MOORE — No one knows loss better than the employees of Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial services firm that lost 658 of its 960 New York employees in the World Trade Center attacks.
The surviving employees also remember who were among the first to comfort them after the attack: Oklahomans.
“That's why there was no question but that we would help the victims of the May 20 tornado,” said Howard Lutnick, chief executive officer of Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners Inc.
Lutnick, his wife, Allison, sister Edie Lutnick and dozens of volunteers with the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund came to First Baptist Church in Moore on Monday to personally hand out $1,000 gift cards to each family who had a child in the Moore Public School district at the time of the May 20 tornado and whose home was damaged or destroyed. Volunteers said more than 1,000 families were eligible for the cards.
Maranda Owens said she would use her gift to help replace one of two vehicles that were lost in the tornado along with her house and belongings.
“I've replaced most of the belongings except for the cars, and this will go a long way in helping with that,” she said.
The mother of four said she rode out the storm with two of her children in a neighbor's storm cellar. Her other two children were at school.
“Miraculously, no one was hurt. Not even our dogs. I was sure counting my blessings that night,” she said.
Owens said she was touched by the gift from Cantor Fitzgerald, especially after hearing about the company's losses in the 9/11 attack.
Winfred Chiles, the father of two children, said the money will help with expenses that have accrued since the storm.
“I'm very grateful. This will really help out,” Chiles said.
Besides losing hundreds of co-workers and friends on 9/11, Howard and Edie Lutnick lost their brother Gary. Helping other disaster victims helps them deal with their loss, Edie Lutnick said.
“It is through personal support that individuals and communities begin to heal. In the wake of our losses on 9/11, many Oklahomans reached out to support us. It is our honor and privilege to be here today to help them,” Edie Lutnick said.
In the darkest days following the attack, Howard Lutnick said, “we knew we had to rebuild the company and find a way to help the families of the employees who perished in the attack. It was out of the depths of despair that my sister rose up and co-founded the relief fund.”
More than $180 million was raised through the fund to aid the families, and each year the fund continues to grow, Lutnick said.
Cantor Fitzgerald employees give up their salaries for one day each year on 9/11 and ask their customers to donate money to help others, particularly those who are victims of terrorism and natural disasters.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the fund provided monetary gifts to families at 19 schools in the affected area, Howard Lutnick said.
“We decided immediately we wanted to provide that same kind of help to families in Moore,” he said. “We, more than anyone, understand the road to recovery may be long and difficult, and we wanted to help by putting money into the hands of parents, who can decide what is best for their families.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said Oklahoma and New York are very different places “until you have a bad day.”
New York City residents were among the first relief workers to come to Oklahoma after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, Cole said. In turn, Oklahomans were quick to respond after 9/11, being among the first to travel to New York.
“It's no surprise you have returned after this latest disaster,” Cole said. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your compassion, care and help. Thank you for being here on our darkest days.”