Sometimes incredible goodness comes from horrific evil. This true story from Brian Doyle’s book, Eight Whopping Lies, illustrates this important truth.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, 83 employees of the investment firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners were working in their company’s office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower. Sixty-six of those men and women died that day leaving behind 76 children.
In the days that followed that awful event, Sandler O’Neill & Partners made several extraordinary decisions concerning the families of those who died. The company decided to pay those employees their full salaries and bonuses to the end of that year. In addition, their families would receive full employee benefits for the next ten years. And, within a week, the firm started a foundation to pay for college for all the children of those deceased employees.
I was deeply touched when I read what the company did—especially when I read the last one. After all, I am still a teacher. Doyle talked to the company about those children and learned that 54 of them had graduated, their tuitions paid in full. Twenty-two were still eligible for the free college tuition. The 54 that already graduated attended a wide range of colleges and universities—from community colleges and technical institutes to Princeton, Yale, Notre Dame, Fordham, Georgetown, Boston College, to name a few. (Boston College was the alma mater of 24-year-old employee Welles Crowther, who saved 11 people from death in the South Tower that day. The last time he was seen, he was running back up the stairs to save more people.)
Dozens of people have donated millions of dollars to this college foundation. Those who run the foundation receive no salaries. One of those men remarked, “You wouldn’t believe some of the letters the recipients have written in appreciation. They appreciate that we have remembered their mom or dad this way. Many of them hardly knew their moms and dads.” (The youngest of the 76 children was born six weeks after September 11.)
Doyle interviewed Jimmy Dunne, one of the surviving partners of the investment firm, and asked him, “Why did you decide to do this generous and extraordinary thing?”
Dunne gave several answers:
“Because I knew that how we conducted ourselves in those first hours and days would define who we are and what we were about.”
“Because I knew this was the critical hour, and if we just got by without being honorable, then we stood for nothing.”
“Because I wanted to show (those who did this terrible deed), that we were people who lived and worked with honor. And that meant taking care of our people and their children with respect and reverence.”
As we begin a new year, it is good to remember this: Sometimes we human beings get it right. (Sometimes even Big Business or Corporate America gets it right.) Sometimes we human beings rise to the occasion. Sometimes we choose to do the right and honorable and loving thing. And sometimes horrific evil can give birth to incredible and far-reaching goodness. Amen.
Today I chose a song from the musical Rent. The song is called “525,600 Minutes.” That’s the number of minutes in a year. The song raises some good questions: how do you measure a year? How do you measure a man or a woman? The answer: measure them in love!
Do you have anything you’d like to share with us as we begin this new year together?
I want to wish each of you a very Happy and Blessed New Year! And thank you for reading my blog!