Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Ramzi A. Doany

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


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks for bringing Ramzi's story to life. What I am finding is how remarkable each life is. So many people touched by a single life. Even extinguished, these 2996 tragic losses are continuing to touch our lives.

Many blessings to his surviving family members and friends. Great job writing this up, Mary. I was drawn right in from your opening paragraph.

Mary said...

Thanks, WS.

I hope by bringing these stories to life we're reminding people of the barbarity and senselessness of the attacks.

I hope people pause to reflect on how precious and fragile life is.

And never forget.

Pet Campbell said...

Thank you for the moving tribute to this young man..
I have been overwhelmed today, reading these tributes...

Ardice said...

You did a wonderful tribute of Ramzi. Thanks for letting us get to know him.

Writing my tribute and reading a lot of the others have been an emotional rollercoaster. I'm keeping all the families in my thoughts and prayers. Take-Care...

Vickie said...

Thank you for sharing this with beautiful tribute. I want to on a persoanl note say something This tribute has given me more motivation and encouragement than anything in a long time as I suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and often have difficult days but reading these many tributes it has reminded me just how much I do have to be thankful for.

You did such a great job with this one I just thought now would be a good time to share that.
I'm glad our paths crossed my tribute is up as well.

Lisa M. said...

What a great tribute. ONe of the best I have read today. Thank you for sharing Ramzi with me.

This has been such a neat experience being part of the 2,996

Mary said...

Reading these 2996 tributes really is an emotional rollercoaster.

They are celebrations of life.

I read about someone. I come to know a person, and then, with a jolt, comes the reality that the person's life was cut short on 9/11.

It's absolutely heartbreaking.

I, too, am keeping the survivors and the families in my prayers.

I agree, Lisa. It is a special experience to be taking part in this tribute. It reminds me that in the final analysis we are all much more alike than we are different.

Ms. Vickie, I wish you all the best. Even in our struggles, we can always find something to be thankful for and realize that we are blessed.

Hani said...


I don’t know who you are. Nonetheless, thank you for remembering Ramzi. I can’t believe it has been 5 years today. I still remember that awful morning when I learned of the news.

And Yes,
Ramzi is everything you said and much more. I would not be surprised if he died trying to save someone.

Ramzi is my friend who I miss dearly.

It’s my hope that I will see him again. This thing has changed my life

Please keep his family in prayer. I am sure this is a hard day for them.

God Bless.

Mary said...


I was honored to write a tribute to Ramzi. I wish I had been blessed to have him as a friend.

I know that your loss is not just something that you recognize on the anniversary of 9/11.

It's something that you live with every day of your life.

My heart goes out to you. I do believe that you will see him again.

I am keeping Ramzi's family in my prayers.

I want to extend a special thanks to you for taking the time to share some of your thoughts about Ramzi with us.

Bob Keller said...

Mary, Like you I am visiting as many of the 2,996 Tributes as possible. I hope to visit all 3,000 plus posted so far.

As I journeyed I knew I would eventually come to yours. You did a beautiful in your memorial to Ramzi A. Doany.

It's about 1 o'clock my time and I started yesterday at about 5 pm. I feel like I've lost 2,996 of my dearest friends, which, in fact, we all have.

Thank you for participating in the 2,996 Project.

the Wizard.....

Bob&Ellen said...

Ramzi was a student at UWM the same time we were. We knew Ibrahim and Dina, his siblings also. We remember Ramzi today and honor him for the special person he was. We pray for his family - that they may know how much others are thinking of them.

Evelyn said...

That was just beautiful. Thank you for your eloquence.

Remembering my friend, Sal Zisa

Randy said...

Thank you Mary for this beautiful tribute of Ramzi.
I do miss him a lot, he made a big difference in my life with his kindness, support and care.
It is hard to lose a best friend who you knew for a long time graduated together, shared good times and fun times with.
And I'm sure just as he was helping me on earth he will be the guardian angel for my son Ramzi who was born 3 weeks ago.
I'll remember him every time I look at my son.
We will never forget him.

Mary said...

What's beautiful about the 2996 project is that we're getting a chance to know the people we lost on 9/11 as individuals. It's poignant, but also uplifting.

Eventually, I'd like to read all the tributes. I'll be sure to get to your sites, Wizard and Evelyn.

To Bob & Ellen--

Thank you for adding your thoughts. You probably could write pages and pages about your memories of Ramzi and what he and his siblings mean to you.

To Randy--

Congratulations on your new baby! The most beautiful tribute of all is naming your son after Ramzi. That is so touching. I'm sure he'll always watch over him.

Clearly, he was a very special person and his spirit lives on through those who knew him.

All Ramzi's family and friends will remain in my prayers.

Eiad said...

Dear Mary,

I read this tribute a day late but still found myself in tears especially after reading the following comments. We were a group at UWM; Ramzi, Myself, Randy, Hani, my brother Raid, and a bunch of others.

I got to know Ramzi as a big brother not just a friend. We were roommates in my first years at UWM. He tought me how to drive, enjoy life, and all about kindness to others. We would often disagree on things but in the end he succeeded in leaving a very strong impression on me that is present in my personality today and will remain.

I love Ramzi so much and can only thank you for doing this wonderful thing of telling his story in such an honest way... its almost like you were part of our group.

Thank you very much...

Your friend,

Eiad Haddadin from Amman, Jordan

Mary said...

I am so overwhelmed by the comments left here by Ramzi's friends, including you, Randy, and Hani.

When writing up Ramzi's story, I tried to find all the information I could and then I did my best to piece it together to reflect Ramzi as a person, not a statistic.

I took the responsibility of writing his tribute very seriously. I didn't want to let him down, and I especially didn't want to let down his friends and family.

I know that what I was able to find out about Ramzi and what I wrote is so incomplete and inadequate. It's such a tiny snapshot of Ramzi.

You and Ramzi's friends have added so much to this tribute.

I believe you can tell a lot about a person by his friends. The comments here from you and your other close friends from your days at UWM tell so much about what a remarkable individual Ramzi was and what wonderful people you all are.

The love that you have for Ramzi is so evident. The many ways that he touched the lives of those who knew him is testament to his goodness.

Such goodness can never be defeated by death. It's eternal.

I think that what you've all shared on this tribute page reveals how a single life can make a tremendous difference in the lives of countless others.

Besides just learning about Ramzi, such a beautiful soul, I've learned what a lasting impact his acts of kindness have had.

What greater legacy can one have than to be remembered for one's kindness and caring?

My heart breaks that you have suffered this terrible loss. I hope you can find comfort in realizing how blessed you are to have had him in your life.

I can honestly say that being involved in this tribute to Ramzi has really had an effect on me.

I'll never forget him. That's my promise to you.

Please know that you are in my prayers.

Your friend,


Eiad said...

Dear Mary,

There was one thing that perhaps was not mentioned in any article or news paper; I had given Ramzi a goodbye gift when we parted ways after graduation and that was a bible that I used to read from thru my college years.

I had totally forgotten all about that until after 911 when Dina (Ramzi's sister) told me during his memorial services that she found it open on his bedside table the day she went to his apartment to look for DNA samples.

The memorial service started by reading from the verse/page that was opened. When I realized this, I knew that Ramzi was/is in good hands with our lord Jesus Christ.
So I am not worried about him at all; I just miss him.

Anyway, thanks again.


Mary said...

Wow, that just sent chills through me.

Thanks so much for sharing that, Eiad.

I hadn't come across that in anything I had read.

What a profoundly moving way to open Ramzi's memorial services!

My heart goes out to Dina. Thinking of her and all the other family members that went through the belongings of their loved ones, gathering DNA samples -- such a painful journey to make in the midst of their grief.

But it had to be reassuring to her to find the Bible open next to Ramzi's bed. And it had to be a comfort to you to learn that he kept your gift so close to him.

I understand completely your certainty that Ramzi is safely in God's hands mixed with your feelings of emptiness because you're without Ramzi.

I've experienced the same thing in my own life. Even unwavering faith doesn't take away the desire to hear a loved one's voice just one more time.

Again, thank you for sharing that incredibly touching story and adding so much to this tribute to Ramzi.

God bless you, Eiad.

Anonymous said...

Ramzi was my uncle. I had only met him once when I was almost 3!! I wish I had known him better. I met him at my other uncle's wedding. God rest his soul.

Ramzi's neice, Noor

Mary said...

Noor, I'm truly sorry you didn't have the opportunity to get to know your uncle.

Unknown said...

Thank you Mary, we will NEVER forget. He will always be in our hearts and our minds.

Your words mean a lot to us.

We all stand United under one God. May the Lord Bless Ramzi's soul.

Thank you

Dina Doany Azzam

Mary said...

Dear Dina,

Please know that my prayers are with you, your family, and all of Ramzi's friends.

It has been an honor and truly an inspiration for me to learn about what a special man Ramzi was, his beautiful life, and the ways in which he was a blessing to so many.

I pray that you find comfort and peace in knowing that your dear brother is in God's tender care.

May God bless you today and always,


Emma Falconer said...

Thinking about Ramzi today 10 years on. Ramzi was working with me and team of others in England at the time. He and several others in the Marsh team were back in New York after several weeks in England before their planned return. He was a truely unique person - having got to know me a little in the early days of the Project he was working on he bought me a picture frame - i cherish to this day and it always makes me smile... Rembering Ramzi and Jen and Chris too today espectially 10 years on...

Unknown said...

Thinking of you and your family, Ramzi.

Samia said...

I read and re-read all these beautiful words about my beloved son, I would thank each and everyone for all their loving comments. They are truly a source of great comfort. As time passes, the ache and the grief still persist, but my solace is in the knowledge that Ramzi is in a definitely happier place, and that in future we will all be together when the Lord wills it to be so. Again, a humble thank you to all.

Mary said...

Dear Samia,

Your gentle words are so touching. My heart goes out to you.

Please know that I keep you, your family, and your friends in my prayers.

I pray that you continue to find strength and comfort in knowing that your beloved Ramzi is with our dear Lord in heaven.

May God's peace be with you.