My wife Claudia and I were honored last night by the 9/11 Museum and Memorial with the Vartan Gregorian award for work in the community. I wanted to reflect on the evening and on Edelman’s role in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan.
There was a moving video about Windows on the World, the top-class restaurant atop the World Trade Center. It featured a chef who worked at the restaurant; he survived because he needed to visit the optician that morning to fix his glasses. There was an interview with the four children of another restaurant employee, notably with a policewoman who spoke about the pride her father had in working at the best restaurant in New York City. He dreamed of her becoming a police officer; she took off her hat and showed the picture of her dad glued to the brim. A $30 million fund was raised from restaurants across the country to enable the victims’ families to live and for their children to eventually go on to college.
Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg spoke about three Bloomberg employees who were attending an investment conference at Windows on the World. “They were young, full of promise. Their names are together on the Memorial.”
My wife, Claudia, expressed her commitment to the advancement of the Hispanic community. There were 250 Hispanics who died in the World Trade Center that day; they were lawyers and bankers, first responders and restaurant workers.
My remarks paid tribute to the Edelman colleagues who have worked tirelessly for the past twenty years on the rebirth of Lower Manhattan. Our first task was to staff the Cantor Bereavement Center at the Plaza Hotel, later moved to the Pierre Hotel, for Cantor Fitzgerald which lost over 500 people that awful day. We also managed the press for Howard Lutnick, Cantor’s CEO, in the traumatic period after 9/11. We went on to work for the mayor’s office on a website (LowerManhattan.info) and a communications outreach plan launched on the first anniversary of the tragedy, to make sure that people knew that the community was safe and open for business. We were hired by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to create a visual identity and communications plan for the rebuilding, with the four office towers, a transit center and arts center. We worked with Swiss Re on the ultimate resolution of the insurance to be paid to World Trade Center owner, Larry Silverstein. We assisted on the opening of the 9/11 Memorial, then subsequently the 9/11 Museum. We raised money for construction from clients such as AB InBev, PepsiCo and ScottsMiracle-Gro. Special thanks are owed to Matt Harrington, Justin Blake, and Lisa Kovitz and three alumni, Russell Dubner, Holly Rafkin Sax and Richard Mahoney who led these work streams.
We lost one of our own that day, Suria Clarke, a young British woman who had worked for two years at Edelman before going to work at eSpeed, a division of Cantor Fitzgerald. We raised a scholarship fund in her memory to enable other outstanding women to attend her college.
I had the same feeling last night that I have each year at the Passover Seder when we tell the story of the Jews escaping from Egypt to go to the Promised Land. The original group of funders of the Museum understood the mission well, first among them Mayor Bloomberg whose personal generosity and dogged determination inspired the rest of us to persevere even when we felt at the end of abilities. We need to tell the story to each generation, of the heroism of young firefighters going up stairs with hoses, of families fighting through unimaginable loss, of New York City residents determined to build back instead of abandoning the area.
Richard Edelman is CEO.