Domers who survived the World Trade Center attacks

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

William DeRiso '97 worked on the 89th floor of the second tower as an institutional equities salesman for the investment banking firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. When the plane hit the first tower, most people went to the window to look. DeRiso, a former ND lacrosse player and assistant coach, started down the stairs. He said he was stopped by backed-up traffic at the 55th floor and thought about going back but then the second plane hit his building. There were 81 people at work on his floor that day, he said. Only 15 made it out alive, only one of those who had gone to the window.

Jimmy Dunne III '78 worked on the 104th floor of the second tower as managing partner of the bond broker Sandler O'Neill & Partners, but he was out of the office that morning trying to qualify for an amateur golf tournament. The firm lost 66 of its 171 employees in the attack, including one of its founding partners. Dunne was later promoted to senior managing partner, effectively becoming chief executive. Afterward he helped establish a foundation to provide for the families of the lost employees and safety personnel as well as to continue commitments of the firm's partners to charitable causes. Michael Dion '97 was a vice president of Sandler O'Neill in the same location.

At least seven Domers were among the more than 3,500 employees of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Company who occupied several floors of the second tower and Building 5. The largest tenant in the WTC complex, Morgan Stanley began evacuating its offices soon after the plane hit the first building and lost only seven people. James W. Flood '92 worked as a financial writer on the 70th floor of the second tower. His office was not far below where the airplane impacted, but he was late to work that day and then the subway on which he was riding was diverted past the WTC station because of the first plane's crash. Exiting the station, he heard the second plane hit. "If you know how gut-wrenching the sound of one car crashing into another can be," he wrote in a piece for the Scholastic, "imagine that times a million." Brian Lavigne '99 worked on the 60th floor relaying requests for bond purchases from other Morgan Stanley offices. At the time of the attack, he was in a meeting on the 44th floor. John Schaefer '74, president and chief operating officer of the individual investor group, normally worked on the 66th floor, but he was at Morgan Stanley's headquarters in midtown Manhattan that morning. William Smith '65, managing director, worked on the 64th floor and helped organize the evacuation. Dan Rothschild '98 worked on the 60th floor as a bond trader. He headed for the stairs as soon as the plane hit the first tower and had reached the 44th floor when the second hit. He lost an uncle and two good friends who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. Greg Strieby '77, a first vice president of Morgan Stanley, worked on the 63rd floor, and Joe Colleran '79, an executive director in the corporate bond trading department, was on the 60th.

Three Domer survivors worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the first tower. Megan Lee '83J.D., worked on the 66th floor as assistant chief of New York litigation, but she had left her office for a court appearance. She was walking back and only a few blocks from the towers when the first plane struck. Attorney Thomas Michael Hoey '68 was on the 68th floor and escaped 90 seconds before the building collapsed. Stephen Kern '75 worked on the 62nd floor as deputy chief of litigation management. When the first plane struck, nine of the 14 members of his department were in their offices. He made certain everyone evacuated, including his secretary, who at first crawled under her desk thinking it was an earthquake. It took the group more than 45 minutes to descend the stairs. By then the other building had been hit and the plaza was littered with flaming wreckage. Kern decided to check in with the Port Authority Police desk in the concourse underneath the plaza. About 15 minutes later the lights went out and ceiling tiles began falling. They didn't know it at the time, but the south tower had just collapsed above them. Kern and others picked their way by flashlight through the smoke, dust and debris, eventually exiting through a Borders Bookstore. He described the scene as they emerged from underground as a "tan out." "We did not see the sun until we had walked about five blocks." When the north tower collapsed, he says, "The ensuing scene was like something from a 1950s Japanese monster movie . . . people running — screaming — north from the WTC on every side street."

Darren Madden '01 worked on the 95th floor of the second tower as a marketing associate for Fiduciary Trust Company. Because he'd dropped off his laundry on the way to work that day he missed his regular bus to the subway and was a little late getting to the office. He was in the second building, on the escalator coming up from the subway station, when the first plane hit the other building. He went outside and was looking up when the second plane hit his building. Fiduciary Trust lost 87 of its approximately 650 people in Tower Two.

When the first tower was hit, Steve Ilnitzki '83 was in his office on the 34th floor of the second tower, where he worked as a senior vice president for Oppenheimer Funds. He evacuated immediately and was just exiting the building when the second plane hit.

Tom Miller '96 worked on the 31st floor of the second tower as an analyst for Oppenheimer Funds.

Roger Marks '85, a director of the insurance brokerage and consulting company Aon, was in his office on the 100th floor of the second tower when the first building was hit. He decided to leave and, unlike most people, risked taking the elevator instead of the stairs. He reached the first floor just before the plane hit his building.

Ed Ryan '83 worked on the 99th floor of the second tower as a senior vice president for Aon Re Worldwide, the company's reinsurance subsidiary. He was still on the ferry from New Jersey when the first plane hit. When the second hit, he was across the street from the south tower. His group had 80 employees and lost 18.

James Calcagnini '84, president of East Coast Options Services, a commodities brokerage firm, worked in Building 4, adjacent to the second tower. One of the smaller buildings in the complex, it also was destroyed. When the plane hit the first tower he was in a shoe repair shop under the second tower. He noticed people scurrying around outside the shop and heard them asking if the shop had a back door. After learning that a plane had hit the north tower, he continued on toward his building, assuming it was a Cessna-sized aircraft. As he walked across the courtyard, he looked up to see first tower ablaze and minutes later heard a roar and saw the second plane strike.

Brendan Casey McGee '95 worked in Building 7 and was just driving into the parking lot under the WTC when the first plane hit. His car was totaled, but he escaped unharmed and spent the day treating the wounded. All of the passengers in the car in front of him perished.

John McLane '73 worked on the 99th floor of the first tower as a senior vice president for the insurance broker Marsh & McLennan. While walking to work, he saw the smoke coming from one of the buildings and returned home safely.

Todd Rassas '98 worked in Building 7 as a Secret Service agent. He escaped and helped with the rescue effort.

Ryan Williams '01 worked on the 38th floor of the first tower as a finance analyst for Lehman Brothers. He had joined the firm in July. He said it took 50 minutes to descend the stairs. No one really knew what had happened until they were about halfway down and one of his co-workers received an e-mail on the wireless device he was carrying.

At least three Domers worked in the first tower for the law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. John Rosenthal '99J.D. had just started work the day before as an associate in the litigation department, but he had been training on the firm's computer system all day Monday and Tuesday morning at the firm's midtown office. His group was scheduled to arrive back at the WTC around 10:30 a.m. A partner in the tax department, A.J. Alexis Gelinas '69 worked on the 57th floor but was still on his way to work at the time of the attacks. John Lavelle '87, an associate on the 59th floor, was walking his dog in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn Heights, across the East River from the WTC, when he heard a thunderous clap. At most New York law firms the day begins around 9:30 and ends late. Sidley Austin Brown & Wood lost one employee, a receptionist.

Edward Zier '80 worked on the 78th floor of the second tower as chief operating officer of Baseline Financial Services.

Tasnim Fisher '98, worked as an executive financial products underwriter for Hartford Financial Products in Building 7.

Patrick Doyle '77 worked on the 82nd floor of the second tower as a vice president for Fuji Bank. He had just entered the building and was in the concourse when his building was struck.

Ryan Maxwell '99 worked as a CPA with Deloitte & Touche in the World Financial Center, adjacent to the WTC. But at the time of the attacks he was on 15th floor of the second tower meeting with his clients in the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Theresa Ward '90J.D. worked in Building 7 as a senior attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission. She was coming out of the subway when the first plane hit.

Joseph Hart '85 worked on the 25th floor of the first tower as vice president for asset-backed securities at institutional bond broker Garban Intercapital. Until 1996 he had worked on the 105th floor for Cantor Fitzgerald. In addition to friends and associates, he and his wife each lost a first cousin. Enrique Aguila '81, a telecoms engineer for Garban, worked on the same floor as Hart and was a floor warden, responsible for evacuating offices in case of emergency. As ceiling tiles began falling and smoke was seeping in, he told Hart and others still in the office to put down their phones and start down the stairs. About five floors down, he heard a call from above to make way. Burn victims, their skin peeling off, were ushered past. A few floors lower, the first firefighters hustled by on their way up. Garban lost one employee, a woman who had gone to a breakfast seminar in the Windows on the World restaurant on the 104th floor.

Felix Knoll '96, territory manager for Sun Microsystems, worked on the 26th floor of the second tower, but he was in a meeting in midtown at the time. Sun Microsystems occupied both the 25th and 26th floors of the south tower. The company had moved to the WTC in February of 2000 and at the time, Knoll said, it could have had the 102nd and 103rd floors. A vice president opted for the lower floors.

This story has been edited since it appeared in the print issue.