Song Lyric of the Day:
I don’t get it, but somehow I’m still right here
The Delays / “This Town’s Religion”
On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers
will join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.
Each person will pay tribute to a single victim.
We will honor them by remembering their lives,
and not by remembering their murderers.
This tribute is part of 2,996, a blogging tribute on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. All 2,996 people lost on that day in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., are being honored by individual bloggers around the world. Please click here to see all the blogs participating and to see who each blogger is honoring.
Adam Shelby White, 26, always strived to reach the top, the pinnacle, of any endeavor he pursued. After graduating from the University of Colorado in 1998 with a degree in biogeochemistry, he spent three months in Nepal, climbing the world’s tallest peaks, indulging in his love of mountain climbing. So it was only fitting that his determination would later lead him to the top professionally, as well, as a broker for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower in New York City. By September 11, 2001, he’d worked there for about a year and a half. He’d only just returned from Frankfurt, Germany, the Friday before.
His stepmother, Georgia White, came into his life when he was only four years old. “He was an exhausting child,” she fondly recalls of the exuberant, charming, and energetic little boy she helped raise in Atlanta.
“He was very bright, very self-assured and very creative,” says his mother, Melissa Turnage of Cockeysville, Md. That creativity came through in his love of the stage: “From day one, he was an actor,” she says; he often fooled her by affecting French and Spanish accents. Adam often played the lead in school plays, even starring as Mozart in a production of Amadeus and playing all the piano passages himself. His love of oratory helped him win a $5,000 scholarship in a speech competition. In college, he initially declared drama as his major; he tried to spread his love of drama to his friends, dragging them to experimental theater and six-hour movies with French subtitles.
Acting and oratory were only a couple of his life’s interests, however; he would later prove to be just as passionate about investment banking, skiing, environmentalism, and computers. Also an avid traveler, Adam made hundreds of friends throughout the world over the course of his life.
“The bigger the city, the better for him,” Mrs. White said in 2001. “His brothers used to go and visit him, wherever he was, and say afterwards that they felt like they had been there for a month when it had only been a few days. His dad went up to visit him in New York for a weekend last year, and when he got back he had to rest for a couple of days before he could go back to work. Everything was so exciting with Adam.”
After working for several years at Anderson Consulting, Adam pitched an idea to Cantor Fitzgerald for an electronic trading program in carbon dioxide. At the time, “He said, ‘Dad, I think I have a five percent chance of getting this,'” said his father, Shelby White of Atlanta. Each time they talked, the odds increased, and after five months, he got the job, with Cantor Fitzgerald even creating a subsidiary called CO2e.com to handle the trades.
Of the company’s offices on the 105th floor, Adam’s mother says, “It looked like a precarious place to be. I wondered how he would get out if anything happened.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, Adam’s girlfriend, Kelly, and her family remembered a seemingly innocuous conversation they’d had a couple of years earlier about how they would want to be remembered. Kelly’s father, Belmont President Bob Fisher says, “We’d asked Adam, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’ just as a rhetorical question. He said he wanted a big statue of himself. He said it jokingly, because we’d given him two options: Cure a disease or have someone build a statue.” While not exactly a statue, the Fishers have indeed memorialized Adam, and others who died that day, with a fountain in front of the Belmont’s new Curb Event Center. The inscription on the fountain reads, simply, “Remembering Adam Shelby White/ Lived twenty-six years…fully/Sept. 11, 2001.”
As news of his death spread, friends and family remembered Adam as “an encourager of people,” said his father. Thousands wrote three-page typed letters describing how White urged them to follow their life’s passion. People in England, Canada, and Australia called his family to tell them Adam had touched their lives.
After Adam’s death, his family compiled a collection of more than 50 favorite stories about him, Adam’s Book. “They pulled together because he was such an extroverted and enthusiastic person,” says Kelly Fisher. “He commanded the attention in a room, and the world is definitely a duller place without him. We want to do a second edition because people are complaining that their story didn’t get in.”
Shelby White says of his son, “He wasn’t afraid to do anything. He would do anything. A lot of people said he lived to be 80, but he only was here for 27 years.”
Adam’s stepmother, Georgia, says, “I was overwhelmed. I was surprised at the telephone calls and the letters and the cards and the food and the — just everything that people did. I was overcome.”
The Whites were so overcome that, on the one-year anniversary, they and their four other sons threw a party to celebrate Adam’s life and to say thank you. Says Mr. White: “And there were maybe about 500, 600 people here. And it was just — it felt like a big celebration of Adam’s life.”
When I first signed up for the 2,996 project, I was determined to do right by the individual I was assigned; I knew I could do it. But in the last few days, I started to have some doubts. I wasn’t sure I could go through with this, writing a tribute about someone I never knew and would likely have never met; I already knew I’d be quite emotional dealing with it, and I have been. But in researching and writing about Adam, I’ve not only put a face to a name of someone lost on 9/11, but I’ve come to know and care about him, his family, and his friends. I’ve learned that I had a lot in common with him: a sense of humor, a love of acting and all things drama, and an interest in environmentalism, among other things (I’ve also been known to call my mom and fool her with a Spanish accent. But not French–I do a better British accent). I’ve never been as adventurous as Adam was, but I’d certainly like to try to be in the future. I grieve for this young man, who died days short of his 27th birthday, and wonder what he’d be doing now. If he were still here, he’d be the same age as me, give or take a few days. He’s the kind of person I, my husband, and my friends would have made fast friends with. I hope his family knows they are not alone in their grief.
That said, just when I thought I couldn’t do this, I received an email on Thursday from Ryan Means, Adam’s best friend since childhood, that managed to encourage me while also breaking my heart:
You somehow have chosen to honor my best friend Adam Shelby White who was murdered on 9/11. Adam was perhaps one of the greatest people I have ever known. We had been best friends since 1st grade; college roommates, fraternity brothers, climbing partners and a whole lot more. He was 27 years old when he died. Adam absolutely loved life and was always fun to be around. Everybody loved the guy. He wasn’t very big but was incredibly talented and very intelligent. A true renaissance man; bigger than life itself.
I was there that day and watched the whole thing. In the weeks following I searched for him in the various hospitals and waited for him to be pulled out. During this time, I met many of the families and friends of other victims. It was brutal to walk the streets for days and see the massive walls of photos and information looking for the thousands of dead. I have ASW tattood in small letters on the right side of my torso to remind myself of him every single day. Since then I have left my job and New York and joined the Army. I’m 2 months away from graduating from the Special Forces and receiving my Green Beret. After which I’ll be going to find the people responsible and do what I’ve been trained. I do this for Adam and the other 2,993 vicitims.
Thank you for remembering my friend.
I hope I did okay.