Monday, September 11, 2006

In Memory of Jackie Sayegh Duggan

(How do you eulogize a total stranger? How can one summerize a life cut short with only a few paragraphs? It is difficult enough to write a memorial for someone you knew. In trying to find out more about the woman I was selected to memorialize, I came to discover a life that was full of zest and love. I hope I can do her memory justice here.
-- L.A.M. )

Jackie would always say she was "on top of the world". And she meant that in a literal way. She was the Catering Sales Manager at Windows on the World, the famed stylish restaurant that was atop WTC 1. Contrary to common belief, the restaurant was not right at the very top, but rather a few floors down from the 110th. It was on the 107th floor with additional banquet rooms on the 106th. The very top floors were for broadcasting equipment and maintenance rooms for local t.v. and radio stations, as witnessed by the huge landmark antennae tower that graced the roof and distinguished it from its' sister skyscraper.

No doubt Jackie felt that she had "arrived", landing such a plum job at the most famous and renown restaurants in the world. What an opportunity! Her job included event planning. In other words, she made dreams come true, she created memories, she made people happy. Wedding receptions, anniversaries, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, what ever the occasion-she was the go-to gal for those who wished to hold their party at the address in Lower Manhattan. Catering and event planning means having an eye for detail and being truly a people person. You had to know how to speak to frazzled brides to be and their parents, you had to be diplomatic, you had to be able to know when to push and when to hold your tongue. Balancing budgets, staff schedules, event menus, the devil was in the details, but she was the angel who could conquer them. Not everyone was cut out for such a job. From what I have been able to learn, Jackie excelled at her work. Everyone who had done business with her just loved her and whatever occasion she had made happen for them was a wonderful experience. From dull routine business seminar lunches to splashy, elaborate receptions or elegant dinners, she took good care of her clients.

She had previous experience in the restaurant field prior to becoming catering manager. She and her brother ran a restaurant, Kalio. She had also worked for the Hilton Hotels in catering prior to landing the gig at Windows on the World. She had a natural gift for entertaining and making people feel at ease. She was probably one of those people that is said 'they never knew a stranger.'

From what I have been able to learn, she had just recently wed. Just yet another layer of sadness heaped upon that day. Here was a life, at it's best- an enviable career, a vast network of friends, a loving family, a new marriage...the future was wide open. Jackie was only 34 on that day, her birthday only a couple of months past. The photo of her that is at the top of this memorial is haunting. You can see the determination and love of life in her eyes. You get the sense that this woman could easily become a good and trusted friend. And probably knew quite a few really good jokes. Spirited. Yes, that's a good word to describe it. Bet she was a heck of a cook, too.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001 Jackie was at work. That morning there was to be a business breakfast for a consulting firm, Risk Waters Group. About 114 people were said to be attending. The breakfast was to start at 8:30 that morning. Chances are Jackie was there early to make sure all the i's were dotted and things were set. She probably was checking over her planning books and calendars and preparing to make her call-backs for the day. Maybe some good natured joking around with her staff, a little gossip.

Just another day on top of the world.

Water pitchers being filled in the banquet room, staff scurrying about making sure the napkins and serviceware was just so. The kitchens a flurry of activity as muffins and rolls were being pulled out of the ovens, omelets were being prepared. Probably some of the business folk had already arrived for their breakfast, schmoozing and making small talk, having coffee. On such a bright and beautiful early fall day, with nary a cloud in the sky to mar that spectacular view from the 107th floor, no one could imagine how it all could go so horribly, tragically, unspeakably, unimaginably wrong.

The plane slammed into WTC 1 that morning between the 94th and 98th floors. It completely severed the emergency stairways and took out all the elevators. Anyone above those floors had no way out. No escape. We'll never know what transpired with those people in the upper floors. We would like to think there might have been moments of heroics, nobility, graciousness, selflessness. We would like to think that there wasn't mass panic. But human nature being what it is, we know that all those souls were very frightened, whether they showed it outwardly or not and knowing that there was no way to escape, made their peace with the Almighty as each one saw fit.

Jackie was one of the 80 staff on hand at Windows on the World that morning.

Their remains have never been found.

To honor her memory, her family has established The Jackie Sayegh Duggan Charitable Foundation. The following is from their website.

"The Jackie Sayegh Duggan Charitable Foundation was founded in December 2001, soon after the horror of the September 11th terrorist attack on our nation. We honor Jackie Sayegh Duggan—wife, daughter, sister and friend. That day, as Jackie would say, she was “on top of the world” as a Catering Sales Manager at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center’s Tower One.

This not-for-profit Foundation was created in the aftermath of her loss as those who knew her fought to come to terms with such a devastating tragedy. We all remember Jackie’s giving heart, beautiful spirit and great sense of determination. Her deep love for family and friends and joy of life showed in her every smile.

It is the goal of our organization, with your support, to perpetuate Jackie’s memory by helping children develop their potential, achieve their goals and become successful adults and proud Americans. It is Jackie’s spirit that we hope to instill in them."

On the site there is a guestbook. Here are some excerpts from it, from friends and family of Jackie.

"As I read the entries about Jackie-you can really tell how many people she really touched. She truly was one of those people that anyone would be so fortunate to have met her. In her presence, you felt her warmth and her kindness.

I met Jackie when she worked at the Hilton three years ago. I feel like I have known her all my life. The minute I met her, I knew we would be great friends. I miss her so much and think about her every day.

She was a type of friend that always, and I mean you ALWAYS could count on. She never missed a birthday. I remember this one birthday of mine-she didn't really feel well but showed up anyway with all this food at my party. I was so grateful.

Jackie was truly special and I shall never forget her. My heart goes out to all her family and friends because to have known her was to love her."
Dawn Wilson

"On the radio just now, I heard one of the jazz songs that would play during those wonderful evenings at Kalio, and I smiled. I think of you each day, and as I do, no matter where I am, the day becomes brighter. I would like to join your family and friends in toasting your birthday--and in celebrating your Life and all the beautiful ways you continue to touch the world. I love you, Jackie, and from the bottom of my heart I thank you for our friendship. Shine on, dear one!

May God's blessing embrace you and look after your loved ones, always--"
In love and gratitude,
Zach Zito

July 25, 2003

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Jackie. You are and never will be forgotten. I spoke with Cousins' Sue and Julie today, and we all miss you terribly. Like you, Jules is now a party organizer, and she is helping me plan my wedding. In your memory, Julie's son Jack will be part of my bridal party. Please know that we all love you, and "The Cousins' Club" will live on forever in our hearts.
Love and Peace,
Cousin Debbie

You were planning a sales seminar for my company with me, to be held at Thanksgiving time. I thought you had the most fabulous job in the world, being on top of the Trade Center. I could only imagine the people you had met through your career at Windows on the World. We were so looking forward to being in the city when it was decorated for the holidays. And then...the most unthinkable thing happened. I discovered that you were at work that day, from one of your co-workers when she followed up to refund our deposit. I can only imagine the feelings you and your coworkers must have gone through that morning. I know that you are in a peaceful place now and I send you and your family and friends my prayers for continued healing and peace. Thank you for the privilige of having known you even for just a short time. Your memory will be in my heart forever...
Carolyn Crawford, Atlanta, GA

And now that I've gotten to know a bit about you, Jackie, your memory will be with me, as well.

(This memorial is part of "Project 2996". A complete list of memorials and participating weblogs can be seen here.)


Blogger Pamela said...

You did a wonderful job - better than alot of eulogy's I've heard from preachers!!!

Maybe you should consider a new profession!!

9/11/2006 1:24 AM  
Blogger Walker said...

Great post! I'm really glad to know Jackie.

9/11/2006 8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was such a beautiful and haunting tribute. I honor Jackie's memory with you tonight. Thank you.

9/11/2006 7:50 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.

9/12/2006 9:50 PM  
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