The events of 9/11 destroyed untold lives, and changed many others.
For Kevin Mincio, the nine-year anniversary of that terrible day is a reminder of just how dramatically his own life was altered, veering toward a path this former Goldman Sachs vice president never would have imagined.
In the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks, Mincio, at age 31, traded banking for combat as a U.S. Army infantryman, eventually serving in Iraq during the deadliest phase of the war.
"9/11 changed me, forever, and it changed me for the better," said Mincio, whose eight-year military commitment officially concluded earlier this year. He spent the past two years in the reserves as an ROTC instructor.
While he's not the only American who left behind a comfortable life to join the military after 9/11 -- Pat Tillman, a former NFL football player who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, remains the best known example -- Mincio's patriotic calling was just as unexpected, if not as well publicized.
Now living near Fort Lewis in the Seattle area with his wife Heather, Mincio works as the director of technology for an estate management company, and as an assistant high school lacrosse coach at Mercer Island High School. He has no intention of ever returning to Goldman.
For the first time, Mincio has agreed to share the details of his journey from Wall Street to war and back again.
Around 8 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, a large group of Goldman Sachs employees at the firm's One Liberty Plaza offices dialed into a conference call. On the agenda: integrating the Investment Banking Technology team within Goldman's larger, firm-wide technology division.
As a key member of the banking tech team, Mincio listened intently as the managing director leading the call wound down his presentation and invited questions shortly before 9 a.m.
Next came a split second of complete silence, followed by the deafening sound of an explosion -- the first plane striking the World Trade Center's North Tower just a few blocks away.
Suddenly, Goldman's new technology initiative was the last thing on anyone's mind. For America, and, as it turned out, for Mincio, it was war.
Like a lot of people, Mincio was shaken to his core by the events of that fateful day. Lower Manhattan had been transformed into something unimaginable. Power was shut off. Ash and debris coated the entire area. Mincio spent the next week in and around Ground Zero helping to lead Goldman's recovery effort. He was part of a group assigned to salvage and re-set the bank's computer system. As Mincio carried out this mission, he saw firemen, policemen, construction workers, everyday people, all searching for signs of life.
"What I experienced, the sights, the sounds, the smells, all of the emotions, ultimately that's what made me realize I had to enlist," Mincio said.
A native of Holbrook, N.Y., on Long Island, Mincio had been a lacrosse goalie in high school and at the University of Connecticut. Athletic, physically fit but not exactly a portrait of self-discipline, Mincio, an eight-year veteran of Goldman, had become accustomed to his fast-paced lifestyle, often travelling to Europe and Hong Kong on assignment.
His parents and closest friends urged him to reconsider, but eventually realized his mind was made up.
"My first reaction was, 'Are you out of your mind?' recalled Mincio's father, Ron. "But, knowing my son, once he set his mind to something -- that was it."