Honor the Past By Building a Positive Future

Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial walk below the rising towers 1 World Trade Center, left, and 4 World Trade Cen
Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial walk below the rising towers 1 World Trade Center, left, and 4 World Trade Center, Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in New York. Tuesday will mark the eleventh anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Anniversaries are generally celebratory. We go out to dinner, have a party, and revel in the joy of a positive accomplishment. What however, is the appropriate way to celebrate the anniversary of a loss? And what becomes the correct way to observe an anniversary good or bad that doesn't happen to fall on a number divisible by five?

September 11th, 2011 will be the 11-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. For many of us when the media replays the pictures of the planes going into the building it's as if they are being murdered all over again. It seems like yesterday, and yet when my nephew who was five on September 11th, 2001 celebrates his 16th birthday by starting to drive, it feels like a lifetime ago.

Eleven years ago, when my world, like so many others' was turned upside down, I could never have imagined the journey we would take, or how the anniversary of something horrendous would result in something constructive. What started out as Cantor Fitzgerald and The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund's mission to care for the 9/11 families has turned into something larger.

On September 11th, Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners will once again hold our annual Charity Day. It is the way we integrate our painful past with our hopeful future. On that day we honor the lives of the 658 men and women who died on the 101st-105th floor of One World Trade Center, by remembering their intellect, wit, kindness, generosity and love of life. We teach those who join our firm which now includes 31 children of our 9/11 victims' that caring for others is woven into the fiber of Cantor/BGC. Caring for others is how we survived as a company and who we are as a charity: corporate and social responsibility working together for the betterment of many. On September 11th, we remember the kindness that was shown to us, and we give back. On September 11th we work, in order to help make the world a better place.

This Tuesday, in the name of lost colleagues, friends, and family our brokers will be at their desks conducting regular business activities. On this day we invite celebrities from all walks of life to come to our offices and take calls from our clients on behalf of so many deserving not- for-profits. Names you recognize, such as Eli Manning, Mark Sanchez, Edie Falco, Mickey Rourke, Michael J. Fox, Anna Sophia Robb, Carol Alt, Petra Nemcova among countless others. These generous people take time out of their lives to help Cantor Fitzgerald and BGC Partners. 100% of the day's revenues earned in all Cantor Fitzgerald's offices worldwide go to hundreds of not- for- profits important to the employees, clients, and participants. We've raised over $75 million that we've distributed to charities focused on curing cancer, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, mental health issues, children's causes, veterans concerns and 9/11 education. Combined with previous distributions made to 9/11 families, the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund has distributed over a quarter of a billion dollars in memory of a quarter of the victims.

In the afternoon, our community, as it has done since the first year, will gather together to mourn, laugh, and remember with love those we have lost.

September 11th isn't only about "where you were that day." It's about how we behave as individuals, communities, corporations, religions, politicians, and governments in its aftermath of an unspeakable event and what we have learned.

It isn't always easy to integrate the past with the present in order to create a new happiness, especially in the face of a looming anniversary. When tragedy strikes, and let's face it, it strikes all of us, if you can find a mission larger than yourself it will not only help you heal but you can accomplish spectacular things. If you read a story, internalize it, retell it and keep a memory alive, you too can help heal a broken world.

Charity Day is one way Cantor Fitzgerald chooses to remember and create a legacy for those we lost on September 11th. Education is another. When people ask me how they can help, I ask them to choose the name of a 9/11 victim, learn something about that person, repeat what has been learned to someone else, and do an act of kindness in that person's name. Honor the past by building a positive future. That would be an anniversary of which we can all be proud.

Edie Lutnick is the executive director of The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and the author of An Unbroken Bond: The Untold Story of How the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald Families Faced the Tragedy of 9/11 and Beyond -- 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the book benefit The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and the charities it assists.