The famed CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald feels like he has lived a life in two different worlds – before 9/11 and after – having had his life spared by taking his son to kindergarten that fateful day and now honoring the lives of 650 of his employees by hiring some of their children.
"There's definitely survivors guilt, make no mistake about it," CEO Howard Lutnick told Newsmax in an interview that aired Saturday on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. "You know, why? My brother was in the building and my son started kindergarten that day. If he had started the next day, you know, I wouldn't be here telling this story.
"My best friend Doug, his son started the next day, and so he's gone."
Lutnick said his raw emotions looking back on Sept. 11, 2001 "made it feel like it was yesterday," but, as time has changed him, his work to honor his lost colleagues carries on.
"I only worked at Cantor Fitzgerald 18 years on the events of Sept. 11 and now it's been 20 years since then, so I've had more years under this world and I did the last," he told host Shaun Kraisman.
"So now, I'm hiring the children of people who were killed, and think of how amazing that is for us."
Lutnick noted he has raised more than $180 million for the families of his employees trapped above the fire, "650 beautiful human beings" and goes to remember them, touching their names at the 9/11 memorial every year.
"They're all listed together. They're all listed people with they worked with, and it matters to me," Lutnick said. "And on Saturday morning, that's where I will be, touching their names. We read their names, show pictures; we all get together at the memorial, and I think it's beautiful."
Lutnick remembers the events in harrowing detail, first noting how fate spared him, "taking my son Kyle to his first day of kindergarten."
"He had a little wet hair, got a little backpack on, and, I took a picture and the time was in the lower right-hand corner: 8:46, two minutes before the plane hit."
Lutnick then started receiving phone calls, jumping in a car to Fifth Avenue, "because I knew that was quickest way I could see the building."
"My driver started crying," Lutnick said. "I said, 'let's just get there; let's just get there.'"
Lutnick was hoping he would hear any positive news of survivors getting out from his office on the 101st to 105th floors of the One World Trade Center, just above the impact zone.
"I was grabbing people as they came out, asking them what floor they're on, and the highest floor I got to is the 92nd floor," he recalled.
"And then I heard this sound, the loudest sound that ever heard, so I started running," he continued. "Remember, I had no idea. I hadn't seen the video. I haven't seen the plane hitting the building. I had no idea what was going on. I started running. I'm wearing a suit and tie and I'm running my tail off, and there's this black tornado following me."
That black tornado was the raining debris of the collapsing tower that was captured on cell phone video.
"I drove under a car, and I thought to myself, 'son of a gun, I was alive up to now and I'm going to suffocate and I'm going to die,'" he said. "I just laid under that car until the black dissipated.
"Then I started walking uptown and I looked like I've been flushed down the chimney."
Lutnick said he took a pay phone from a woman, who turned in anger.
"She saw me and I was just black with soot and she just walked away like she saw a ghost," he said. "And I called my wife and told her I was alive."
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