A Personal Message Board to express your feelings regarding the members of the Vassar Community lost in the September 11, 20001 Attack on America
While the Vassar community was fortunate to come through the attack on the Pentagon without loss of life, it has been determined that John Schwartz '75 and Ruth Ketler '80 were among those lost in the World Trade Center. We can only hope that no more of our friends will be added to the list.
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John was my dear friend and confidant. We met almost exactly 30 years prior to the day when fate took him from us all. Vassar College was
fertile ground for the likes of us in 1971, at a time when sex and drugs and rock and roll reigned supreme. Two long haired, skinny hippies with
a youthful urge to learn...about life... love... and academia. Living in the same dorm for 2 years, we became best friends and our ties held
fast for three full decades. Both of us escaped the military draft during the Viet Nam war, but only by the skin of our teeth. We found
consolation together in our mutual plight.
John became one of the more recognizable figures on campus, with his shaggy mane and his even shaggier dog, Deyor. With a Gauloise cigarette tucked firmly between his fingers, he drew much attention and seemed to set an aesthetic standard for an entire clique of Vassarites. He instilled in me a taste for fine French wine. We would sit out on
the farm or golf course sipping a St. Emilion and swapping tales of female conquests. As bartender at Frivolous Sal's (THE Vassar hangout), he could be relied on to supply potent potables, gratis, to all his VC buddies. Those were pretty special days for us.
He and I both shared a passion for working with our hands. I recall his fervent desire to become a farrier back in college. He also had comprehensive knowledge of auto mechanics. John was one of my only friends who truly understood me when I opened up a shop to restore British sports cars, though he was absolutely terrified when I would
pick him up in my Triumph and drive him around the city. After a ride, he would brew up a pot of the strongest tea imaginable to "calm his nerves". We would sit and drink, while snacking on some of the best Hungarian pastries in New York, or Jewish deli treats from Murray's. Where food and drink were concerned, John had no time for second rate fare. This was indicative of his sense of refinement and worldly appreciation.
I witnessed the evolution of a bright, articulate man over the years. From student, to cab driver, to a major player in the world of finance, his energy was always focused. Though we chose different career paths, our friendship was cemented by common interests, including music, art, birds, travel, as well as the details of day to day living. John's
passion for his work was without limit. When he worked for Prudential Bache, he would call me nearly every day and keep me on the phone for an hour, though most of the time he put me on hold so that he could deal with his accounts.
When he moved to Cantor, his time was at a premium and communication between us during the day was mostly by email, but there was a ton of that coming from his desk. After 27 years of friendship, this gave us the opportunity to communicate by writing, which opened up new levels of expression. His accounts of watching hawks from the roof of his apartment building were very florid, or he would go into great detail about a new opera CD he had just acquired. When I visited him at his apartment, after removing my shoes, giving his cats a loving scratch and settling in on his sofa, I might be subjected to a healthy dose of Wagner, followed by Mr. Tambourine Man, by The Byrds, his favorite rock and roll group.
In recent years, John became an avid fan of European travel. He adored the French countryside and the beauty of Italy. A few weeks ago, my phone rang. It was John calling from Pienza, Italy. It was 11pm there and I could hear church bells tolling the hour. John had called to share the experience with me. He wanted me to feel, see and hear the peace and beauty of the people and the place. I'll never forget his saying, "It's only $1.35 a minute... Who Cares?!" He continued walking from church to church so I could hear the bells. He said he was in heaven. We will all miss him deeply. - Mark Lee Rotenberg '75
I remember John from my Vassar days as my friend, my bartender (at Frivilous Salís) and a connoisseur of the finer things in life, as we shared the experience of being among the first men at Vassar. I thought of John as someone who "got it." He worked hard, but not without taking time to smell the roses. He seemed to delight in experiencing life's little pleasures: a fine wine, a memorable scene, a moment that reflects a slice of culture, the part of a song that makes it stick in your head; but even more important was the delight he expressed in sharing these joys. It is always sad to see a good person depart this world, but my sense of loss goes beyond that. I did not really keep in touch with John. You make so many friends in college that it seems impossible to keep in touch with all of them, but I have always felt that one of the great things about Vassar is the network among alums. This is what allowed me to remain aware of John, and for the spot he occupied in my life experience to retain a sense of currency. This pales in comparison to the loss felt by his family, and those that were in his life every day, but I am very sad all the same. - Alan Dubow '76
John Farina '76 ([email protected]) has published a book on September 11: Beauty for Ashes:Spiritual Reflections on the Attack on America (New York:Crossroad Publishing Company 2001). He hopes it will aid in the healing, and welcomes any comments readers might have.
On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, I was on the 67th floor of
2WTC, beginning another day as a software engineer for Morgan Stanley.
When the first explosion occurred, I witnessed a massive shower of papers swirling over the Trade Center plaza, and then looking up, flames flaring out of 1WTC's broken windows.
When the second plane crashed into 2WTC I was in the emergency stairwell, about to enter the building's lobby on the ground floor. The trek down was orderly and casual. Word was, "it was a small plane...an accident". But now debris was falling outside of the lobby's windows, and a security guard was motioning to us to proceed into the Trade Center's shopping concourse, smoke filled and acrid scented, urgency in the air, as some people began to run, other gasping for air. With no clear direction as to which way to proceed, I followed a winding path which led to an escalator emptying into 5WTC and through doors out onto Church Street. Crossing the street, I followed the stares of assembled crowds, once again to look up, once again to see flames. But now from both towers. I walked east, walking towards Broadway, past the gathering rescue squads, past the carnage in the street.
A woman who worked down at the Battery, in 1 New York Plaza, at Manhattan's tip, began to talk to me. "It was a very big plane, like a 757," I vaguely remember her saying. "We thought it was going to hit our building". And having seen the impact, she was very afraid...afraid to walk under the Manhattan bridge, scared to walk through Chinatown, then the Lower East Side, then the East Village.
But we walked. What else do you do when you are completely numb? - Robert Rothman '74