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Jacob! Jacob! Reborn September 11, 2001
by Arlene Uslander
Jacob Herbst was not unfamiliar with the sight of death and destruction.
Living in Israel from the time he was three years old, he had seen much
fighting and killing. As a young man, Jacob had fought in wars. But he had
never been so close to dying as he was on September 11th, 2001. What he
on television that day was something he never imagined he would see in his
lifetime. The fact that his own life almost ended on September 11th, here
in the United States, but did not, because of some strange "touch of fate"
is a thought he will carry with him for the rest of his days; "a thought
that still brings moisture" to his eyes.
A computer engineer by trade, Jacob is founder and CEO of FilesX,
a software development company located in Boston. Although he lives in
Israel, Jacob travels to the United States frequently on business. He
arrived in Boston on September 9th. On the evening of September 10th, he
met with his good friend and business consultant, Steve Duplessie, founder
and Senior Analyst of ESG (Enterprise Storage Group), a consulting and
marketing firm located in Milford, 30 miles west of Boston. The purpose of
the visit was to do some brainstorming about the direction of FilesX, and
the hiring of a vice president of sales.
"We didn't come up with the names of any candidates who sounded
like they would fill the bill," said Jacob, "so I thanked Steve very much,
said we would talk further, and I bid him good night."
ESG is housed on the top floor of a small two-story building, and
as Jacob walked through the parking lot, he heard his name being called,
Jacob turned and saw Steve waving at him to come back upstairs,
which he did. Steve told Jacob that he had thought of someone who might
just the person for vice president of sales. His name was Michael Beaudet.
Steve called Michael while Jacob was there, suggested that Michael might
want to interview with Jacob, and said that Jacob would be in touch with
Jacob's time was already scheduled for the rest of the evening,
and he was leaving Boston the next morning for Los Angeles, where he would
visit with friends before going on to the Silicon Valley for business.
After he left Steve, he thought to himself, Ah, should I call Michael
tonight or should I not?
"But," recalled Jacob, "something told me I should call, so I left a
on Michael's voice mail, asking if we could meet later that evening.
Michael called me back while I was at a dinner meeting, and said, 'I can't
meet you tonight, but I can meet you very early tomorrow morning,' so we
scheduled our meeting for 6:00 a.m."
The flight Jacob was scheduled to take the following morning was
due to depart from Boston's Logan Airport at 8:45 - American Airlines, Flight
11, to Los Angeles.
"The meeting with Michael was excellent," said Jacob, "but it
longer than I had anticipated. I barely had time to catch the flight; it
about an hour's drive from our office to the airport, but still I decided
would try to make it."
However, traffic slowed him down more than he had expected, and
Jacob was getting closer to the airport in his rental car, he realized
he had already missed his flight. He thought he would go on to the airport
to try to get on the next flight. It was now about ten minutes past nine.
Then, all of a sudden, he heard on the car radio that a plane had hit the
World Trade Center in New York City.
"First I thought it was a sick joke," said Jacob. "You know how some
say bizarre things when they call in on radio talk shows. And then I
thought that maybe it was a small private plane like the one that hit the
Empire State Building a few years ago. However, they then announced that
was a passenger plane, and a few minutes later, reported that the second
plane had hit; it was American Airlines, Flight 11, bound for Los Angeles.
The plane I was supposed to be on. As you can imagine, I was in great
Jacob wondered what he should do. Should he go to the airport and try to
take a later flight ... or what? He decided to go back to the hotel and
to find out what was happening. The first thing he did when he got there,
however, was call Michael Beaudet.
"I called to thank you, Mike," said Jacob. Mike thought Jacob was
calling to thank him for the meeting. He said, "Jacob, do you have any
what is going on? Look at the TV!" Jacob said, "Yes, I know what is going
on, and I would like to thank you for saving my life. If you had been able
to meet with me last night, I would have been on the American Airlines
flight that crashed into the Twin Towers."
Jacob continued to watch what was happening on TV. "It was terrible -
horrible sight!" he recalls. All the airports were shut down, so Jacob did
not get back to Israel until September 15th. He was able to contact his family, not by telephone, because there was no phone access, but by e-mail,
"which shows you," pointed out Jacob, "how important the Internet is."
However, more important to Jacob, husband of Michaela, father of
four grown children and two young grandchildren, is the lesson he learned
from his close brush with death. He thinks about September 11th a lot,
"and," he says, "it is still not so easy. I have learned to postpone
personal plans less, especially ones I really want to make. Let's say you
want to go some place nice with your family, or spend more time with your
kids, and you tend to put it off. You say, 'Oh, we can do that another
time. I have business to take care of.' I realize now it is possible there
might not be another time. Let's do it now. Go on a nice trip. Go with the
grandkids. Tomorrow is nothing that is very secure anymore, so I am less
apt to put things off. You can plan very well, but it isn't always within
"The experience also helped me to put more balance into my life - to
be more aware of priorities. I still put a high priority on business when
needed, but I make more time for other things as well."
When he is in the United Sates at the FilesX office, Jacob sees
Michael Beaudet every day, and he often thanks Michael for saving his
When Michael tells the story, according to Jacob, he says, "I knew when
Jacob called to thank me for saving his life that fateful morning, I had
gotten the job!"
"This is the first time that I have talked extensively about that day,"
Jacob said when interviewed for this story. "I consider that I was reborn
on September, 11th, 2001."
Yes, it is true that Michael Beaudet had much to do with Jacob's
because he could not meet with Jacob the night before, and the meeting
on longer than anticipated the next morning. And the traffic slowed Jacob
down on his way to the airport. Yet, equally responsible is Steve
Duplessie, who called out through the open window, "Jacob, Jacob!" What if
Steve had not suddenly thought of Michael Beaudet for the job?
Or, what if Jacob had not heard him call and had gone on into the
Reprinted from The Simple Touch of Fate,
Compiled and Edited by Arlene Uslander and Brenda Warneka, © 2003.
The Simple Touch of Fate can be ordered from
or by calling the publisher, iUniverse's, toll free number
877-288-4737. International orders: 001-402-323-7800.
from the May 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine