My 9/11 Story


by Steven Sarnoff

On Sunday, September 9, 2001 I told thousands of people to bet that American Airlines was going down.

And on this solemn day of remembrance, marking the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks, I recall my personal story from that tragic time to give you a smile as we move forward in life…

You know what happened on the ensuing Tuesday.  I really felt like a New Yorker that day.  Back in the eighties I worked in the World Trade Center, amid the open outcry bedlam of the gold and silver trading pits. Flashing forward, we had taken a family trip to NYC and brought our two wide-eyed young kids to the top of the Twin Towers in April of that fateful year.

When trading resumed I started receiving emails like “Dear Mr. Sarnoff, I made $250,000 in one day on your American Airlines recommendation, but my account in the Cayman Islands has been frozen by the government.  What should I do?  Please advise.  Many thanks,…”  You may picture me pushing my chair back from my desk and throwing my arms skyward in the international signal of surrender!

Then I saw Dan Rather on television reporting about how the terrorists were suspected of using the options market to profit from the 9/11 attacks.  I imagined my subscribers getting grilled by the FBI and testifying, “Sarnoff told me to do it!”  So I waited for my phone to ring.

It took several weeks, but ring it did…I agreed to an interrogation by an agent of the FBI and an attorney for the SEC.  I felt no need for an attorney and actually had fun with it.  The whole thing lasted an hour and I don’t think they asked me a single question that they didn’t already know the answer to.  Here are some samples:

Interrogator: Do you fly airplanes?

Sarnoff:  No. My idea of adventure is going outside with a wet head.

I: Do you belong to any organizations?

S: Temple Adat Shalom.

I: What kind of stocks do you make recommendations on?

S:  All different kinds.  You can go to the website and see every recommendation I’ve ever made.

I:  We have.

I:  Do you have any hobbies?

S:  I’m a vegan and I’m having trouble finding a non-leather belt.

I:  I’m a vegan, too.  Try

S: Thanks, but you have important work to do, so let’s get back to business.

I:  This IS part of the business.

I:  Why did you think American Airlines was going down?

S:  Because it was already going down.

I:  Did you talk to anyone at any airline?

S: No, I just sit at my desk, look at my 18th-century Japanese charts, and rub my chin.

And so on…at the end of the interrogation they thanked me and gave one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.

I: If the stock market ever doesn’t work out for you, your talents may be better served at Langley.

So that’s the end of it, right?  Wrong.

I made a huge mistake.  I wished them luck and said if I can ever be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to call.

A few months later, they did.  They wanted to know if I had any information about Marriott Hotels and HSBC Bank.  I couldn’t help them (because I don’t talk to anyone, I just look at my charts and rub my chin), but when I subsequently heard news reports of bombings in Bali and Turkey targeting Marriott and HSBC I knew they were on the trail.

So that’s the end of it, right?  Wrong.

After 9/11, I wanted to send out something uplifting.  So I re-printed the poem Invictus (see below), with the headline America Invictus.

It means Unconquerable and was written by a guy who overcame tremendous adversity.  Inspiring, right?  Well, emails came in from subscribers telling me that was the poem read by the Oklahoma City bomber before his execution!?!  Oy, I can’t win.

So that’s the end of it, right?  Wrong.

Many years later, the 9/11 Commission Report is released. Guess who’s in there.  It seems I’m the proof that it wasn’t terrorists who used the options market to profit from the fall in American Airlines shares.

There are still, to this day, conspiracy theorists out there who dispute the government report and wholeheartedly doubt that this supposed Sarnoff character even exists. Really!?!

I sure know how to pick ’em.

Your, myth busting footnote to history, editor,




Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.


by William Ernest Henley

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