Every human life is unique, one of a kind, never before and never again.
Each birth and each death changes the world a bit. Every life matters.
All are significant, some for the good that they bring and others for the horror that they create; but each person matters.
On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorists ended the lives of 2996 individuals. Every single one of them mattered.
On this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I'm remembering Ramzi A. Doany.
Ramzi didn't have a long life. But in the brief span that he was here, he made a difference and he used his time well.
Ramzi was born in Amman, Jordan to Palestinian parents. In fact, some of his family is still there.
Ramzi went to high school in Amman. He also spent time in London. When he was 19, he came to the United States as an international student. He attended UW-Milwaukee. It was there that he earned an accounting degree, a 1992 graduate from the School of Business Administration. He then became a certified public accountant.
UWM established a scholarship in honor of Ramzi, the Ramzi Doany Memorial Scholarship. He was the only UWM alumnus to have died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attack.
His mother Samia Doany considered it a perfect memorial for her son because he treasured Milwaukee and the years he spent at UWM.
He lived in Milwaukee for fifteen years, going to school and then working at a local accounting firm. He left in 2000 to take a job in Philadelphia. When that firm was purchased by Marsh & McLennan, Ramzi was assigned to a position at the New York office.
It seemed like a perfect move because Ramzi loved New York City. He resided in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Hani Yousef, Ramzi's college roommate and one of his best friends, said, "He was truly happy working there and felt that he finally had been launched on a fine career."
Ramzi so enjoyed having an office at the World Trade Center that he would phone his friend to express his excitement. Yousef recalls, "Ramzi used to call me and say, 'You've got to see this. You can see the world from up here.'"
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Ramzi reportedly logged onto his computer in his office. His office was on the 100th floor of the north tower.
In a cruel twist of fate, Ramzi had been in England for an extended period of time doing work for a client. September 11 was his first day back at the offices of Marsh & McLennan at the World Trade Center.
A few weeks after the attacks, Ramzi's eldest brother Ibrahim said, "We have not received official confirmation of Ramzi's death, but all evidence leads us to believe that he passed away following the first hit on the WTC."
Ibrahim explained, "They are now handing out death certificates in New York, and my sister, Dina, who went to search for Ramzi a few days after the attacks, is now applying for his death certificate."
It was October and the family hadn't heard anything from the Jordanian embassy in Washington or from Marsh & McLennan to give them reason to hope that Ramzi was alive.
After his death, supervisors at Marsh & McLennan told Ramzi's mother that her son had tremendous potential. They said, "[I]n a couple of years he would have become something remarkable in the firm."
Clearly, Ramzi was successful in his profession, but he was so much more than that. He was a good, caring man.
His mother said, "He had this personality that could make friends so easily."
Mrs. Doany called her son "exceptionally kind."
Ramzi wasn't just talk. He lived his kindness.
He would often help out small businesses by doing free accounting work for them.
He tutored a woman suffering with Lupus, helping her get through college. She had two children and no husband.
He let his college roommate and his wife live with him in his condo for two years rent-free, while the couple saved money to buy their own home.
As Mrs. Doany said, "He left so much [kindness] behind."
What a beautiful legacy!
Family members also recall Ramzi's sense of humor. From the time he was a little boy, he brought joy to those around him.
Ramzi's sister Dina Doany Azzam tells the story that at age nine or ten, her brother had a report card that he was not proud of. So, he went out to the backyard, dug a final resting place for it, and marked the spot with a stone.
Dina remembers her brother saying, "It was dead and buried."
There were so many things about Ramzi that made him special.
He was a fan of the novels of Charles Dickens.
He took great pride in cooking Thanksgiving turkeys. (Reportedly, they were a little bit dry.)
He also had just purchased a Harley, true to his Milwaukee roots.
While Ramzi was in Milwaukee, he was active in the community. He was a board member for Arabian Fest, one of Milwaukee's many ethnic festivals held at the lakefront in the summertime and early autumn.
In September of 2001, Arabian Fest was scheduled to take place on the weekend following the terrorist attacks. It was cancelled, like so many other events of various kinds across the country, because the entire nation was in mourning. It was not a time to be celebrating.
When the festival returned in 2002, it was Ramzi's death at the World Trade Center that played a role in prompting organizers to hold a prayer service on the opening night of the three day Arabian Fest, to memorialize the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
It's not surprising that Ramzi was a man with many friends and family members who adored him while he was alive, and love and miss him today.
On August 19, 2001, Ramzi turned 35. The occasion brought his entire family together, the first time in 13 years that they all had gathered.
Ramzi's mother remembers, "He told me this was a very, very special birthday. Being with family made it so special."
Had he lived, Ramzi would have just celebrated a milestone birthday. On August 19, 2006, he would have turned 40-years-old.
I wonder what he would have done these past five years. What would he have accomplished in his career? Whose lives would he have touched? How would he have made a difference?
And what would Ramzi have planned for his next forty years?
Especially when someone dies so young, one can't help but wonder.
Given the sort of life that Ramzi led during his 35 years, it's safe to say that he would have continued to help others in profound ways by offering them literally life-altering assistance, as well as in little ways, by brightening their days with his humor and smile.
It's important that we never forget the enormity of the human toll of September 11, 2001.
Although the terrorists killed 2996 people that day, they didn't kill their spirits, as long as we remember them and keep them alive.
Perhaps each of us can do something "exceptionally kind" for someone else, in memory of Ramzi.
The Jordan Times, October 2, 2001
The New York Times, October 9, 2001
The Chicago Tribune, January 1, 2002
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 10, 2002
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 12, 2002
Chris Lamke, UWM, 2002