Perhaps the only reason Cantor Fitzgerald’s chief executive Howard W. Lutnick didn’t perish during the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is thanks to his young son.
That Tuesday morning happened to be the day his five-year-old son Kyle started kindergarten. He and his wife both wanted to take him to his first day at Horace Mann School.
Lutnick was in his son’s classroom when he first heard news of the attacks that would forever change his life and his firm.
Cantor Fitzgerald occupied the 101st to the 105th floors of One World Trade Center — just above the impact zone of the hijacked plane.
Cantor Fitzgerald suffered the greatest loss of life of any company. The firm lost 658 of its 960 employees, almost two-thirds of its workforce.
What’s even more heartbreaking, Cantor Fitzgerald had a policy of hiring relatives, so those who lost someone at the firm likely lost more than one loved one.
Lutnick lost his brother.
Because the attacks had devastated Cantor Fitzgerald so badly, the firm was not expected to survive. Remarkably, within a week the firm managed to get its trading back online.
And Lutnick made a commitment to keep Cantor Fitzgerald going, despite the odds and the difficult choices that had to be made.
Lutnick made the controversial decision to cut off the paychecks to employees who were killed.
Instead he gave the victim’s families 25% of the firm’s profits for five years, and 10 years of health insurance.
He’s been trying to fulfill his vow to keep the firm alive for the last decade.
Cantor Fitzgerald certainly suffered a tremendous loss, but it might also be one of the greatest comeback stories on Wall Street.
Today, Cantor Fitzgerald operates in its Midtown offices at 499 Park Avenue. The new offices are located on the second floor, hundreds of floors below the firm’s position in the World Trade Center.
With the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Lutnick admits he’s still haunted by the memory of that day.
He recently recalled a dream in an interview with The New York Post.
From the Post:
“The dream is: I was looking uptown, and I could see the plane, and I knew the plane was coming, and I knew that if I ran to the elevator, I could get out,” a tearful Lutnick began.
“Then, on the way to the elevator, I would always see people, and I would grab them, hysterically try to grab them and drag them to the elevator, [yelling] ‘We gotta go! We gotta go now!’ ” he said in a choked voice.
“And they always say something, argue, go slow or talk, and we never make it to the elevator, and just as the plane hits the building, I wake up in that sweaty nightmare fashion.”
The Post reported the hard-charging CEO then broke down in tears.
Cantor Fitzgerald lost more than any other firm on 9/11.
The human spirit…