16 years ago on September 11, 2001, Windows on the World Restaurant at The World Trade Center was destroyed when the North Tower collapsed during the terrorist attacks on New York City.
Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund was organized soon after the attacks to provide support and services to the families of those in the food, beverage, and hospitality industries who had been killed on September 11 in the WTC.
At the time of the attacks, there were 72 restaurant staff present in the restaurant, located on the 106th and 107th floors of the WTC, including acting manager Christine Anne Olender, whose desperate calls to Port Authority police represented the restaurant’s final communications. 16 Incisive Media-Risk Waters Group employees attending a breakfast for the Risk Waters Financial Technology Congress, and 76 other guests/contractors were also present. After about 9:40 AM, no further distress calls from the restaurant were made.
Everyone present in the restaurant when American Airlines Flight 11 penetrated the North Tower perished that day, as all stairwells leading below the impact zone were blocked immediately. Victims trapped in Windows died either from smoke inhalation from the fire, jumping or falling to their deaths, or the eventual collapse of the North Tower 102 minutes after impact.
Elsewhere in the World Trade Center, many other members of the food service industry, including caterers; corporate dining room staff, kitchen staff and chefs; and restaurant delivery people who happened to be in the buildings, lost their lives as well.
A group of hospitality-industry professionals met out of concern for the families of those restaurant and dining room workers who had been killed in the attacks. Many of those who died had been entry-level workers whose families would struggle to pay rent and other basic expenses in the wake of the attacks. Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund was founded to provide short- and longer-term assistance to these families.
With much support from colleagues throughout the industry, the fund was founded by a core group of restaurant professionals: Darlene Dwyer, a public relations consultant in the food industry; David Emil, an owner and operator of Windows on the World at the time; chef Michael Lomonaco, executive chef at Windows on the World at the time; chef Waldy Malouf, chef and co-owner of the New York restaurant, Beacon; and chef Tom Valenti, chef and owner of the restaurant Ouest.
It has been speculated that The Falling Man, a famous photograph of a man dressed in white falling headfirst on September 11, was an employee at Windows on the World. Although identity has never been conclusively established, he was identified as Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old employee of the restaurant.
On January 4, 2006, a number of former Windows on the World staff opened Colors, a co-operative restaurant in Manhattan that serves as a tribute to their colleagues and whose menu was designed to reflect the diversity of the former Windows’ staff.
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