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Lead A Life of Success and Significance: What 9-11 Has Taught Me as a Business Woman, Mother, and American Citizen

“Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?”- Alan Jackson

It was my first day back to the office after maternity leave with my daughter, Olivia.  I was so excited to be back doing what I love— guiding individuals, families, business owners and nonprofits with their accounting and tax needs. 

It was September 11, 2001 and at 8:45am, I went up to the front of the office and on the TV was a news report of a plane hitting the Trade Center in New York.

We were all glued to the TV as the news was developing. All I could think of was, “I want to go home.” I left the office shortly thereafter and went home to be with my kids. We sat at the kitchen table and colored. I kept the TV off.

That night at dinner, my husband and I were filled with terror and sadness on some many levels it was difficult to put into words. That night, I spent most of the night thinking of the lives lost and the horror that had forever changed our world. A bright light was shown on the most important thing in my life— the time I get to spend with my children. In the face of tragedy and despair, I found hope and perseverance. The next morning, I made a decision that changed my life. I decided that I was going to “hang my own shingle.”  I went into the office, met with my boss and gave my notice.

As soon as I made that leap, there also were many moments of, “how the heck am I going to do this?!?” I calmed myself down by remembering that it was okay to start small, and build from there. I started to plan my course of action carefully, as I knew that this path was going to be the best thing for my number one priority— my three small children. I knew, deep down, that I could create a business that we would all benefit from.

A month later, I had my first big break. I went to a CPE conference and met a lovely CPA who was in her mid 60’s and was retiring.  We connected instantly, and through that relationship that we had with one another, she ended up giving my name to several of her clients. I was humbled by her generosity and also so grateful for the opportunity. I spent the next few weeks connecting with them and ended up closing three of those clients. All of whom are still with me today. I knew that day that one day I was going to give back, someway, somehow.

It is important for me to share this story, especially on this anniversary, as a reminder of how resilient we can be. As much as today leaves an emptiness in all of us, it is also helpful for me to keep in mind the opportunities that we are afforded by living in America. 

Since that day my business has grown to two offices, six full time employees and many, many successful clients. I have so much to be thankful for including the woman who connected with me and paid her success forward by believing in me.

Today I reflect on that terrible day, remember the lives lost, the heroic stories of all involved and do not take one day for granted.  I am blessed and determined to live a life of success and significance and to do our best to lift each other up along the way.

Mellinda Abbott is the founder at Abbott and Company, a CPA firm specializing in ensuring the growth, success and happiness of their clients. Mellinda has taught accounting and business courses at Salem State University and Bentley University . She is a lifelong learner and truly believes she learns as much from her clients and colleagues as they do from her.


Tags Ask the Expert, September 11