A Fundraiser for the Richard H. Stewart Jr. Scholarship Fund

Victim lives on in memories and a name

By Cece Nunn / Cece.Nunn@StarNewsOnline.com
Posted Sep 8, 2011 at 1:16 PM

At 8:46 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, smashing through floors 93 to 99 of the 110-floor building.
“Evidence suggests that all three of the building’s stairwells became impassable from the 92nd floor up. Hundreds of civilians were killed instantly by the impact. Hundreds more remained alive but trapped.”
– The 9/11 Commission Report

Richard Hansell Stewart Tillier, known as Richie to friends and family, never met the man he’s named after, at least not in a traditional way of introduction between relatives and children – a swaddled baby offered to outstretched arms or a shy toddler peering from behind his parents’ legs.
Yet the Wilmington 9-year-old feels the loss his family suffered 10 years ago today, when hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, wiping thousands of people off the face of the Earth in 102 minutes.
As the Stewart and Tillier families stood praying on Aug. 14 in a Southport cemetery buzzing with dragonflies, Richie alternated between his grandfather’s shirt and his father’s sleeve to wipe tears from his cheeks. He cried for his namesake, Richard Hansell Stewart Jr., his uncle, who everybody called Rich. He cried for the man whose picture he talks to every day.
“Hopefully I get, like, the same traits as him because he was a very good man,” Richie said.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 35-year-old Richard Hansell Stewart Jr., a bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald working in an office on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower, made an unusual second phone call to his parents. He called them first thing every morning from work to fill them in on his plans for the day and talk about his upcoming weekend visits to their home in Wilmington, Del.
But 10 years ago today, he decided to call them one more time.
“He said, ‘I don’t know what happened. The building shook,’?” said Rich’s father, Dick Stewart.

“Within 10 minutes of impact, smoke was beginning to rise to the upper floors in debilitating volumes.”
– The 9/11 Commission Report

Rich told his father he had to go, that smoke was filling the office. Tell Mom I love her, he said.
“And that was that,” said Joan Stewart, Rich’s mother.
“We were hoping he had made it down the stairs,” Rich’s father said.

“The only hope for those on the upper floors of the North Tower would have been a swift and extensive air rescue. Several factors made this impossible.”
– The 9/11 Commission Report
At 10:28 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, the North Tower collapsed. Along with more than 650 other Cantor Fitzgerald employees, Rich was gone. Rich the hockey player, who never failed to give his father a hug and kiss when he came off the ice at hockey games. Rich, the 6-foot-2-inch Pennsylvania native who was physically strong and loved helping other people. Rich, one of many who died 10 years ago trying in vain to think of a way to survive the unthinkable.

The Stewarts, who left Delaware not long after 9/11 to move to North Carolina and finally settle in St. James, were luckier than other 9/11 families in one way: Part of Rich’s remains were returned to them three years after the tragedy. Thousands of other families have nothing.
His parents decided to bury Rich in a mausoleum at Cape Fear Memorial Park off N.C. 211 in Southport, not far from their home. Joan designed a special 9/11 memorial, a granite wave with doves on the front and Rich’s name on the back, that stands near Rich’s final resting place.
This summer, the Stewarts sponsored the National 9/11 Flag’s appearance at the N.C. 4th of July Festival. Ten years ago, New York firefighters recovered the flag from the debris of the North Tower. A special service, with a focus on the flag and unity, was held at Cape Fear Memorial Park on July 3.
“We were expecting about 400 at the service, and about 1,000 came,” Joan Stewart said.
Dressed in red, white and blue, veterans and others later helped piece the flag back together.
“They stood in line for six and seven hours just to take one stitch,” Joan Stewart said.

The Stewarts planned to be in New York on Sept 11, 2011, watching the unveiling of the 9/11 memorial and attending a separate Cantor Fitzgerald event.
And while nothing will bring Rich back, his parents take comfort in their grandchildren – Richie, 8-year-old Hannah, and Ben, the oldest, the only one of his sister’s children Rich got to meet.
“The three grandchildren, I think for Mom and Dad, are a blessing,” said Susan Tillier, Rich’s sister, who lives in Wilmington with her children and husband.
Dick and Joan Stewart have also found solace in their new home in North Carolina as well as their faith.
“I do believe in life hereafter, so that keeps me going,” said Joan Stewart, who attends St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.
She said she feels she can identify with the military families whose loved ones have died fighting for freedom.
“Rich’s freedom was getting up and going to work,” she said.