I look at this picture, and my first thought is that he looks like one of my uncles. He could easily pass for one of my mom’s brothers. His name is Norbert P. Szurkowski, and he was 31 on September 11th, 2001. Eight years ago he was working in the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald hanging wall paper.
A tribute that appeared in the New York Times on December 30, 2001 said,
Norbert Szurkowski, the son of a bicycle racer, was on his first visit to New York when he met Ursula Lesniak. It was 1992 and she was a student at Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn. “We just enjoyed seeing each other,” she said. Three years to the day after they met, Mr. Szurkowski — always attentive to such details as proper timing — proposed.
The City Hall wedding two weeks later was a prelude to the festivities in their native country, Poland: three days of visiting and feasting with relatives.
Back home in Bensonhurst, Mr. Szurkowski walked right up and faced his future without the slightest doubt that he would do well. This past year was bearing out his confidence. His wife was graduating from nursing school and pregnant with their second child, and he was about to be promoted to full-fledged mechanic. “This was the year,” Mrs. Szurkowski said, “that we were supposed to get everything back.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Szurkowski, 31, was earning extra money by wallpapering the Cantor Fitzgerald offices. The best part about it was the hours — by shortly after 9 a.m., he was usually out and on his way home. (Source)
Another story, originally on Newsday, but now only found on a Digg archive, said,
The young newlyweds settled in Szurkowski’s house in Bensonhurst, where they began working toward his dream. “Basically, what he wanted was to have a family, to live a normal life,” his wife said. “He just wanted to buy a house, move to New Jersey, go on family vacations, make sure our kids grow up as they’re supposed to.”
By last year, it all seemed to be running on track. Szurkowski, 31, finished his apprenticeship at a wallpapering company; his wife graduated from nursing school. They were enjoying their 3-year-old, Alexandra, and Ursula was pregnant again.
Szurkowski loved his job and spent his free time playing tennis or riding his bike. Alexandra was becoming bilingual, speaking Polish at home and English outside. On camping trips upstate with other Polish families, the men would fish and the women cooked what they caught over an open fire.
“He was happy with what he had,” his wife said. “He just wanted to keep everything the way it was, and make sure it didn’t get any worse.”
But everything got worse on Sept.11. Szurkowski was touching up a wallpapering job at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 104th floor of Tower One, when the plane hit.
Ursula is scheduled to deliver her baby, already named Claudia, by Caesarean section in May.
Alexandra should be 11 now. Claudia, who has never met her father, seven.
We remember these people, Norbert and the thousands of others, who lost their lives eight years ago today.
As I’ve said before, in the days and weeks following 9/11 most of us vowed, if only to ourselves, to always remember that day. The 2,996 Project is dedicated to that task. We hope that you will take time today to read the tributes and information that bloggers, writers, and others from all over, who are each taking the time to remember those who died as individuals. Individuals who deserve our remembrance.
In 2006 I wrote a tribute to another person who died in the same building, Neil Dollard. The two men were from vastly different backgrounds, with vastly different lives. It’s possible that they had the type of nodding relationship that we have with people we don’t know, but who work near us. Whatever the reality, they both were killed that horrible day. To them, and all the others, we pledge to remember.
Note 9/11/2011: The comments have been reopened.