the anniversary of the senseless death of thousands of people? Shutting up seemed to do fine.

So why am I bringing things up a week later? At the moment I'm reading a book called "102 Minutes" about the moments around the attacks on the Twin Towers, when workers scurried to save themselves and their workers. To say that it's moving is an understatement.

There are names that jump off the page in this case aren't just the names of the people, but the companies. The companies involved we still hear from on practically an everyday basis: Aon, Marsh & McLennan, and Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

But I can't imagine what it would have been like to be Patrick Ryan, the CEO of Aon or Jeff Greenberg, the chief executive of Marsh & McLennan that day. And I hope and pray I'll never be in the shoes of John Duffy, CEO of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, who experienced the news that his son had perished in the Towers.

On that day, all three of them weren't chasing revenues, they were chasing people - their own friends, colleagues and employees.

As the great saying goes: "There are no atheists in foxholes", all three of them must have been praying to their God, any God that the people they knew would ring and say: "I'm safe".

295 Marsh & McLennan staff died in the attacks. 175 Aon staff died in the attacks. 67 Keefe, Bruyette & Woods staff died in the attacks.

The human cost was horrific, dwarfing the $50bn lost in assorted claims. After all, claims to insurers and reinsurers are just claims. It might hammer the odd balance sheet, but it's just red ink. This is real life we're talking about here, with all the blood and burns that go with it.

As a reinsurance journalist, my job is to act as somewhat of a stormchaser.

But whereas some people love chasing tornadoes in the Midwestern United States, reinsurance journalists chase losses, finding out who would be taking the biggest kicking from everything from a litigation settlement to a plane crash.

And while chasing losses, sometimes I forget about the cost of human life. When a plane goes down, I like to get there ahead of my competitors when finding out which insurer will pay for it and who broked the insurance and reinsurance for it. I forget that hundreds of lives are lost in a crash, and hundreds more lives are affected by those losses of life.

A book - and to be honest - the whole 9/11 anniversary, has made me think again. It's funny how something on the outside can try and change you on the inside.

After all, writing about losses doesn't come close to actually being part of one, does it?

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Alex Ferguson