On the morning of September 11, 2001, no firm was more devastated by the attacks on the World Trade Center than bond brokers Cantor Fitzgerald. Nearly one-fourth of all those killed worked for Cantor. Howard Lutnick, the CEO of the firm, was spared as he was dropping off his son at the first day of kindergarten. His brother wasn’t so lucky.
But Cantor Fitzgerald lives on today, nearly 10 years after the attack. It survived, despite the devastating loss of life, because of the vision of one man - someone who clearly saw the future.
The New York Times has lauded Mr. Lutnick in a recent article (“The Survivor Who Saw the Future”, September 3) as someone who rebuilt and prospered, despite the incredible odds. And while I think he deserves all the credit he’s earned, the real reason Cantor survived, the real reason Mr. Lutnick has thrived financially, along with all of the Cantor employees, survivors, and families of survivors, was because of the vision of one man.
Not Howard Lutnick. No, the vision of Fred Varacchi. Fred was the executive who created the electronic trading platform ESpeed, which is credited with allowing Cantor to go on despite having lost almost all of its brokers. Fred Varacchi was the man who saw that trades could be handled electronically, 24 hours a day, with hardly any human intervention.
Fred Varacchi was at work on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center on September 11. Fred Varacchi didn’t make it out and his family - his wife and young children - never saw Fred again.
Fred Varacchi was a best friend to my brother, and a good friend to me and to my family. I remember Fred’s passion for fast cars, the way he would show off when he’d come by the house to pick up my brother. I remember Fred’s winning smile and his enthusiasm for almost everything.
I remember finding out that Fred was a wealthy man, having made great sums of money from his work in the financial sector. And yet, to meet Fred, was to meet someone who would never show off his wealth. He was a regular guy. Someone you could very easily spend hours chatting about football or cars with.
I saw Fred no too long before September 11, in the parking lot at a Jets game. He was as full of life as ever. Who could have known it would be the last time?
I remember Fred. I attended his memorial service, and I cried along with Howard Lutnick, at the memory of this good friend.
I just don’t want anyone to forget who the real man who saved Cantor Fitzgerald was. It wasn’t Howard Lutnick, no matter how nice a story that is. The man who saved Cantor was Fred Varacchi. A man whose contributions far outlived his time on earth.
Rest in peace, Fred.