Changed lives: the man who lost 657 of his staff

Lee Amaitis, is the New-York born London-based chief executive of Cantor Fitzgerald International, the brokerage firm that lost 657 out of 1,000 staff in the World Trade Centre disaster.
Click to follow
The Independent US

There is absolutely no part of my life that hasn't been affected by what happened. I think about it all of the time, particularly the loss of my three best friends, Vinnie Abate, Mike Uliano and Vinnie's brother, Andrew. Virtually every day, I feel like talking to them and I think that I'm not talking to them enough. And then I remember that they're not there any more. I knew so many of the people who died.

I went over to New York recently and visited the site and I just couldn't put into words what that did to me. I simply couldn't imagine what it must have been like for them. Everyone has been very nice to us; strangers come up and offer sympathy, but you don't know what to say to them.

When I came into this business, I dreamt of working hard and getting out by the time I was 40, then 45, then 50 – and here I am at 51 and still going. Cantor Fitzgerald has put together a package to try to help the bereaved – there were 1,463 children left behind – so for the next five years, 25 per cent of all profits will go to them.

That means that now I have to work harder. My days are no longer 10 to 12 hours long; they're 14 to 16 and they might get longer. I'm an obsessive compulsive and I love my work and live for this company. But now I know I'm going to have to work harder for all those people, all those children. Don't get me wrong – I'm not a martyr. I want to be successful, too. But from now on, whenever I make money, I know I'm making it for those people as well.

It worries me a little. At the very latest, I used to say that I wanted to get out by the speed limit – 55, the old US limit – but now that might not be possible. I work too hard and too long and it has had a detrimental affect on my life in the past. I hope that it doesn't have the same effect on my future. But I always thought of us as a family. And at times of need, you don't let your family down.