By Michaela Marx Wheatley
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Families impacted by the May 20 tornadoes received $1,000 each Monday from a company that knows how disaster impacts a community.
Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC Partners lost more than 600 employees when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The company CEO, and the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, visited Moore to distribute $1,000 prepaid debit cards to each family who had a child in the Moore Public School district at the time of the May 20 tornado and whose home was damaged or destroyed.
Moore Baptist Church hosted the event. The gym was set up to assist the hundreds of people who were expected. More than an hour before the official handout started, families began lining up around the building. The company allocated up to $2 million in gift cards. The families are free to spend the money anyway they wish.
Asia Burk was waiting in line. Her daughter was a fifth-grader at Plaza Towers Elementary School. The family since has moved to Norman.
The family’s home in Moore also was severely damaged, and they lost close to everything they owned.
When asked what the $1,000 means for her family, Burk answered in one word: “Christmas.”
Being able to provide a normal Christmas to her daughter, who had nightmares and panic attacks for weeks after the storms, will be great, she said, but there are necessities that also need to be purchased to put their home back together.
“We will be able to decorate her room. My daughter is the one who actually lost everything. Her room was in the front of the home,” Burk said.
Cantor Fitzgerald is one of the biggest financial services firms in the world. It also was one of the companies impacted the hardest when airplanes hit the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The company lost 658 employees that day.
“Unfortunately, Cantor Fitzgerald knows loss like any other company,” said Howard Lutnick, chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald.
He also lost his younger brother in the attack.
“Like many of you in Oklahoma, we thought we had the most beautiful place to work,” Lutnick said.
In the aftermath of 9/11, his family and company vowed to take care of the families of those they had lost and gave 25 percent of profits to those families.
“You remember May 20 as a horrible and brutal day as we remember Sept. 11,” Lutnick said.
The relief fund was founded three days after the terrorist attacks.
The fund has since helped aid victims of national and international disaster including the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the earthquakes in Haiti and now Moore families.
During their annual Charity Day, company employees raised $12 million last year.
Lutnick was joined by Congressman Tom Cole, Moore Mayor Glenn Lewis, Moore City Manager Steve Eddy and Superintendent of Moore Public Schools Robert Romines to meet families and talk to the media.
Congressman Cole thanked Cantor Fitzgerald and said Oklahoma and New York couldn’t be more different from each other, but when it comes to response and compassion after a disaster, they are essentially the same.
“Nothing matches the compassion of the American people. You don’t know how lucky you are to be American until a bad day comes,” Cole said, thanking the visitors from New York.
Romines who has worked tirelessly to provide safety and normalcy for Moore students since May said he can’t express how much the help from New York means to the community.
“We didn’t completely comprehend the gift they were bringing until we met with them one morning,” Romines said.
“We’re about rebuilding with the understanding that we will never forget. These days were hard, and we are moving forward,” he said.