John Reo was just getting started. A few months into a great job towering over Earth’s greatest city, he was about to live on the same famously bustling island where he worked. An exciting life featuring an impressive profession is a sign your 20s are going well. There was every reason to hope it would continue.
Nothing’s breathtaking like an office over a thousand feet in the sky. John worked in the paragon of skyscrapers as a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, a job based on the 104thfloor of 1 World Trade Center. The opportunity was what one of his brother-in-laws classified as “his first important job.” He had started in May 2001 and seemed to be on his way to starting a fulfilling career that offered more than a paycheck.
Financial services was a small family business. He worked with brother-in-law John Swaine, husband of Reo’s sister Suzanne. The other John helped get him the position. For the time being, they were also housemates. Reo was living with the couple and their three daughters in a village named Larchmont within Westchester County, which borders the Bronx’s north side. Someone seeking tranquility might choose to work in New York City while returning home to a more relaxed setting with fewer car horns and taverns below dwellings.
But John was on his own and looking for full-time adventure. The plan was to move across the local border so he didn’t have to do so every day for work. John had been scheduled to set up life at his own apartment in Manhattan’s East Village that October. It’s an entirely different kind of village than Larchmont.
The perpetually trendy borough section draws countless visitors and a small fraction of residents who are fortunate enough to find apartments. It’s a dream of both outsiders and New Yorkers to find such a place for urban adventure, much less be able to swing it. He was thrilled to have lined up a residence in a vibrant neighborhood of the most exciting city there is. The home building would have been close to work and countless recreational activities afterward.
There’s more to New York than New York City, as illustrated by John’s migration pattern. He moved to Westchester County from the Empire State’s Capital District, his birthplace and longtime home. A Troy native, John graduated from SUNY Albany after spending a year attending Notre Dame. There was no better place to put the economics degree he earned to use than in financial services.
But his bright tomorrows were taken on a historically dark day. John Armand Reo was 28 years old when terrorists murdered him for showing up to his occupation. Our world lost someone with normal, simple, and wonderful interests. A high school football and lacrosse player liked the Yankees, golfing, and Scrabble. Most importantly, he valued family moments. The youngest of five, John had eight nephews and nieces whom every account notes he found to be a source of unbridled joy. He took the time to indulge in delightful everyday things so many of us do, or at least should, treasure.
It somehow got worse. The Reo family endured a particularly awful September 11 when so many suffered: aforementioned brother-in-law John was also killed. There are countless ways to frame the atrocity, all of them awful. The pain his parents endured coping with the death of both a son and son-in-law is as unimaginable as Suzanne losing her husband and brother at once.
His final resting place is where he worked. John’s grave is at the National September 11 Memorial, with his name appearing on Panel N-40. As a company which sustained the massacre of 658 employees, Cantor Fitzgerald remains singularly linked with the attacks. Employees’ names on the memorial are arranged according to friendship and relationship in recognition of the firm’s particular devastation. By request, John Leo and John Swaine are adjacent forever.
That’s not the only tribute. Those seeking to remember John can also find monuments in both his native Troy and in Valhalla, a hamlet located in his adopted home county. Track his days by where he’s commemorated.
The only thing better than multiple places in his honor would be to still have him present. The potential for so much more was destroyed by evil in a matter of minutes. But John had already succeeded. He was working at an amazing job with an unparalleled view while supported by beloved relatives. Anyone would have felt fortunate under such circumstances.
Barbarity naturally leads to focus on loss. We know much time was taken away he could have savored in Manhattan and with his family. Instead, seeing John’s years as a blessing means gratefulness for what he achieved. Living decently is laudable no matter how limited the timespan. The story ended decades too soon. But John blossomed in each chapter. The process of pursuing dreams defines us, and his fulfillment at so many aspects is something he’ll always have realized.
Originally published September 11, 2017.