Chapter Excerpt — John Duffy

"More Than Money" by Neil Cavuto

From Chapter Three: The Saddest Day

"Many Tears"

It was September 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Like all news organizations at the time, Fox News was providing around-the-clock commemorative specials.

I had my own approach, revisiting the people I had talked to just after the attacks to see how they were getting on with their lives. 

There were many people I talked to over those days leading up to and including that first anniversary, but the toughest of all the interviews — and the one in which I had to work hardest at controlling my emotions — was my chat with John Duffy. My interview with him remains, to this day, one of the most engaging and intensely personal I’ve ever conducted.

The investment bank he ran, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, lost sixtyseven employees. Among them were the company’s co-CEO, four other board members, and Duffy’s son, twenty-three-year-old Christopher, who had joined the firm on the trading desk just a year before.

Duffy had come on my show to reflect on September 11, and what was running through his mind at the time. He is a big bear of a man, and true to everything I had heard about him: quiet, driven, compassionate, deeply sensitive, the antithesis of what you’d expect to see in the cool, money-centric world of Wall Street.

His recounting of what happened that day, and what he did as he moved through it, stands out for his bravery, and his simple passion to find meaning in something so dreadful.

He was also a master of understatement. “I’m coming along,” he told me. “The firm’s coming along.”

I already knew how much had happened in so little time. Duffy had written a book about those experiences, Triumph Over Tragedy: September 11 and the Rebirth of a Business. It remains, for my money, the single best reflection from someone directly affected.

As Duffy recalls, that Tuesday morning started as usual. Soon that changed. Duffy was driving along New York City’s West Side Highway when he heard something on the radio about a plane crash at the World Trade Center.

“At first I thought, like probably everyone else, that this had to have been some mistake by an inexperienced pilot, probably flying a private plane.

“A little farther along, I found out it was a commercial jet. Well, I knew it would be mayhem downtown, so I got off the highway at 30th Street in midtown Manhattan and figured I would
take the subway.”

He parked his car and walked over to the Broadway line, but by the time he got there it was out of service. Next stop, Herald Square, to get the Sixth Avenue line. That train too had been taken out of service. Authorities were already stopping train service to and from downtown New York.

Since that happened from time to time in Manhattan, Duffy had no reason yet to think that the day’s events would have such magnitude.

He walked over to a hotel across the street from Penn Station and began making calls. When efforts to reach his firm prove fruitless, he called home to his wife to tell her he was okay. “I got my daughter on the phone and she told me one of the World Trade Center towers had collapsed. Which one, I asked. She wasn’t sure.”

Duffy was panicked now. Keefe Bruyette was located at Two World Trade Center, the south tower. Not knowing was causing his pulse to race.

“I got back into my car and headed home.”

The foregoing is excerpted from More Than Money by Neil Cavuto. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

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