09/12/2006 05:01 PM
One On 1: Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund Director Edie Lutnick
On September 11th, 2001, Cantor Fitzgerald lost more employees than any other company. Among them was the brother of CEO Howard Lutnick. Lutnick then vowed to take care of the victims' families and asked his sister to help. Now, five years after the attacks NY1's Budd Mishkin goes one on one with Edie Lutnick.
"There are moments when I think I'm going to just wake up. You know? Like somehow this is just a dream," says Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund executive director Edie Lutnick.
Lutnick says you move forward, you don't move on.
She's the executive director of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, overseeing the program that allocates money to the families of the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who died on September 11th.
Rare is the day when Lutnick does not speak to a Cantor family member, but she says the calls get more emotional as the anniversary approaches.
"The family members who just want to talk or kind of reminisce and remember things that were important to them about their loved ones," says Lutnick.
Lutnick is herself part of that group. Her brother Gary was killed in the attack. Her other brother, Howard, Cantor's CEO, was not yet at work.
At the time, Edie Lutnick was a labor lawyer. In the days after the attack, Howard asked his sister to oversee the fund that would provide victims' families with 25 percent of the company’s profits over five years and health insurance for ten years.
"My first thought was that I was in such a state of grief myself that I really wasn't the smartest choice," says Lutnick. "I think I would have very happily crawled into a ball and just kind of grieved the loss of Gary for a very long time."
She says her feelings quickly changed after phone conversations and meetings with other grief-stricken family members.
"There wasn't anything inside of me that allowed me to say that what I was feeling or my sadness was more important than the pain that I was hearing coming through the wires and walking through the door," says Lutnick.
A law firm provided office space, and volunteers, expertise and contributions started to pour in. Lutnick also coordinated a now annual memorial service.
At the first service, only a month after 9/11, Cantor Fitzgerald family members experienced the generosity of others.
"Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of teddy bears, we had hundreds and hundreds of quilts, we had CDs, books," says Lutnick.
But with time, things change.
"In the span of the five years, it has become virtually impossible to get people to donate things to put on the chairs. So we went from hundreds to virtually nothing,” says Lutnick.
And Lutnick understands that there are limits to what she can do.
"I can't bring their loved one back," says Lutnick. "There's only so much of that hole that I can fill."
The bond between Edie Lutnick and her brothers Howard and Gary was cemented long before September 11th.
They grew up in Jericho, Long Island, the children of a history professor and an artist. But both parents died within a year and a half of each other in the late seventies. And Edie Lutnick says no other family members were there to help.
"We were really very much left on our own," says Lutnick. "Nobody kind of swooped in and said, 'I'll take care of you, I'll save the day.' The three of us had to fend for ourselves."
She went off to Syracuse to earn a law degree and an MBA. Gary was in high school at the time and came to live with her.
"Gary was my brother and in a lot of respects he was my child," says Lutnick. "In the earlier years it is fair to say that I took care of them and as time went on and they found their legs they took care of me."
Edie Lutnick says she wanted to protect her younger brother, but that ability was taken from her on September 11th and nothing could have protected or prepared Howard Lutnick from the storm that ensued. First, the loss of his brother, many of his best friends and hundreds of colleagues. Then, a sympathetic figure on national television, crying over the sadness and Shortly thereafter, the subject of media scorn when it was announced that the company was stopping the victims' paychecks.
Howard Lutnick declined our invitation to be interviewed for this story. Through the years, he has often explained that in order to help the families in the long run, he had to save the company. But the initial reaction was intense.
"You see they call me and they say, 'how come you can't pay my salary, how come you can't pay my husband's salary. Other companies pay their salary, why can't you?' I lost everybody in the company, so I can't pay their salary. They think we're doing something wrong. I can't pay their salaries. I don't have any money to pay their salaries," says Howard Lutnick.
"I knew that my brother was willing to go down to sack-cloth and ashes for his families," says Edie Lutnick. "I was seeing him on the phone for hours and hours on end with the families and going to the Plaza and Pierre and talking to them. It's five years later and we've given away almost $200 million. Where is the 'I'm sorry' from any media person who doubted the integrity that was behind his words, because the proof is in the actions."
Edie Lutnick says the financial dealings with the 9/11 Cantor Fitzgerald families may diminish, but not the emotional park of her work.
"That finishes when that phone stops ringing the last time," says Edie Lutnick. "When all is said and done, Cantor families have helped me as much as I've helped them. And it may be a cliche but my brother always says, 'it takes a broken heart to heal a broken heart.'"
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, September 18, 2009
NEW 9/11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS ENCOURAGE
Materials Distributed to Principals at Every NYC Public School
Memorial & Museum Honored at New York City’s PS/IS 266 Real Heroes Kick-Off Assembly
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum today attended an assembly at PS/IS 266 74-10 in Bellerose, Queens to support the school’s use of the 9/11 Memorial’s new educational materials encouraging youth service. The assembly launched the school’s year-long Real Heroes program and honored individuals featured in the 9/11 Memorial’s film and related educational discussion guide, The Spirit of Volunteerism: 9/11 and Beyond. In conjunction with the New York City Department of Education, the 9/11 Memorial’s new educational materials were distributed to principals at all New York City public schools.
“Tremendous acts of sacrifice characterized the events of 9/11,” said Joe Daniels, President & CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. “The 9/11 Memorial & Museum will preserve the story of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath and strive to further a legacy of compassion.
“Our new educational materials are designed to encourage students to work together to commemorate 9/11 by participating in acts of service. We are pleased to work with the New York City Department of Education and Children for Children to help promote these materials and to further the Service in School initiative,” Daniels said.
Through New York City’s Service in School initiative, the 9/11 Memorial will work in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and Children for Children to engage students in service as part of a citywide initiative to empower young people to have an impact on their communities and become agents of positive change. This year, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Education, the 9/11 Memorial’s new educational materials were distributed to principals at all New York City public schools.
The Memorial & Museum’s new educational materials, The Spirit of Volunteerism: 9/11 and Beyond, include an 8-minute film of the same name and related discussion questions and activity suggestions that are designed to encourage students to work together to commemorate 9/11 by participating in acts of service. The film describes, through first-person accounts, the various ways that eight individuals chose to respond to 9/11 through acts of service and volunteerism. The materials can be accessed at national911memorial.org.
At the PS/IS 266 Assembly, the Spirit of Volunteerism video was shown to launch a yearlong service program. Two of the individuals featured in the film, Ada Rosario Dolch, Executive Director of the Executive Leadership Program, Council of School Supervisors and Administrators and Ron Vega from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum were then honored as Real Heroes at the assembly for their work after the 9/11 attacks.
Ada Rosario Dolch was principal of a high school just two blocks from the World Trade Center and on 9/11 safely evacuated 600 students. In memory of her sister, Wendy Rosario Wakeford, who died on 9/11, Ada helped build a school in Afghanistan that opened in 2005. Ron Vega, an architect and construction design manager, worked at the World Trade Center site after 9/11, aiding in the recovery and clean-up efforts from September 2001 to July 2002. He is currently working to build the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and volunteers his time giving tours of the World Trade Center site.
PS/IS 266 Real Heroes’ program honors individuals or groups that have the determination and endurance to perform selfless acts for the benefits of others and the feeling that they get in return, sometimes despite serious challenges. Students are recognized for their actions through a program called Random Acts of Kindness (A-OK) and are eligible to be recognized as an Apprentice Hero by performing these acts of kindness. All students are honored at a monthly basis. As the first initiative, the students will raise money to sponsor cobblestones that will line the Memorial Plaza.
“As our collective understanding of the events of 9/11 continues to evolve, the Memorial & Museum is committed to working collaboratively with educators across the country to develop educational programs and materials,” said Alice M. Greenwald, Director of the Memorial Museum. “We strive to offer students access to accurate information about what happened on September 11, 2001, to suggest a sense of the historical context of the attacks, and to encourage thoughtful consideration about what it means to live in a post-9/11 world.”
“We often hear from educators who are struggling to teach the events of 9/11 to their students,” said Sonnet Takahisa, Memorial & Museum Director of Education. “The attacks evoke a spectrum of powerful emotions that make teaching 9/11 difficult. These new commemorative materials offer first-hand accounts of people who channeled strong emotions into constructive acts of human kindness. We are already hearing from educators who are using these resources to encourage discussion and inspire students.”
The new educational materials are being used successfully in a range of classes. At the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Jamaica, NY, Rozella Kirchgaessner’s 11th grade American History and Government students brainstormed ways that people can help one another, both by volunteering and by vocation. On the day of the 9/11 anniversary, the class watched the Spirit of Volunteerism film and pledged to volunteer to help others in need. Rozella Kirchgaessner said, “As I watched that Spirit of Volunteerism film with my students, I saw a hush spread across the room, as even the most antsy students were drawn into the message. The blending of the philosophical statements with the oral histories as well as the stories of response really drew them in. My students were captivated by the film as it was just the right length, moved at a fast enough pace, and provided a diversity of images, sounds, and actions.”
At the St. Joseph Regional Academy in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, an assembly was held for grades K-8 in honor of the 9/11 victims and families, using the new materials.
The New York City i-school in Manhattan coordinated school-wide activities for September 11. All students watched The Spirit of Volunteerism, and then discussed with their advisory teacher ideas about “paying it forward” and the importance of helping others in need as a way to honor those who were killed on 9/11. Through VolunteerMatch.org they were paired with the Jewish Community Center which helped place students in opportunities throughout the city, including the Jewish Home for the Aged, baking for the FDNY, Project Sunshine, Sanctuary for Families, and others. In addition, about 90 students worked to help clean-up Pelham Bay Park.
At the Facing History High School in Manhattan, 9th– 12th grade students joined principal Gillian Smith for a discussion using the film. The students then discussed ways that they will commit to acts of service and created a plan of action for activities, including helping special education students who share their school building, working in a neighborhood soup kitchen, and cleaning up a local park.
In August, the 9/11 Memorial announced a collaborative partnership with MyGoodDeed to encourage the public to commemorate 9/11 through acts of service and launched a nationwide effort, 911dayofservice.org, to promote 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. ABOUT THE NATIONAL SEPTEMBER 11 MEMORIAL & MUSEUM
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is the not-for-profit corporation created to realize the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center site. The organization is responsible for raising the funds and overseeing the design for the project and will program and operate the Memorial & Museum located on 8 of the 16 acres of the site.
The Memorial will remember and honor the thousands of people who died in the horrific attacks of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001. The design, created by Michael Arad and Peter Walker, consists of two pools that reside in the footprints of the original Twin Towers, surrounded by a plaza of oak trees. The Arad/Walker design was selected from a design competition that included more than 5,000 entrants from 63 nations.
The Memorial Museum will display monumental artifacts associated with the events of September 11, while presenting intimate stories of loss, compassion, reckoning and recovery that are central to telling the story of September 11 and its aftermath. It will communicate key messages that embrace both the specificity and the universal implications of the events of 9/11; document the impact of those events on individual lives, as well as on local, national, and international communities; and explore the continuing significance of these events for our global community.
Donations can be made through and more information can be found at the Memorial & Museum’s website, www.national911memorial.org.
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9/11 Memorial & Museum: Lynn Rasic/Michelle Breslauer: 212-312-8800