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Remember: A tribute to the UA alumni lost on Sept. 11

By Ryan Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 11, 2002
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Gary E. Bird

Gary E. Bird

1972 Graduate

On Sept. 11, Gary E. Bird, 51, was supposed to be out of New York and back home to Tempe to have dinner with his wife.

Bird had just taken a top position for Marsh and McLennan, a risk management company, the day before and planned to work out of Phoenix.

But Bird spent the first two days in New York for meetings.

On Sept. 11, he would step into his 8:15 a.m. three-hour meeting and never leave. He never really liked New York.

"I'm really claustrophobic here, because I can't see the horizon," he said to his wife in 1984, according to the New York Times.

Husband of Donna Killoughey Bird and father to Amanda and Andrew, he kept three quarter horses. He had taken the summer off and trained a new filly named Dani. Just four days before Sept. 11, he rode her with a saddle for the first time.

Bird had worked for Phelps Dodge for 12 years and wrote The Wrap-Up Guide, a textbook on the installation and operation of controlled insurance programs.

"If there was a member of the risk management community who could serve as a role model for a Construction Risk Management Best Practices Award recipient, it was Gary Bird," said Jack Gibson, IRMI President. "Gary always pushed the risk management horizon in search of new ways to manage the risks of large construction projects."

After his death, the institute renamed the award the Gary E. Bird Horizon Award.


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Karol Ann Keasler

Karol Ann Keasler

1981 Graduate

More than anything, Karol Ann Keasler will be remembered for her infectious smile and love for life.

"Karol was always the one to have a smile on her face, the one to always help out anyone who needed it," said friend Laurie Walker. "She was so full of life and she shared her love by laughing and smiling. There was no way you could see Karol without laughing or smiling yourself."

In fact, her kindness may have led to her death in the second tower at the World Trade Center.

Employees of Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, where Karol, 42, worked as an event planner, say that someone came on the loudspeaker and told everyone to stay in their office.

"Being a good girl who always took instruction, she stayed in her office," said Denise Keasler, her mother.

Born in Arizona, she graduated from UA with a BA in sociology. She traveled the world, living in Africa for two years and visiting Cambodia, Sweden and Bosnia.

"What will I miss most about Karol? Everything," Walker said. "A good friend and a fun-loving woman.

"Terrorism may have killed Karol and a few thousand others, but she will never be forgotten."


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Jeffrey W. Coombs

Jeffrey W. Coombs

1982 Graduate

When Christie Coombs dropped off her husband, Jeff, at the train stop that would take him to the Boston Airport, she couldn't wait for him to return.

"We were looking forward to spending our birthdays and our anniversary in New York. It would have been our first time without kids since our 8-year old was born," Coombs said.

But instead, those days became a period of mourning. Coombs got on American Airlines Flight 11, the same jet Mohamed Atta boarded.

The jet was the first to strike as it flew into the North Tower at 8:45 a.m. Coombs, who was in Alpha Kappa Lambda and received a bachelor's degree in finance from UA, was on a business trip as a securities analyst for Compaq.

Originally from Massachusetts, Jeff met Christie while he was a sophomore at UA.

She recalls fondly the time they spent together in Tucson before they moved to Massachusetts to raise a family.

Jeff and Christie stayed big UA fans and Jeff continued to support the business college.

"We joked about our kids going to U of A and he would get a job teaching and we could spend summers in the Cape," said Coombs.

Coombs loved to hike and camp and would go to the Colorado River every year. He was scheduled to go two weeks after Sept. 11.

He was always there for his kids and created laughter throughout the house, Christie said.

"The kids lost their best friend," she said.


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Frederick J. Cox

Frederick J. Cox

1997 Graduate

It was a statement too good for even a Hollywood film.

Merely two months before his death, Frederick J. Cox, 27, told his mom how wonderful his life was.

The last time Cox, an investment banker for Sandler, O'Neill & Partners, spoke with his mother was Saturday, Sept. 9.

"He told me mom you know how much I love you and nothing will ever come between us. I said to him, ╬bye darling I love you.' He was always affectionate and we had a wonderful relationship. He wasn't perfect, but I thought so," said Ann Douglas, his mother.

He was working as an investment banker for Sandler O'Neill on the 104th floor of the second tower.

Born in Atlanta, Cox moved to Arizona when he was 14. After graduating from the UA with a degree in entrepreneurship in 1997, he moved to New York, the fourth generation of his family to do so.

His sister, Susanne Eaton, said he wanted the American dream.

"He had been working his butt off and was working toward success. He wanted to get married and have children," she said.

Eaton said that he wanted to name his daughter Maple Madison after a Robert Frost poem.

After he died, his family moved everything from his apartment to their lake house. His sister remembers him going around New York City wearing his old, tattered fishing hat with a pewter fish on the front.

They hung the hat up and plan to give it to his nephew, Timothy Frederick, as a namesake.


Photo
Christopher Larrabee

Christopher Larrabee

1998 Graduate

Christopher Larrabee had been trying to put more focus into his life.

Working as a trainee for Cantor Fitzgerald since March, he was beginning his climb up the corporate ladder.

Tragically, however, he worked at the top of the first tower. A 1998 graduate with a bachelor's degree in media arts, he was just 26 when he died.

His friends remember him as having a strong personality.

"He was always smiling and cheerful and very helpful. He was also very funny," said friend Matt Harp. "Chris not only worked as a production assistant on our student videos and films, he acted. One time he was an extra, dressing up as a renegade cowboy in an Old West shootout. He improvised lines and really made the scene."

His teachers remember him as calm and collected.

"I remember him as a friendly, laid back guy with a quick smile," said

Debra Lea Wright, a UA media arts instructor.

At 18, he underwent brain surgery after a series of painful seizures. He had since then been taking medication, but decided at the beginning of the year to quietly stop taking them, resulting in more seizures and hospitalizations.

He had ambitions of success at his job with the firm, which his father, an equity trader at their Los Angeles office, helped him find.

"He left a lot behind to follow this dream of his. He was scared and nervous to move so far away, but he was adjusting pretty well and getting into the scene," his twin sister Paige told the New York Times.

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