658 Souls

If it had happened on any other day, Howard Lutnick would be dead now.  But on that beautiful, clear September morning, he and his wife Allison were taking their son to his first day of kindergarten.  As they sat in toddler-sized chairs, both their cell phones rang, and then went dead.  Howard was called to the school lobby where he learned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  He ran back to Allison and told her the news.  She stayed with their son while Howard raced towards lower Manhattan.  He had to get to the World Trade Center because his office and his employees were there.
Howard’s father and mother had died within a year of each other when he was only 17.  He and his younger brother Gary and their sister Edie had remained close over the years.  Howard and Gary even worked together.  And Gary was at the office that morning.  The “office” was the brokerage firm of Cantor Fitzgerald and Howard Lutnick was the CEO.  Everyone working at Cantor Fitzgerald on September 11 had been killed.  658 employees, including Howard’s brother, Gary were murdered in the terror attacks that day.  Almost one third of all the people killed were Howard’s employees.  And he wanted to do something to help them.  He saw the towers fall that morning and in the middle of the dust and debris and terrible loss, he was determined to do what he could to take care of the families left behind.  September 11 brought us courage in so many stories of the day.  From the firemen who ran into the burning buildings, to the courageous passengers of United Airlines Flight 93.  In so many ways, we were at our best that day and in the days and weeks that followed.  We seemed to watch out for one another, to care for one another.  Howard Lutnick founded the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund on September 14, 2001 with a personal donation of $1 million.  He and his surviving business partners underwrite 100% of the expenses of the fund.  Every penny given to the fund goes to help the children and families of his lost employees.  To date, they have raised and donated over $250 million.  Now, ten years later, Edie Lutnick oversees the fund.  Cantor Fitzgerald has survived and even prospered in the decade since 9/11.  And now they are hiring the children of their murdered employees.
We’re still trying to make sense of what happened that day, trying to understand it and to come to terms with the devastating loss of life.  What I know is this:  Terrible things happen to innocent people every day.  We’re put on this earth for a purpose.  God calls each one of us to love and to care for one another.  Out of life’s losses can come great grace.  In the end, it’s love that matters, it’s love that endures.  We remember all the souls lost that day, including the 658 working in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald.  And we give thanks for people like Howard Lutnick whose work and generosity have helped us all to heal.


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