By Howard W. Lutnick and Edie Lutnick
When you visit the National September 11 Memorial and lay your hand on the name of one of the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald men and women who perished on 9/11, we would like you to know how that name came to be placed.
We were given the right by Memorial officials to list our employees’ names together on the North Tower pool (1 World Trade Center) as long as they appeared to the general public to be randomly grouped. Our charge became to imbue a random-appearing listing of names with as much meaning as possible. How do we capture a father/daughter relationship, the closeness of the foreign exchange desk, the golf buddies, the best friends, the wives, husbands, cousins, the in-laws, those who commuted together and the close work relationships that overlay them all?
Cantor Fitzgerald’s view is that you spend so much of your life working that you should work with people you like. So everyone hired family members and friends if they were qualified. They hired their best friends, relatives and everyone they liked with potential. It was as true of the security guard as it was the senior executives.
Each life told a story through their relationships. How were we to make the display of the names of those we loved have meaning by their placement alone? How could the names’ placement at their final resting place give peace to our families absent any additional words beyond their name?
The task was daunting, and our commitment to meaningfully memorialize our employees was every bit as strong as the commitment for Cantor to survive and thrive to take care of the victims’ families. Every relationship would be captured to the best of our ability. Every name would be surrounded by the names of those for whom they cared.
It didn’t happen in a day. We began by asking the surviving employees to re-create departmental layouts, seating placements, department and desk interactions, and relationships and friendships between employees. Then we contacted the families and asked them to tell us the names of people important to their family member. We harvested information collected by the Memorial. Many spouses thanked us for letting them know about work relationships of which they were unaware. Family members told us who went to high school or college with whom, who was a child’s godfather, who was the go-to young woman or man, or the admired colleague. Conversation by conversation, we incorporated the stories of their lives into the placement arrangement.
Each name was written on an index card. Departmental lists were re-created. We surrounded each person’s name with names that had been important to them. Each addition or subtraction required starting over, so that each panel, each wall, each connection was correct. We created countless layouts. It had to be as perfect as we could make it. Each new piece of information was incorporated.
Layouts were reviewed by surviving employees. Then we created a computer program so we could show the adjacencies and relationships by adding lines between the names. It allowed us to print out a model of our two entire sides and two corners of the North Tower pool for a final review by the survivors. Then we submitted our final layout to the Memorial.
The considered placement of each and every name is a testament to the close-knit community that makes up the Cantor Fitzgerald family, and the high esteem in which we hold those we have lost.
So when you visit the September 11 Memorial, go to the North Pool. View the “random-appearing” names.
They are anything but. Our two corners have sets of siblings on them and the walls between those brothers are all Cantor Fitzgerald people.
Know as you touch a name that it has lovingly been placed to reflect a lifetime of relationships and to give peace to the families. By touching their name and looking at those who surround them, you will embrace their history.
Howard W. Lutnick is chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald. Edie Lutnick is president and co-founder of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.