Remembering Wall Street's Extraordinary Loss on 9/11

The scale of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is hard to fathom. The grim statistics — some 3,000 killed at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, billions of dollars in economic damage — don’t do justice to the suffering of every family, friend and colleague of the deceased. Financial firms were hit hard: Cantor Fitzgerald LP, which occupied the top five floors of One World Trade Center, alone lost 658 employees, nearly twice as many as the New York City Fire Department. 

Wall Street is a small world, and the effects of this human toll continue two decades later. In acknowledgment, Bloomberg Opinion reached out to employees from several financial industry firms and asked them to share a singular remembrance of a co-worker who perished. While these stories represent an impossibly small fraction of the lives taken, we hope they can stand as proxy for the broader loss, and honor all who perished that September morning two decades ago.

David Alger, Fred Alger Management

David Alger, the younger brother of the firm’s founder, Fred Alger, was a big personality, and a lover of military history. I think this story exemplifies him. It’s sometime in the late 1990s, and we are having a terrible quarter. We’re growth-stock investors; the market has corrected, there are some macro events happening. David calls us all into the big conference room; we were expecting he’s going to go down the line, point out all the mistakes, all the bad stocks, why are we underperforming, sort of like a root canal. David was kind of famous for these intense sessions, and it wasn’t going to be too upbeat.

We walk into the conference room, sit down and notice he had rolled in on a cart a big TV with a videocassette player — this was before DVDs — and he says, “You all need to watch this.” I’m thinking it’s going to be a tape of some investing guru. But it’s not; it’s the movie “Patton.” David had queued it up to a famous scene where General Patton is dressing down the troops. He’s not quite foaming at the mouth, but he’s getting pretty close to foaming at the mouth.

Then David stops the video and smiles — he had an interesting grin, a way of cocking one eyebrow. There he is in his classic double-breasted pinstripe suit, and he says something to the effect of, “You are all hiding in your foxholes and we don’t do that.” Then he added, “You’re all going to work now; you are all going to give me your two best ideas.” And we did. And things turned around.

That “Patton” movie moment lives on in Alger history. We’re moving offices, and I was cleaning out my desk drawers, and what’s there but a VHS tape of “Patton,” which somebody loaned me a while ago. It survived 9/11. — Daniel Chung, chief executive officer of Fred Alger Management

Kristin Irvine-Ryan, Sandler O’Neill

A lot of the people we lost that day, like my nephew, Peter O’Neill, were young. I’d known Kristy Irvine-Ryan since she was 9 years old. My daughter Meredith met her when we moved to Huntington, Long Island, and they became best friends. When we went on vacations, Kristy came. They went to grade school, high school and college together at the University of Dayton in Ohio.

On my daughter’s 21st birthday, I said to Kristy, “We want to throw a nice party for Meredith.” In my stupidity, I said, “You take care of it, do what you need to do.” Well, I think three-quarters of the college went to this party. It was like a wedding — there was a DJ, dancing, food, an open bar, presents. It cost me an absolute fortune. The next morning when they got up, a little bleary-eyed, and I said something to Kristy about the cost, she just said, “You didn’t tell me there was a budget!”

She was hired on the equities trading desk at Sandler O’Neill when it was a relatively new part of our business, and she didn’t have a finance background. I don’t think she knew a stock from a pickle when she started. But she became very proficient. She was extremely friendly and a very, very hard worker, and I think those attributes came through in the interview. She and her boss, Stacey McGowan, were so close that Stacey was in Kristy’s wedding party.

If there’s anything that stands out about Kristy, it was her empathy and her ability to translate that to other people. My daughter was a teacher, and she saw so many families in need of assistance. She and Kristy started an anonymous charity, Secret Smiles. The partners reached into their pockets — Herman Sandler wrote a big check — and Kristy and Meredith went out and bought bedding, clothes, televisions, food, Christmas presents. After that, Kristy was able to marshal a group of young people in the office who didn’t have the wherewithal to contribute money, and they’re the ones who went out to make deliveries to the people in need. Kristy’s boyfriend, Brendan, also helped out — they’d just gotten married in June before she was killed.

Kristy became a valued member of the equity desk and the firm. She would have gone very high, if she’d survived. — Thomas O’Neill, founding partner of Sandler O’Neill, now an operating partner with Izar Capital

Michael D’Esposito, Marsh & McLennan

Mike D’Esposito was one of the software developers in our group on the 96th floor of Tower One. He was a self-proclaimed big nerd. We called him the peanut gallery because he was constantly chiming in on the group banter, always with something hilarious. We were all fairly young mid-20s to early 30s so we did a lot of goofing off, working a lot of long hours, ordering dinner in, and the group banter eased the pressure. Always, the most ridiculous conversations were the ones we had with Mike.

He liked things that were absurd. He felt really strongly about food on a stick, and he could not be convinced that there was a food that would not benefit from being eaten off a stick — not even pasta. There was a day he announced that he wouldn’t want to live in a world without cheese. We were like, Wait a minute. So what if, like, there were no pancakes? What if there were no video games? No puppies? He claimed all those things could be adjusted to, but a world without cheese was not a world he would want to live in.

He was a super-smart guy who had a really silly streak in him. He liked to lean into the things that brought him joy. Most of us were just a bunch of young idiots, and a lot of our priorities were, “Where are we going drinking tonight? How hungover are we today?” He thought we were all fun and enjoyed our stories and bad decisions, but he went home every night to his family. That’s what brought him joy. It just exuded from him: I work because I love my family. You guys are funny, but now I’m going home.

I left Marsh for another job the year before the attack. I was at home when my sister called me and said, “I think a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” And as soon as I turned on the TV, I knew that my friends were dead. — Dina Rugani, project manager at Northeastern University’s Roux Institute

Joseph Lenihan, Keefe Bruyette & Woods

One of my best friends was Joe Lenihan, who ran our fixed-income group. He and I started at KBW on the same day and commuted together into Manhattan from Connecticut for more than a decade. We would park our cars next to each other at the station, get on the train, and then take the subway downtown to the World Trade Center. After 9/11, when I would park next to his car, which was still exactly where he had left it, I started to see flowers and handwritten notes show up on it. He was an incredible father, husband, son, friend and colleague, and the incredible outpouring of support was very moving. One day, Joe’s wife sent her father to the train station to bring the car home. I never went back to the Cos Cob train station after that. I couldn’t do it — he was too big a part of my daily routine and too big a part of my life.  — Thomas B. Michaud, president and chief executive officer of Keefe Bruyette & Woods

Louis Caporicci, Cantor Fitzgerald

I first met Louis Caporicci when he worked for Morgan Stanley and he was my client. We used to speak every morning to go over what we called the hot stock list, and one day I was like, “Yeah, we’re trying to hire someone.” And he said, “Why don’t you hire me?” So I referred him, and he got the job.

We both worked in stock loan securities lending at Cantor Fitzgerald. He kept a radio on his desk. When it was time to work, we all worked hard, but then when the day was over, that’s when he’d turn on the radio. He was always calling me over and saying, “Oh, remember this song, Karen?” Louis loved all kinds of music — he loved oldies, he loved disco, he loved rock, he loved the “Godfather” soundtrack. He really loved Kiss. We both lived on Staten Island in the same development, and I always knew when he was driving past my house because he’d have Kiss blasting from his car stereo.

He thought he was a great singer. If he was still here he’d be trying out for that television show, “The Voice.” He’d sing at his desk when his favorite songs would come on. His new obsession right before 9/11 was the band Creed and their song “With Arms Wide Open.” Lorraine Antigua sat right next to him — he did the equities and she did the bonds — and they would sing the Creed songs together.

He’d always sing as if he was the leader of the band; he’d have the microphone and everything. Everybody enjoyed Louie. Sometimes we had to remind him we were in an office, but most of the time he knew the time and place when he could turn it up. He was just the kind of person who lived life to its fullest. — Karen Costagliola, business services manager at Morgan Stanley  

Richard James Stadelberger, Fiduciary Trust International

My first recollection of Dick Stadelberger was when he took a shot at hiring me. It was February 1992 and I was looking for a job. Dick ran a small sales force at Dean Witter. Early on in my days working on Wall Street, not everyone was very nice to young kids. But Dick was always a gentleman. He took a chance on me. And I am forever grateful.

I went to the company Christmas party that year. I was young, and came in the next day really, really hungover. I was not in good shape. It was the first Friday of the month and the unemployment number comes out at 8:30 in the morning and I barely made it in. And Dick said to me, “You know, if you don’t make it in before the number, you might be part of the number.” I walked back to my desk and I think I sat there the better part of 30 minutes, at which point he walked over to me and said, “Well, you made it, so now it’s about time for you to go home.” I think he thought he was being a hard-ass about it, but I turned around and looked back and he was chuckling and laughing. He was trying to be stern, but at the end of the day, he just made a nice joke about it and sent me on my way.

At the end of just about every day as we left, Dick always, consistently, would say, “Good job today, guys. Thanks for the hard work today, guys.” Some days were productive and some days were less productive, but he was always willing to let us know that he noticed and appreciated our work.

Watching his compassion, his appreciation of those who reported to him — those are exceptionally valuable lessons I learned from him and that I’ve taken with me along the way, and that I try to impart to others. — Brendan Burke, executive director at Morgan Stanley

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Bloomberg Opinion provides commentary on business, economics, politics, technology and markets.

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