It was the morning of September 11, 2001, when New Canaan native Brad Fetchet had just settled in to work at his new position as an equities trader at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods on the 89th floor of World Trade Center’s South Tower. American Airlines flight 11 had just crashed into the North Tower and in minutes, the 24-year-old Bucknell graduate called his dad, Frank, and spoke with him for a bit before leaving a voicemail for his mom, Mary, reassuring her that he was okay and that she was “welcome to give a call. I think we’ll be here all day,” he says.
Those were the last words heard from Brad. Just minutes after he left that message, the North Tower was hit by the second commercial airliner and Brad’s office was located above the impact zone. Brad became one of the 2,977 victims of that day, leaving behind a loving family that included his two younger brothers, Chris and Wes, who were just teens at the time.
“As parents, we are supposed to protect our kids. We are supposed to keep them safe,” says an emotional Frank Fetchet, as we looked back on that last conversation, he had with his oldest son 20 years ago. Understandably, it’s still hard for him to speak about what he and his family went through in the days following the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
Today, 20 years later, we sit in the New Canaan offices of Brad’s parents’ nonprofit, now known as the Voices Center for Resilience, the organization that continues to keep Brad’s life, and the thousands of other victims, alive through support and guidance in the years following tragedy. Frank gives well-deserved praise to his wife, Mary, for the countless hours she has worked to help those victims’ families through (and still living with) the same sort of grief she was feeling. Mary, a trained clinical social worker, has worked her whole career at helping families live with grief, so it seemed fitting for her to sit as the force behind their charity. Over the last 20 years she and her team have provided valuable long-term support services to victim’s families, responders and survivors. Through her organization, Mary has worked tirelessly in order to advocate for the rights of victims’ families and survivors, she’s aided in developing an appropriate process for the notification of human remains, the Victim’s Compensation Fund and the creation of the 9/11 Memorial that currently sits at the World Trade Center site. She has testified in front of U.S. Congress on five occasions. She is a fighter and she’s not giving up any time soon.
“This 20th anniversary is such a milestone, especially for those of us who remember that day so clearly,” Mary says. “Leading up to this anniversary we can see that there is so much demand to support what’s needed for the families, responders and survivors. And these needs will continue.”
And, to set her organization up to help even more people work through tragedy, the Fetchets have officially changed their organization’s name from Voices of September 11 to the Voices Center for Resilience. Mary explained that it was back in 2007, after the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, when she realized that their community wasn’t prepared with how to handle the needs of those victims’ families.
“It was then when we saw a real opportunity to help prepare and advance communities in the face of tragedy,” Mary says. “We were already set up and prepared to respond and give needed guidance and support. Whether it’s the recent collapse of the apartment building in Miami, a school shooting or a terrorist attack—there are slight differences in those kinds of tragedies, but the needs of the families are the same. They are dealing with loss and grief, and we can provide them with the support from people who truly understand what they are going through.”
To help shine light on this 20th anniversary, the Voices Center will hold an art exhibition at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, with an opening reception on September 1. Then, a conference and remembrance symposium will be open free to anyone at the Marriott Downtown in New York City on September 9 and 10. Attendees can register to appear in person or virtually and will be treated to a stellar lineup of speakers including Bobby Valentine who will speak about sports and September 11, doctors on medical updates and lawyers working to bring justice to victims’ families. The annual gala will then take place on November 3 at the New York Athletic Club.
BY THE NUMBERS
deaths on September 11, 2001
survivors who lived, worked or attended school in the area.
responders who worked on the recovery effort in the months following the attacks
responders and survivors who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses and serious mental health conditions.
people have died due to 9/11 related illnesses (as of March 2021)