The Simple Touch of Fate


The Simple Touch of Fate


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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 saw 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! Jacob!"

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 be 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 him.

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 message 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 took longer than I had anticipated. I barely had time to catch the flight; it is about an hour's drive from our office to the airport, but still I decided I would try to make it."

However, traffic slowed him down more than he had expected, and as Jacob was getting closer to the airport in his rental car, he realized that 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 people 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 it 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 shock!"

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 try 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 idea 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 your control.

"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 life. 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 "rebirth," because he could not meet with Jacob the night before, and the meeting went 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 night...?

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 $16.95, 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




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