Seventeen years after Sept. 11, 2001, we look back at the attacks and their legacy beginning with the man who was, by many accounts their first victim, Danny Lewin. Born in Denver, Lewin would go on to win the Mr. Teenage Israel bodybuilding competition, serve in the IDF’s most elite combat unit, found a pioneering tech company, and start a family—all by the age of 31.
By most accounts, Danny Lewin was the first victim of 9/11. Seated in seat 9B aboard American Airlines flight 11, he saw Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz al-Omari, sitting just in front of him, rise and make their way to the cockpit.
There are the moments when you intrude on a situation that you know you should not be a part of. Then there are moments of tragedy, moments of survival, moments of condemnation, and moments of pre-emptive failure. And then there are moments in which we look for too long at something that we should not: the man asleep on the subway with one leg; a dirty picture; bodies that jump 110 stories to the ground.
The Jewish Community Project, which grew out of a small group of Jewish families who decided to stay downtown after the Sept. 11 attacks, emerged from the wave of Jewish startups that began springing up in the neighborhood then
Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Danny, but I find remembering him particularly poignant this time of year. You’d expect an Israeli commando who made a fortune by starting a high-tech company, Akamai, that runs about one-third of all traffic online to be a cocky macho without much patience for reflection and meditation, but while he might’ve given that impression to those who only knew him from afar, his friends knew that Danny was just the opposite. When his colleagues at Haifa’s Technion were busy stressing out over the next exam, Danny was more interested in things like knot theory and the nature of infinity, the big questions that mattered.
The little-known story behind the image, which is actually a collaboration between Spiegelman and his wife, Françoise Mouly, the New Yorker’s art editor. (As recently as 2011, Mouly gave Spiegelman full credit for the cover.)
Then, in the months after Sept. 11, 2001, he became the self-designated archivist of Ground Zero, persuading city authorities to grant him complete access to the site despite the fact that it had been designated a crime scene.