Leading Through True Adversity, A Brooklyn Hotel Story

David Salcfas

By David Salcfas

Aug 20, 2022

Just Our Normal Routine

Our Tuesday started at the only full service hotel in downtown Brooklyn, Sam Ibrahim the General Manager and David Salcfas, Director of Hotel Sales at the time were making their property rounds.  All of the guest rooms were one hundred percent occupied and meeting space was booked to capacity.  After completing the early morning lobby duty, greeted each group contact and ensured all of our associates were set up for a successful day.  We gathered for our weekly sales and catering meeting to discuss the business funnel.  It was also the opportunity to share best practices and recognize the top achievers, there was no zoom or teams meeting platform so all were present and engaged in the dialogue.

The Moment That Changed Everything

The team was all of a sudden made aware of one of the towers being struck.  Not understanding the magnitude of what was happening, we stopped our meeting and proceeded to the lobby to ensure all of our guests were ok.  Several people began running for their lives across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan.  We quickly knew this day was one that would remain vividly in our minds long after that moment.  We proceeded to the roof top of our building where there was a clear view of the twin towers.  Within minutes another plane flew directly into the building and the bang, smoke and fire was a catastrophe that was simply unimaginable, but “As Real As It Gets”!

Pulling the Team Together

Some would say it was a coincidence, but we believe it was pure fate for us to have a group of seventy five medical doctors and nurses in the hotel conducting a training session.  Our associates partnered with them in an “All Hands On Deck” way like no one has ever experienced.  Within minutes we had collaborated and set up a triage center in the ballroom to administer first aid for those fortunate to make it over the bridge to a safe haven.

As they entered covered in soot, exhausted and emotionally drained there were beds with warm blankets so they could rest for a moment.  Our staff provided not only the necessities but genuine and empathetic care for those that their lives had forever changed.

Many hotels would have been crippled with such an event, but not when you “Lead From The Front”.  Our team pulled together, assessed the situation, made a plan and quickly deployed it. Sam and I had never been more “Proud” to part of that hotel team and work alongside such incredible leaders!

Ensuring All Were Accounted For

In the hours ahead, several of our hotel colleagues and more importantly “Friends” were finding their way to us.  We established a place in the executive offices for them to begin calling their loved ones and find out the whereabouts of their teams that had fled lower Manhattan.  Our hearts go out to the families that lost someone.

In addition we also had so many other people looking for shelter in our hotel, which was just packed.  We’ll always remember the gentlemen that was in the lobby wearing a pair of shorts and t-shirt telling us I have no identification, no cash or credit card but simply need a place to stay, we were able to set him up with our last room.

It wasn’t until a year later that we saw him again as he came to visit me in the sales office as he was an executive with a major financial firm in the Metrotech complex.  He came to bring us a major account, but most of all to extend his ”Sincere Appreciation” for what the entire team did on 911.

The Days Ahead

With so much disruption in the downtown Manhattan area, there was a need to find a place for businesses, including all of the bookings to continue as they would need to recover.  There were options all over the city, however Brooklyn became a nucleus for so many to carry on.  With each conversation, we were faced with having to keep it real and candid all while being empathetic to the needs at hand.  It brought all of us together as we looked at our business differently and found ways to make it work.  The best word to describe it is “Resilience” in the face of adversity.

Make The Difference

Sam Ibrahim & David Salcfas wanted to share their story for some time and were inspired on the 20th anniversary of 911. We hope our leadership experience on how we face adversity in not only the hospitality industry, but also in life inspires you!  We are in this together and during these unprecedented times it has never been more important to take the time to find ways to support each other.  The next time you are put into an adverse situation, remember to not only be a leader…

“Be The One That Makes The Difference” in someone’s life.

About the author

David Salcfas

David Salcfas is founder of iYou Hospitality Consulting and consultant at Cayuga Hospitality Consultants. As a hospitality industry veteran, he has developed expertise around refining your interview skills, operating in a diverse labor union market and managing through a transition/divestiture. David has served as an Executive Committee Member in twenty three positions at sixteen hotels across five brands for Marriott International and several restaurants. Additionally, he serves as the Northeast Business Council Guidance Team Leader. David earned his Bachelor’s degree in Food Service Management and Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University and takes an active role as an Alumni, including mentoring and participating in speaker panels for the university.  He recently received the 2023 JWU Alumni Service Award!

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