I wrote this article, story...whatever you want to call it...2 years ago for the 2,996 Tribute. I don't have any problem running it again, on a day like today. The same feeling still holds this year, as well as any year, since 2001.
When I first signed up for this project, it seemed like such a good idea. 2,996 people, each one memorializing someone who died in the 9/11 attacks. I entered my name, and got assigned Anthony Perez.
However, try as I might, I could not find anything about him online. The only thing I kept running across was a small blurb with a picture on memorial sites:
Anthony Perez- 33, Locust Valley, NY- Technical Specialist, eSpeed, Cantor Fitzgerald Confirmed Dead, World Trade Center, At/In Building.
I began to regret taking on this assignment. How could I possibly do this man justice? How could I convey his life, the feelings of the people that loved him, the unimaginable loss for his children...when all I could find was the basic facts, and a few paragraphs about him from friends?
Then, I thought maybe I should take another route with this- Cantor Fitzgerald. Anthony worked for eSpeed, which was an offshoot of Cantor Fitzgerald. This changed everything for me.
When 9/11 first happened, like so many others, I was glued to the TV, Newspapers, the Radio...anything that would fill me in on what was going on. It was so massive and heart-wrenching and horrible, and I swear I cried for 3 weeks solid. I was devastated at the human loss, even 3,000 miles away from the epicenter. I have never been to NY, but for that period in time, I felt like I was FROM New York.
One story, one company...one horrible fact that I was riveted to, was the fate of the company, Cantor Fitzgerald. 658 people from that company lost their lives that day. 658 people that started their day like any other day before it. 658 people who's lives were gone in one horrible instant- All because they had the misfortune of being on floors 101-105 of the North Tower, when at 8:46 in the morning, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into them. The impact of the plane was on floors 93-99. Anthony worked on floor 103.
4 flights of stairs.
Cantor Fitzgerald sustained such a massive loss of life....roughly TWO THIRDS of its workforce...in an instant. There is no way those people survived the impact. 2 to 6 flights up from such a massive explosion....there was no way. The only comfort out of such a horrific loss of life was that it had to have been instantaneous. AA Flight 11 was the first plane to crash through the towers that day. No one in the North Tower knew what was coming, or what had hit them. The South Tower wasn't so lucky. They had an inkling of what had happened, and I'm sure some sort of dread that the same fate might befall them. So, I guess, in a sense, Anthony was lucky. He didn't suffer.
But, still....658 people from the same company...gone. Just like that. So many lives....so many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, husbands, wives, cousins, sisters and brothers....gone. So much tragedy and loss, and the man I was assigned to memorialize was one of these 658 people. People that I couldn't get out of my head....employees of Cantor Fitzgerald. It seemed fitting that I be assigned one of their employees, but all the same, I felt woefully inadequate to memorialize him. How do you sum up 33 years of someone's life? 33 years...one year older than I am today. How could I possibly sum up his life, who he was, the ESSENCE of Anthony, based on one tiny paragraph and photo?
I was dreading Sept. 11th, wondering what I could possibly write that wouldn't sound trite and stupid....and still be worthy of this man's life.
Then I got an email....
An email from a friend of Anthony's. Someone who had worked with him before he took the job with eSpeed. Someone who missed him so much that she still carried this photo of him around in her wallet...5 years later.
She told me that the group they worked together in was a VERY tight knit group....more like family than co-workers. I get that. I understand. When I was working in the corporate atmosphere, the people I worked with became my family. It seemed like I saw them more than I saw my ACTUAL family. It was a huge loss when our group was outsourced, and we had to "break-up" our little family. To this day, I am still friends with these people, and if any of them were to perish in the way that Anthony did, I would be devastated. Beyond words. So, I understand her loss, and I am very sorry for it.
I asked her to tell me a little about him, and she did. Here he is, in her own words:
"Anthony was a loving father, husband, brother, son. He was a loyal friend, a pain in the butt, a prankster, a nudge, too smart for his own good sometimes. He was a techy kind of guy, thru and thru! We worked tech support together, as peers and then as a supervisor/lead team. (and he called me boss lady in his typical sarcastic teasing way...) He had a wicked sense of humor. He was a die-hard NY Islanders fan. He wasn't perfect, no one is, but he was a good man regardless."
She also sent along an email chain from 9/11. An email chain from people that used to work with Anthony, and who were extremely worried about him in the hours that followed the disaster. I won't attach that here, but suffice to say, it was filled with memories, and worry, and eventually...with loss.
I thank her so much for her help in telling me a little about him! It helped me immensely.
Eventually, I found a website FROM Cantor Fitzgerald....a memorial for their employees that had died. Anthony's page had many, many entries from people that loved him: his wife, his family, his friends, his co-workers....but the ones that touched me the most were from his children: Olivia, Anthony James, and Alexis. They were so young when their father was killed, and they have had to grow up missing so much.
"He was a great man. I loved him and I played with him and I helped him. When he needed help Anthony James (son), Alexis (other daughter), and I would ALWAYS help him! Last year in 5th grade we had this huge field trip and I invited him to go. He missed work on that day and came. We had a great time and enjoyed it together! Then he took me to work! All of his co-workers thought someone was sick on my other side of the family and I had to go with him. The real truth was I wanted to go and I begged him and he finally said yes! Shhhhhh! I share a lot of memories with the Perez family but it is so hard to talk about them!
WE MISS U DADDY!" - Olivia Perez, 6th Grade
" Daddy I love you very much and miss you a whole lot. I'm so sad that you can't come home. Mommy tells me that you are with us all the time, so I hope you can hear me when I talk to you. I love you very very much and miss you. Big Hugs and Kisses."- Alexis Perez, Age 4
"Daddy you are the best daddy ever. I miss you every day. I wish you could come home. I miss playing all the computer games with you and working on the house. I know you're in heaven now, but I like to think that you're also here with me playing ball, going to school and riding my bike.
I love you and miss you very much. Hugs and Kisses" - Anthony James Perez, Age 6
And finally, just recently, from his oldest daughter, Olivia:
"Daddy, oh god. Its been How long? like... five years almost since i last saw you. I miss you so much. You've brought me so many good things in life, and I just can bear to be without you. I've grown and changed and it's just amazing to me of how I've lived. Without you. Please keep an eye over Anthony James, Alexis, Scott Anthony, and Mary, and grandma, and grandpa, and scott, and brian, and the rest of the family, because we love you ,and we think about you constantly."
I think that's really all that needs to be said.