Death in the Family

On Sept. 11, 2001, just five short years ago, 2,973 people lost their lives, according to CNN. Those who died were mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. They were family and friends. And 108 of those who died were alumni of St. John’s.

Approximately 3.6 percent of the victims were members of the St. John’s family, and an even greater number were connected to the community in one way or another.

“I had heard of a number of people who had died,” said the Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., University president. “The son of the donors of our church, for example. You [heard] of people associated with St. John’s who died.

“Then I spent days going to funerals for all the alumni,” Harrington added. “Many of our alums obviously worked on Wall Street or at insurance companies, but many also are policemen and firemen. We lost both levels, in a sense. The people on the ground and the people in the offices. I remember I came back Friday night and Saturday I was at a funeral.”

?Firefighter Michael Weinstein was on vacation when the World Trade Center, where his sister worked, was attacked. He died trying to find shelter under a firetruck as the towers collapsed around him, according to the Daily News. He was a former member of the St. John’s baseball team and hailed from Maspeth, Queens.

?James Munhall, managing director for Sandler O’Neill and Partners, was 45 years old. He was a 1978 graduate of St. John’s.

?James Nelson of Clark, N.J. was a Port Authority police officer who began his work at the World Trade Center in 1986, according to Newsday. After graduating high school in 1979, Nelson received a full fencing scholarship to St. John’s. Four years later, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Nelson was at the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing, and died at the site in 2001 after being sent to work on Sept. 11.

?Michelle Titolo, 34, was a graduate of St. John’s and an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald. She was an assistant equity comptroller for the financial giant and worked on the 101st floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center, according to Newsday. Although her job often required travel, she was working in the towers on Sept. 11. Titolo died in the terrorist attacks, one of the nearly 3,000 victims.

?A three-year veteran of the FDNY, Scott Kopytko was saluted as a hero after his death on Sept. 11. Part of South Street’s Ladder Co. 15, he was a member of one of the first units to reach the towers, according to the New York Post. Then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani called Kopytko a “patriot,” thanking him and his co-workers heroes. Kopytko, an honors student, graduated from St. John’s with honors and a degree in computer science. He worked for several years as a commodities trader for a firm in the World Trade Center, according to the Daily News, before trading in his suit and briefcase to become a firefighter.

?A 28-year veteran of the fire department, Robert Nagel, 55, died on Sept. 11. He graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School before going on to earn a business degree from St. John’s. He was also a Vietnam veteran, according to The Record (Bergen County, NJ).

Those who died on Sept. 11 were ordinary people just doing their jobs, though some would go on to be hailed as extraordinary heroes. All were victims, all had names and faces, and all were family to others in the world. More than 100 were members of the St. John’s family. And while their names and faces do not all appear in these pages, they all should be remembered on this anniversary, five years later.