U of T alumni were touched by the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Here are just some of their stories
By Cynthia Macdonald
Testimony to Tragedy
With more than 5,000 lives lost, it was inevitable
that the terrorist attacks of September 11 would deeply affect former University
of Toronto students living and working in the United States. We note with
sadness the passing of Arron Dack, a 1987 alumnus who was a guest in the
World Trade Center’s North Tower that morning.
Shortly after the attacks, President Robert Birgeneau sent an e-mail
offering his condolences to all of our U.S. alumni. A flood of responses
ensued: some were brief expressions of gratitude, while others told long
tales of lives changed forever that dreadful date.
The following stories represent only a fraction of those we might tell.
Fortunately, most people were not touched in such a direct way as the
alumni profiled here.
Arron Dack (1961-2001)
Dack, who earned a bachelor of applied science in 1987 while attending
Victoria College, was many men in one: a business executive, husband
and father of two young children. He spoke several languages,
travelled widely and was a master of the one-liner. He was only
39 years old when he perished in the World Trade Center’s North
Tower while attending a conference on the 106th floor.
Dack came to Canada from England
at the age of eight with his mother, Selena Dack-Forsyth. He was
an overachiever from an early age, but when he encountered the
Canadian “new math” curriculum, he was stymied. But math, which
had been his bęte noire, became a source of joy in high school.
It propelled him onto the dean’s list at the University of Toronto,
and to his subsequent success in capital-markets technology.
memories of a
son who has, unwittingly,
become a part of history
Dack “loved New York,” Dack-Forsyth
says from her home in Port Hope, Ont. “And, ironically, he particularly
loved the World Trade Center partly because the word ‘world’
was in there, but also because it epitomized the kind of work
Dack-Forsyth remembers the week
of her son’s death as a time of unspeakable pain, alleviated somewhat
by the overwhelming kindness of strangers. She describes the atmosphere
at the Lexington Armory where relatives went to register
missing loved ones and to tape up their pictures as “surreal;”
a place of hideous grief, where roses decorated every table, and
a battalion of babysitters, therapists, translators and counsellors
did everything they could for the bereaved. The townsfolk of Montclair,
N.J., where Dack lived with his wife, Abigail, and children, Olivia
and Carter, took turns delivering meals to the family.
Larger than life. Those three
words serve as the most fitting epitaph for a man who enjoyed
playing lacrosse as a youth, passed the Ontario Securities Course
exam “in his spare time” and even fooled a roommate, who later
served as best man at his wedding, into thinking he was a spy.
“My world will never be the same,” Dack-Forsyth wrote in her weekly
column for the Port Hope Evening Guide. “But I have wonderful
memories of a son who has, unwittingly, become a part of history.”
From time spent on military aircraft as
part of his job at the Pentagon, Will Jarvis (who graduated with a bachelor
of applied science in 1987 while attending New College) knows what aviation
fuel smells like.
I saw little bits of silver falling from the sky
That smell was his only clue that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon,
where he works as an operations research analyst for the Office of the
Secretary of Defense. Jarvis, who was around the corner from the disaster,
tried but failed to see the plane when he left the building. “There was
just nothing left. It was incinerated. We couldn’t see a tail or a wing
or anything,” he says. “Just a big black hole in the building with smoke
pouring out of it.”
For someone sitting only 300 metres away from the carnage of American
Airlines Flight 77, Jarvis and his officemates were surprisingly well
insulated from it. “We thought the plane was a dump truck backing into
the building, because there was a lot of construction going on,” he says.
The group noticed that the sky was darker than normal, but still didn’t
think much of it. “Then I saw little bits of silver falling from the sky,”
Evacuation, when it came, was a decidedly orderly affair, since no one
sensed the magnitude of what had happened. Nor could they have known that
one person from their department, a man named Brian Jack, was actually
on the plane.
In informal conversations, Jarvis and his colleagues often speculated
on how terrorists could attack the Pentagon. “We were thinking they could
poison the water or food supply,” he says. “Or get in by joining a tour
group. But no one ever thought a hijacked plane would crash into the building.”
The American-born Jarvis still has family in the northern Ontario town
of New Liskeard. “I went up to Canada shortly after this incident,” he
says. “Whenever I’m up there, I feel like nothing like this could ever
Livon Neil is one of the lucky ones. He was in the North Tower on
September 11, but he survived. He was only on the 38th floor, and
well out of there by the time it fell. But while Neil may have escaped
unharmed, he is most certainly not unscathed.
do have some dreams, but they're not as bad
After diving under his desk in response to
what he thought was an earthquake, the 30-year-old systems analyst
(who graduated with a bachelor of science in physiology and human
biology in 1994 while attending New College) heard “screaming coming
from the elevator shaft, like ladies screaming. And I saw dust coming
out, smoke.” He ran toward the stairs, only to hear more yelling
from below. There seemed to be no way out for anybody. He huddled
in the stairway for some 20 minutes, until a phalanx of firefighters
many of them soon to sacrifice their own lives arrived
and opened an exit for him and his group. “While I was coming out,”
Neil says softly, “it was like a war zone. I looked up and saw a
person in mid-air. I looked to my right in the courtyard and there
were body parts.”
Thanks to counselling and the healing properties
of time, Neil’s nightmares about September 11 have eased somewhat.
“Now I do have some dreams,” he says, “but they’re not as bad.”
He’s still in a state of heightened observance at airports, though,
and admits it’s difficult to relate what he’s seen and heard.
Neil lives in Toronto and commutes regularly
to New York, where his company implements software for financial
institutions. Six weeks after the attack, he hesitantly boarded
a subway to Ground Zero, in search of some closure. “I just had
to go back and see it. It helped to go down there, to realize what
I’d been through. To give thanks.” And to offer a silent thought,
he says, “for those people who are still there.”
Chief Coroner Dr. Jim Young
and Deputy Chief Dr. Barry McLellan
When the American disaster’s enormity became
clear, Canada was prepared to offer a full range of medical assistance.
Its citizens, too, donated blood by the gallon. But as dusk fell, the
black truth dawned: New York was importing only coroners.
|Dr. Barry McLellan
no book written on how it should be done, and nothing you can call
on as far as previous experience
Ontario’s coroner system is internationally recognized, which is why
Dr. Jim Young (MD 1975), chief coroner and head of Emergency Measures
Ontario, and Dr. Barry McLellan (MD 1981), deputy chief coroner of forensic
services, found their services in demand. It was also thought, initially,
that some 300 Canadians might have died, a number that has since been
reduced to 24.
The coroners were charged with helping Canadian families identify their
loved ones. To this end, one of their tasks was to collect DNA samples
from each family and send them to labs to develop DNA profiles. DNA came
from various sources: toothbrushes, makeup, razors, hairbrushes. To date,
though, only three of the missing have been identified; others may have
vanished in the rubble, though Dr. McLellan remains “cautiously optimistic”
that further testing will result in more identifications.
Naturally, he cannot make predictions; this event transcended the bounds
of what he normally does. Even though Dr. Young has previously headed
a number of high-profile investigations, including the 1998 Swissair crash
off Peggy’s Cove, N.S., and the Walkerton, Ont., inquiry into the E. coli
deaths of May 2000, the mass grief and confusion of September 11 left
both doctors stricken with pain. “There’s no book written on how it should
be done,” says Dr. McLellan, “and nothing you can call on as far as previous
Toward the end of their two-and-a-half-week stay in the city, Dr. Young
and Dr. McLellan tried to relieve some of their tension with a trip to
Yankee Stadium, where the team was playing for the first time after the
tragedy. Everything about the game was tinged with reminders of what had
happened: tributes to the rescue workers, a speech by the mayor, the seventh-inning
stretch conducted to the tune of “God Bless America.”
“Throughout the entire game, there was a recognition that this wasn’t
just good old-fashioned baseball,” Dr. Young relates, obviously moved
by his final vision of the trip: a great city stirring, with aching slowness,
back to life.
is one of several alumni touched by the September 11 disaster who
were profiled in the Winter 2002 issue. He has pointed out “errors
of fact, interpretation and emphasis” and that these errors were
not rectified in the fact-checking process. He would especially
like to affirm that he “did not run blind,” that he “acted promptly,
with a clear objective constantly in mind and achieved it.” Further,
he wishes to convey that he was not dissatisfied with the hospital
treatment he received. If such dissatisfaction was implied in the
article, it was not intended by the magazine.
We apologize to Mr. Shanmugadhasan.
feel like Ive been given additional time to do
what, I'm not sure
the morning of September 11, Brian Clark (who earned a bachelor
of applied science in 1970, and a master of business administration
in 1971) sat with colleagues in his office on the 84th floor of
the World Trade Center’s South Tower and watched their sister building
burn. He knew a terrible accident had happened there; he heard co-workers
exclaim that people were jumping from windows. But neither Clark
nor anybody else in the New York office of the international brokerage
firm Euro Brokers had any idea what had caused the dreadful accident.
Nor did it occur to them that they
would be next.
Suddenly, United Airlines Flight
175 crashed into their tower, only five floors below. “I did not
see the plane coming,” says Clark, “and all we felt was a tremendous
rumble as if it was an earthquake. Our floor fell apart, the lights
went out, the ceilings collapsed it was instant chaos.” In
the end, only three of the 60 or so Euro Brokers employees left
on the floor (the other 220 had already evacuated the building)
would survive. One of them was Clark.
At random, he chose the one stairway
that was left passable after the crash. The stairs “buckled in a
few places,” he says, “and you could peek through the cracks and
see flames.” On the 81st floor, just above the conflagration, he
and several co-workers began arguing with a couple who were heading
up. “You’ve got to go up,” Clark quotes them as saying. “We’ve just
come from a floor in flames.”
As Clark was pondering which way
to go, he heard a plaintive voice behind the wall, calling for help.
It belonged to Stanley Praimnath, an employee of Fuji Bank and a
complete stranger. Clark squeezed through a hole in the wall to
assist him; in that time, all but one of his colleagues were persuaded
to go back to their floor. Descending through drywall debris and
rubble in a deserted stairway, Clark and Praimnath somehow got under
the fire. On floor 68, though, Clark encountered Jose Marrero, another
Euro Brokers employee who was, fatefully, on his way up to try to
help others. “I saw a hero making a bad decision,” Clark recalls.
Clark tried to convince him not to go, but Marrero was adamant.
He was the last person the pair encountered on the stairway before
escaping to safety minutes later.
A week to the awful day, Clark had
a dream about Marrero that salved his troubled soul. “Jose came
to me in a white, loose-fitting shirt,” he recalls. “He came to
the foot of my bed and looked down at me. I said, ‘Jose! You’re
alive! How did you do that?’ And he gave me a knowing smirk as if
to say, ‘You’ll figure it out.’”
Clark is back at work now, in new
office space in lower Manhattan. His company lost 61 employees that
day. In support of their families, he presides over the Euro Brokers
Relief Fund. “I feel like I’ve been given additional time
to do what, I’m not sure,” he says.
he didnt come home that night, I got this sick feeling in
We’re living in a very unusual time now,”
says Jordan Zed, as he contemplates the current climate of war and hypervigilance.
For Zed, 22, the pain of this “unusual time” was immediate: his 30-year-old
roommate, Thomas Pedicini, was lost in the World Trade Center that day.
Pedicini was a trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, a bond-trading company
that lost 733 of 1,000 employees at its World Trade Center office. As
soon as news of the disaster hit, Zed, a former Faculty of Music student
who had attended Victoria College, was deluged with “a flood of calls.”
“I didn’t know what tower he was in or what floor he worked on,” says
the singer/songwriter and pianist. “It was just something we never talked
It turned out that Pedicini worked on the 104th floor of the North Tower.
“And when he didn’t come home that night, I got this sick feeling in my
stomach,” says Zed. “You know, when you can’t swallow.”
For weeks, Pedicini’s mother, Nancy, clung to the hope that her son was
alive under the rubble. “When we went into his room, everything was exactly
the way he’d left it that morning,” says Zed. “It was just heart-wrenching.”
One of the nicer surprises was a tape of songs that Pedicini an
aspiring singer and guitar player had recorded, unbeknownst to
his family. “They were so happy to have it,” says Zed, who recently performed
a benefit concert and raised $15,000 for the New York State World Trade
Center Relief Fund in his home town of Saint John, N.B. “You listen to
it, and it sounds like he’s really in the room.”
Schofield and Barton
was visible but pitch black soot with business papers swirling
It’s a miracle that Ann Schofield’s apartment
building is still standing. Home for Schofield, who graduated with a bachelor’s
degree in English and criminology in 1993 while attending Victoria College,
is a mere 50 metres from where the World Trade Center once stood. It’s
also where she was trapped for several frightening hours, hoping her complex
would not be destroyed by the deadly rain of steel and glass.
Schofield, a lawyer with the firm of McDermott, Will & Emery, would ordinarily
have been at work when the planes hit, but she was awaiting a furniture
delivery to her 26th-floor apartment. Facing south onto the Hudson River,
she could not see the crashes half a block away that rocked her building.
After the first tower was hit, and later when the buildings were burning
but still standing, Schofield made phone contact with her husband, Jim
Barton, who had landed earlier that morning at Newark International Airport
and was driving to his office in Princeton, N.J. He convinced her to leave
As Schofield was packing a bag, she heard an “ominous rumbling that sounded
like an avalanche.” Her building became enveloped in thick, black smoke.
Then all light vanished, power, water and phone lines were lost, and nothing
was visible outside but “pitch black soot with business papers swirling
around in it.” She began her escape, but in the hallway a neighbour intercepted
her. “He said, ‘You’re absolutely out of your mind! You can’t leave now.’”
She stepped into his north-facing apartment and was shocked to realize
that what had caused the “ominous rumbling” was the South Tower collapsing.
Staring out the window in disbelief, she then saw the second tower crumble.
The two ran back to her place and took refuge in the bathroom, the only
windowless room. Then they crept to her living room and waited four hours
until firefighters knocked on the door and told them to leave.
Schofield spent that time “sick with worry” for Barton. She realized
the guilt he’d feel for advising her to step out into a potentially fatal
situation. “I made it to a rescue boat at 1:45 p.m., and I really can’t
describe the phone call we had, that kind of relief. He felt so helpless...
he had made up his mind that he was going to swim the Hudson if he hadn’t
heard from me by three o’clock.”
After staying two months in a condo owned by one of her firm’s partners,
Schofield and Barton returned home. Air quality in the neighbourhood is
still a concern. “At the same time we have a good healthy dose of perspective,”
she says, “because it’s a lot worse for about 3,300 other families than
it is for us.”
filled; everyone on
earth had a cellphone
to their ear, telling
their wives and
they loved them
a PhD student in comparative literature, Ian MacRae (MA 2001) knows
how a simple piece of writing can give shape to senseless events.
MacRae, who was in LaGuardia Airport at the time of the attacks,
was discussing them one night with his friend Matt Smith. Smith
had lost his good friend Jeremy Glick, a “black belt, strong, leader
kind of guy,” who had heroically attempted to overtake hijackers
on the doomed United Airlines Flight 93, which ultimately crashed
in a Pennsylvania field. “He [Smith] was very shaken up by that,”
says MacRae. “He said, “You’ve got to write this stuff down.’” So
MacRae sat and wrote a long diary piece about New York City in the
strange, hushed days following its devastation.
First, he described the airport:
“banks of phones filled; everyone on earth had a cellphone to their
ear, telling their wives and husbands that they loved them.” Rumours
flew: eight planes hijacked; the Federal Reserve Building in Cleveland
destroyed; the Washington Mall bombed. MacRae believed all these,
but did not believe the one about the World Trade Center falling.
He wrote of riding his bike downtown
the following day: “this city that never sleeps is one thing it
never, ever is: silent.” Soon, though, people re-emerged, and acts
of viciousness were countered by acts of beauty. MacRae heard tell
of lootings, but he also saw impromptu park concerts, where “people
formed human chains to ferry free food from arriving trucks.”
For MacRae, who is a field producer
and writer for Canadian Geographic Nature Televison, storytelling
has proven the most powerful antidote of all. “People were brought
together by this,” he says. “Everybody has a story to tell, and
everybody’s in the mood to share it.”
and maintained by: Carla DeMarco- March, 2002.
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