September 11th Stories That Aren't Depressing

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

There have been some moving stories on the 14th anniversary of 9/11—including this one by my colleague Marina on where pieces of the Twin Towers ended up. But this story in The Oregonian caught my eye. It’s about Sandler O’Neill & Partners, an investment-banking firm that had its offices on the 104th floors of the South Tower. Sixty-six of the 83 employees working that day died in the attack. Those 66 people, among them, had 76 children. Here’s the column’s author, Brian Doyle:

In the harrowing days after Sept. 11, the leaders at Sandler O'Neill made several crucial decisions. Some of those decisions had to do with resurrecting the firm; others had to do with benefits for the families of murdered employees. One decision particularly fascinates me: The firm helped set up a foundation to pay college tuition for all the children of their murdered employees.

I called the Sandler O’Neill Foundation the other day to talk about those children, and here are some things you should know: 54 young men and women have had their college tuitions paid so far, with 22 young men and women still eligible. The 54 who are attending or have attended college have gone to every sort of college imaginable — from Stanford to Notre Dame to community colleges and technical institutes. Four students have attended Boston College, the alma mater of Welles Crowther, the 24-year-old Sandler O’Neill employee who saved as many as 12 people from death in the south tower before running back upstairs to save more people and never being seen again.

The youngest child eligible is 13. This youngest child was born six weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. When that child graduates from college, the Sandler O'Neill Foundation will cease to exist, except in memory; but what a resounding memory it will be.

If you see another particularly poignant story out there, please flag: