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 nearly 3000 individuals. Every single one of them mattered.
On this sixth 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 establishded 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 birthday. On August 19, 2007, he would have turned 41-years-old.
I wonder what he would have done these past six 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 nearly 3000 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
I wrote this tribute to Ramzi last year, as part of Project 2996. The point of the project was to get to know the individuals, the precious lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Just citing the grim number of victims or reading the unbearably long list of their names can be a somewhat empty exercise. It's too abstract.
There's truth to this: "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."
Learning about just one person, Ramzi, and sharing his story, brought home to me the immensity of the human toll, the irreplaceable treasure that we lost on that terrible day six years ago.
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.
It was a daunting task to pay tribute to someone I had never met. I knew what I was able to find out about Ramzi and what I wrote was so incomplete and inadequate. It was such a tiny snapshot of Ramzi.
Some of Ramzi's friends found the tribute online. They generously offered memories of their dear friend and honored Ramzi in a way that I never could. What they wrote reflects what an incredible person he was.
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.
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.
10:04 AM, September 11, 2006
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.
2:10 PM, September 11, 2006
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.
9:57 PM, September 11, 2006
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...
Eiad Haddadin from Amman, Jordan
3:30 AM, September 12, 2006
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.
6:43 AM, September 13, 2006
Clearly, they hold Ramzi deep in their hearts. Their love for him 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.
What Ramzi's friends shared 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 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?