On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11: A Story of Loss and Renewal

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9780060510824: On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9/11: A Story of Loss and Renewal

On the morning of September 11, 2001, nearly seven hundred of Cantor Fitzgerald's one thousand New York employees were at their desks on the top floors of One World Trade Center when a hijacked passenger plane struck eight floors below. Not one of them lived.

Their friends and colleagues who survived did so through random luck: They missed a train, had a business trip, took a sick day, or, in the case of CEO Howard Lutnick, dropped off his son at his first day of kindergarten.

On Top of the World tells the story not only of that tragic day but also of the complicated and emotionally charged events that followed in its wake. It is an intimate, often harrowing look at how private families processed a public atrocity, how corporate war-room strategy sessions saved the company from liquidation and the efforts of opportunistic competitors.

The book examines the media scrutiny that followed Lutnick, a man who lost his brother and so many friends, who struggled to be at once the compassionate leader the grieving families needed and the tough-minded CEO his decimated company required. Finally, On Top of the World tells the story of a group of men and women -- some of whom were just starting out, others who had succeeded well beyond their expectations -- who were building homes and raising families together, who hired relatives and friends, and the brothers and sisters of those friends. That their business has survived and even flourished -- and that an initially uneasy but ultimately significant covenant has been formed between those who lived and the families of their lost friends is a powerful testament to the ability of a community to endure.

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Review:

In the attacks of September 11, 2001, 658 of New York brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald's 1,000 New York employees were killed. Immediately following the events, author Tom Barbash traveled to New York to profile his college friend, Cantor CEO Howard Lutnick, and chronicle the firm's struggles to stay in business and help its employees' families. The result, On Top of the World, is a compulsively readable book that is difficult to categorize. Unlike many books about the attacks, its story goes well beyond September 11 and into the following year, helping to better demonstrate the human impact of the catastrophe. And while the book ably describes the horror of the events, it is as much a business study as anything: can a company that trades $200 billion a day in commodities futures survive the sudden death of over 65 percent of its New York employees, and its New York headquarters? Cantor Fitzgerald does endure, but soon Lutnick becomes the center of a media firestorm as Connie Chung, Bill O'Reilly from Fox News, and others question the sincerity of Lutnick's public appearances and denounce his method of compensating the families of those lost. Barbash, a novelist by trade, portrays his friend's struggles sympathetically but also provides well-researched dimension to the other people involved, which helps deepen the human drama of the efforts on the part of all involved to put their lives and their company back together. --John Moe

About the Author:

Tom Barbash is the author of the award-winning novel The Last Good Chance and the nonfiction book On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal, which was a New York Times bestseller. He currently teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and now lives in Marin County.

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