Sandler O’Neill, an investment firm which was based in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, set up a fund to pay the college fees for all 76 children of company employees who died during the terrorist attack.
A total of 54 children have had their college education paid to date, and the fund is still operational.
Several surviving employees donated millions to set up the Sandler O’Neill Assistance Foundation, which the company now funds.
Jimmy Dunne, one of Sandler’s senior managing principals, felt the firm had a duty to act.
“Because we believed that what we did would echo for a hundred years in the families of our people, their kids, and their grandkids,” Dunne told Oregon Live, according to Yahoo News. “Because how we conducted ourselves in those first few hours and days would define who we really were and what we were about. Because I knew that if we were not honorable, then we stood for nothing.”
“I know most of the children who went to college,” Andy Armstrong, co-founder of the foundation, said. “You wouldn't believe some of the letters they have written in appreciation. I think they particularly appreciate that we remember their mom or dad this way. Many of them hardly knew their moms and dads.”
The foundation continues to focus on paying all college fees for the children, including the youngest eligible child who was born six weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Despite losing about 40 percent of its workforce in the attacks, the firm was up and running within weeks and is now larger than it was prior to 2001.
“I remember staring at bin Laden’s smirking face on television, on September 11, and concluding immediately that we would not be intimidated, we would not go out of business, we will come back stronger than ever, and be an example of people who worked and lived with honor,” Dunne said. “And that meant taking care of our people and their children with respect and reverence. So we did that. We figured what we did and how we did it was our way of fighting idiots like bin Laden. You want us to fall apart? Then we will survive and flourish.”