938-3902. That was the telephone number for the equity-trading desk at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th Floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower. I dialed it every morning to reach my brother, Matt, one of the firm's most promising and successful young traders.
We'd chat in the few minutes before the market opened and our day got hectic. On the morning of Sept 11, I had been trying to line up an interview with a mutual fund manager, with little success. I had no time to shoot the breeze with Matt on the phone, so I didn't get a chance to call him.
I would never speak to him again.
It's been one year since my brother Matt was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center.I wish I could say I have reached a deeper understanding of what transpired that day. I wish I could say that months of reflection have coalesced into a state of enlightenment or a heightened sense of purpose to my life. But it hasn't. My emotions are wide-ranging and still too raw to have achieved that kind of resolve. Quite frankly, I'm mad as hell. Coming to terms with Matt's death is something I struggle with each day.¿ In the first few months after the attack, simply getting out of bed to face the day was a daunting task.¿I could barely bring myself to carry out the everyday, mundane rituals we do without thinking. Shaving, brushing my hair, and throwing on a clean shirt seemed of little consequence.¿ Riding the subway to work each morning, I can't help but think about what my life was like before all this happened. I long for things to return to normal, but know they never will. When I reach the Wall Street station and the doors open, I grit my teeth and realize I have to face the music. It is extremely disheartening to ascend to street level only to gaze up at that empty space where the towers once stood. This is how I start my day, deeply saddened.¿ Mustering up the strength to write about the daily moves in the market and reporting the day's business headlines became a real challenge.¿ Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Walking past street merchants selling photographs of the towers burning and collapsing is painful. In fact, it makes my blood boil. I find it despicable that people profit from selling pictures of such a horrible experience --thousands of people trapped in a burning building, waiting to die. I find it difficult to suppress the rage, the anger that exists inside of me. I feel cheated. I want justice, I want revenge. I want to know why our government failed to protect us. I want to know why my brother was taken away from me and my life was ripped apart. Then I pick up a newspaper and some knucklehead is denouncing the war on terrorism, and it only stirs up more anger.¿They don't know about the pain this has caused. They don't see my mother's tears.¿They have no idea of what it is like. There were many days when I wanted to walk out of the office and say, "The hell with it." I felt like giving up. But I keep at it. I keep at it because I think of Matt and what he would do. "You know there's a cure for that," I could hear Matt saying to me whenever I complained.¿ "It's called sucking it up. "Stick with it, kid; don't quit," he would say. Matt exemplified everything that is right and good about this country; he was a true American. He worked hard, just as my father worked hard to provide for our family and provide us with a decent education.¿Matt was a humble person, much like his old man. He knew what it meant to earn a buck. As a kid, he delivered newspapers for his allowance. He mopped floors in the New York City public schools and tended bar in college to pay for his tuition. He started out on the low end of the totem pole in Cantor's back office, making a meager salary. He worked long hours and moved away from his friends and family to advance his career.¿He didn't take anything for granted; he made the most of his opportunities. Matt tackled life with tremendous zeal and enthusiasm, and was never fazed when things went wrong. He never showed it anyway. He simply re-evaluated the situation; he adapted; he overcame obstacles. He did everything full throttle and with great passion. It was one of the driving forces behind his success on Wall Street.
|Matthew Burke (center) surrounded by friends and brother Kevin (far left).|
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