Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lutnick's College Friends

Howard Lutnick's Second Life, New York Magazine, Dec. 2001
By Meryl Gordon December 2001

Jennifer Gardner, who reveled with her husband, Doug, another Haverford classmate and a partner at Lutnick's firm, Cantor Fitzgerald,

In A Tale Of Renewal 9/11 FIVE YEARS LATER Barbash
An hour before she hits the Broadway stage in The Color Purple, LaChanze Fordjour, whose husband, Calvin Gooding, died in the attacks, meets me at Maison, a French bistro where she often eats before performances. LaChanze, who won the Tony Award this year [2006] for best actress, says she's continually amazed at where life has taken her since the attacks that stole Calvin, her husband and my college friend.

Like the traders, LaChanze says work is what has kept her sane and restored her happiness. "I can't imagine my life with Calvin now because I'm married to someone else," she said. "But I wish he was here. I miss him."

LaChanze was in her ninth month of pregnancy on September 11. She was one of thirty-eight wives of Cantor Fitzgerald victims who were pregnant. I visited her in the hospital shortly after the attacks. She told me then she could never imagine remarrying. She was irritated with those who suggested that she would someday move on.

The December after the attacks, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, who'd heard about LaChanze's loss, called her and told her she needed to get out of the house and start working. Ensler knew LaChanze only through her work but gave her a role reading the play for a three-week run at an Off-Broadway theater near Times Square. It changed everything, LaChanze says.

"I really was spiraling down," she says. "I was an unemployed actress with two children, a husband who had died. My prospects were slim. I got that job, and I saw that I could be productive. That I had things I could bring to people."

Two years ago she met the artist Derek Fordjour when she commissioned one of his paintings as a gift for an attorney who had handled her post 9/11 finances pro bono.

They married in the summer of 2005.

LaChanze says she's tiring of September 11 memorials.

I don't want to go back there over and over again," she says.

It just might be that the Americans most able to move on from the events of September 11 are the men and women of Cantor Fitzgerald who lived through them.

Chris Crosby and Jim Johnson are both members of the technology team at eSpeed, Cantor's electronic bond-trading system. Crosby was setting out on a fishing trip when the Twin Towers were hit. Johnson was working in Cantor's London office.

Harry Waizer, Cantor's tax specialist,

Waizer was in an elevator high in the North Tower when the plane struck. Flames ignited inside the car and he was badly burned on his body and face and in his throat.

Stephen Merkel was on a different elevator on the lobby level when the plane hit. Merkel was physically unharmed

Frank Walczak, a life-long surfer, had taken the day off on September 11 to catch the swells kicked up by Hurricane Erin. Sitting on his board in the water off Sandy Hook, just south of the city in New Jersey, Walczak saw smoke pouring out of the Trade Center. He began calling the office and the homes of his colleagues. No one else on the foreign exchange desk where he worked survived. Walczak had to reinvent himself as an equities trader.

Cantor Partner David Kravette, a childhood friend of Lutnick and one of only two Cantor survivors who had been in the office that morning and left before the plane hit.

In the firm's post 9/11 realignment Kravette was forced, like Walczak, to switch jobs and become an equities trader after a dozen years trading bonds.

Joe Noviello, Crosby, Matt Claus, and two others survived because they were preparing to take a fishing trip. When they heard about the attacks, they convened at Cantor's disaster recovery site in Rochelle Park, N.J. (built after the 1993 World Trade Center attack), and began the Herculean task of restoring Cantor's bond trading system.

For a good six months my life was a black hole," says Phil Marber, the popular head of Cantor Fitzgerald Equities. "For a long time I couldn't really figure out why I wasn't there with everybody else. And then you ask, what's my purpose in life? Things like that. All I wanted was to get the company back to where it was, to the level we were at in 2000."

"I used to get very sad and reflective when I was alone in the car or alone in the dark. As time went on, it happened less, and I just stopped one day. Just this past weekend, I was at a party, and I met one of the firefighters. He told me how he'd been at the scene that day and then we told each other stories with much more color and granularity and clarity than we would normally tell them with. Because we'd both lived through it. I could see everything as we talked, and so that makes me know that it's all still very present in me. It just doesn't come out in front of everyone."

While he values time with his wife and children, he says he now equally cherishes his days at the firm with the other Cantor survivors.

"We stood at hell's doors, and we held the line. It doesn't matter what you throw at us. [Our people] will hold their line, and I'll hold mine. It's much more personal now."

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