Noe Valley Voice December-January 2001

Life Has New Meaning for World Trade Center Survivor

By Steve Steinberg

When Noe Valley executive Jim Campbell entered the World Trade Center the morning of Sept. 11, he couldn't have known that in an hour and three minutes, his life and the life of the country would change forever.

Campbell, the president and CEO of Ventaso Inc., a San Francisco tech firm specializing in software production, was busy selling his company's product the morning of the 11th. He had four sales meetings scheduled that day. The first was with executives of Morgan Stanley Investment Management on the 64th floor of Tower Two of the World Trade Center. The meeting was going smoothly. Then the planes hit. Campbell was saved because of the quick thinking of Morgan Stanley executive Sandy Mostuesky, who hurried people to evacuate the 64th floor.

The day after the tragedy, after seeing a tape showing the south tower being hit-- the tower he had been in-- Campbell began to feel the full impact. "I cried for about an hour," he said.

The 45-year-old Church Street resident then decided to drive home to San Francisco rather than fly, so he could gather his thoughts and emotions. Later he would write down his recollections of that terrible day.

The writing process turned out to be beneficial. "It has been extremely healthy, more so than I ever would have guessed." Through e-mail, his account circulated around the country. Many people, including total strangers, responded to it. They offered him support and also thanked him. "They said the work helped them to understand how an average person dealt with September 11."

Since his emotional homecoming to his wife, Kathy, and their three children-- Daniel, 4, and Rachel and Sarah, both 19 months -- life has taken on a new urgency for Campbell. "I do everything I want to do now. There's no reason to wait."

Even before Sept. 11, Campbell had intended to step down as CEO of Ventaso next year (though he will remain as a principal of the firm). He also was planning a move back to his hometown of Tucson, Ariz. He and his wife were designing a house, to be built by September of 2002. "My folks are still living in Tucson," Campbell said.

But within days of returning from New York, Campbell announced he would depart his position almost immediately. Not wanting to wait for a new house to be built, Campbell bought another home in Tucson. He then put his Noe Valley house on the market. "If you know of anyone who wants to buy a house, send 'em over," he said jokingly. (The four-bedroom home on Church near 22nd Street is available through Hill & Co. Real Estate.)

Campbell and his family will say goodbye to their Noe Valley friends and make the move to Arizona this month.

He'll do so with a new philosophy, drawn from his seering experience. "It's now time for all of us to show our stuff. [We should try to] do the jobs in front of us with a passion for life and a desire to be better than we have been."