I really don’t usually do something like this, but I’m participating in The 2996, in which each of 2996 different blogs posts something in honor/tribute to one of the 2996 victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, five years ago today.
When I signed up, I was randomly assigned Ryan J. Fitzgerald, a 26-year-old employee of Fiduciary Trust International. He worked on the 90th floor of the South Tower in the Pricing Department, supervising several other people. Looking ahead to his future, he took classes at night to earn an M.B.A. He had been together with his girlfriend for two years. He had just returned from attending a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas.
His immediate family has opted out of public tributes on the Internet and elsewhere, but his girlfriend’s relatives were quoted considering him ‘like a member of our family’. Reaching for something to put into a brief blurb, The New York Times revealed that he “enjoyed living slightly beyond his means.” Acquaintences going back to childhood remembered him for a postitive attitude, and “a smile that could light up a room”. Enough people, going back to his childhood, have called him “one of the nicest people I ever met” for even this cynic to believe it.
There were several ways I could personally relate to this random stranger struck by outrageous tragedy (including that “living slightly beyond his means”), but one in particular hit closest to home. (I’ll keep this short and go into more detail when I’m blogging about me.) In 1989, I was also an up-and-comer working for a financial firm, on the 7th floor of an 11-story building, when a lone wacko attempted to blow up an IRS office five stories below me with a bomb bigger than the one in the Oklahoma City bombing. If it had gone off as intended, I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it. The bomb squad evacuated a quarter-mile perimeter and I was one of only 3 people in the office early that morning when we were told to get out. As I learned more about the unsuspected threat to my life that day, it changed my thinking about a lot of things. One of them: don’t go in to work early.
It was said that one reason the death toll wasn’t a lot higher on 9/11 was that the attack came before 9AM; a lot of people hadn’t gotten to work yet. My “don’t go into work early” rule had been reinforced on a massive and frightening scale. Even while he was taking night classes, Ryan got into work early. And he was one of 86 employees of FTI killed in the attack. On the other hand, I know of a guy who went to work early the day of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, which then destroyed his apartment and killed his roommate. Coincidentally, it was the first time I had ever heard of a structure “pancaking”, as the Twin Towers did. It seems everything is connected.
When I worked on the 7th story, it was an ‘open floor plan’ office with plenty of windows and I had a great view… but I never saw the bomb. Ryan, I hope you had a good view from your office, but never saw the plane.