Remembering Sept. 11: Nine Colonials lost during attacks

The University lost nine alumni in the Sept. 11 attacks, including a top anti-terrorism expert.

John P. O’Neill (ESIA MS ’78), Andrew Stergiopoulos (GWSB BBA ’00), Robert F. Mace (Law JD ’84), Todd H. Reuben (Law JD ’89), John Sammartino (SEAS BS ’86), James T. Waters Jr. (CCAS BA ’84), Sarah M. Clark (CCAS MA ’75), Andrew K. Friedman (CCAS BA ’95) and Melissa M. (Harrington) Hughes (GWSB MBA ’95) were all killed 10 years ago Sunday.

As the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s leading expert on al-Qaeda, O’Neill warned of the organization’s menace long before 9/11. After being appointed counterterrorism chief at the FBI’s New York headquarters in January 1995, O’Neill headed an operation gathering information about then-suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.

In July 2000, his career suffered an irrecoverable setback after he left a briefcase filled with classified documents unattended in Tampa, Fla. He retired from his post just one month before the attacks.

O’Neill, 49, who earned a master’s in forensic sciences, served as head of security for the World Trade Center when it was attacked. According to a Washington Post obituary published at the time, O’Neill died after running back into one of the burning buildings to help trapped workers.

Andrew Stergiopoulos, 23, the youngest alumnus to lose his life on 9/11, died on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower, where he worked in the office of Cantor Fitzgerald International, L.P., a global stock brokerage and investment firm.

Known as “Sterg” among friends, the accomplished athlete from Great Neck, N.Y. was named captain of the football, lacrosse and ice hockey teams by his junior year in high school. As a member of the GW men’s lacrosse team, Stergiopoulos helped drive the team to become National College Lacrosse League Champions in 2000. A memorial foundation in his name provides scholarships to GW students who exhibit qualities of academic and athletic leadership.

Stergiopoulos’ colleague, 43-year-old Robert F. Mace, also died at the World Trade Center’s 104th floor that day. The two were among 700 of the company’s employees to perish in the terrorist attacks. Mace, who graduated from the GW Law School in 1984, served as assistant counsel at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Todd H. Reuben, 40, a tax and business lawyer from Potomac, Md., died when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. After graduating with honors from the law school in 1989, Reuben joined law firm Tucker Flyer and later transitioned to Venable, Baetjer and Howard. A Montgomery Soccer Inc. fund dedicated to the lifelong soccer fan was created to help disadvantaged children enjoy the game.

John P. Sammartino, 37, an engineer with XonTech, Inc. in nearby Rosslyn, Va., was also a victim of the tragedy at the Pentagon. Originally from New York, Sammartino moved to D.C. in the early ’80s to attend GW and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

James T. Waters Jr., 39, a senior vice president at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., was in his office on the 89th floor of the South Tower when the first hijacked airliner hit the North Tower. In the interval between the attacks, he e-mailed colleagues at Bloomberg and called family to tell them he was safe. Waters, who grew up in Litchfield, Conn., graduated from the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences with a bachelor of arts.

Sixth-grade teacher Sarah M. Clark received a master’s in urban learning from GW in 1975. She lost her life when American Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, while she was en route to an ecology conference in Santa Barbara, Calif., to supervise students from Backus Middle School. She and her fiance spent the weekend preparing for their wedding before Clark boarded her flight at Dulles International Airport.

Andrew K. Friedman is memorialized by a GW scholarship his wife created in his name by donating $50,000 to the University’s Power & Promise Fund. Friedman, a 1975 political science graduate, worked as the vice president for the Carr Futures company in New York City. His wife, Lisa Friedman, told the University in 2010 that her husband’s love for GW led the family to visit the school on every D.C. trip. At the age of 44, he passed away on the ground at the World Trade Center.

Melissa M. Harrington Hughes, who passed away while stuck in the North Tower on the 101st floor, graduated from GW with a master’s degree in business administration in 1995. In her last moments, she dialed her father and husband just before the building collapsed. Hughes worked for the California-based company Slam-Dunk Networks as its director of business development, but was in the city for a financial technology conference. She was 31 years old.

– Priya Anand contributed to this report.

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