“I’m not going to die this way”: Family and friends honor Sean Lugano,’95

Since losing Sean, ’95, on Sept. 11, the Lugano family has kept his memory alive

By Magazine Staff  |  Photo Courtesy of the Lugano Family
Sean Lugano

John Lugano was sitting at his desk that Tuesday morning when the airplane crashed into the first tower.

Lugano immediately called his brother, Sean, ’95, a sales trader for Keefe Bruette and Woods on the 88th floor of Tower Two.

Sean told his older brother that he was almost directly across from the building and could see flames. After a harried exchange, the brothers hung up. Then the second plane hit. John reached Sean on the phone and told him another plane had gone down.

“They’re telling us to just sit tight,” Sean said.

“You gotta do me a favor. You gotta get out of there,” John told him. “Forget what they’re saying. Find a way out of there.” He described the images from TV and told Sean which side of the building looked cooler. Then John heard his 28-year-old brother say, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to die this way.”

Later that afternoon as Sean’s four siblings searched Manhattan’s hospitals, John heard that a woman who had worked with Sean was in a particular hospital. He biked downtown to find her.

“There was fog and ash floating all around. Everyone was walking around with the posters [showing pictures of missing relatives],” John recalled. “I ran past the front door of the hospital. I ran from room to room to room. And I found her. She was in the elevator when the second plane hit, and the elevator dropped.”

She described how Sean and a group of men had offered their spots on the elevator to a group of women. “She said, ‘I don’t think he got out, Johnny.’”

Preserving Sean’s Memory

Three years later, the Lugano family started looking for ways to memorialize their son and brother. They raised money for a scholarship at Xavier High School, where Sean learned to play rugby. Then they raised money at his grammar school, where the gymnasium is now named for Sean.

Then some of Sean’s former Greyhounds rugby teammates came to the family with an idea. Why not name something for Sean—maybe a rugby field—in the athletic complex Loyola was planning to build? Sean, whose sister Stephanie Lugano McCuin graduated from Loyola in 1997—was an avid rugby player and an All-American three years in a row.

John remembers meeting with Rev. Harold Ridley, S.J., Loyola’s president at the time, and how much Fr. Ridley and others at Loyola wanted to honor those lost on Sept. 11. Among the other members of the Loyola family who died that day were Michael R. Canty, ’93, and Eric Steen, ’91. The Loyola leaders asked for the help of Sean’s family and friends. They agreed that if the Lugano family could raise $1 million, a practice field would be named for Sean.

It seemed insurmountable.

Still, every year the family held a cocktail party fundraiser on the first Friday in February. One year 500 people came. Another year 800. At its peak, the event drew 1,300 guests.

They hit their $1 million goal in four and a half years. When the Ridley Athletic Complex opened in March 2010, the Sean Lugano Memorial Field was dedicated in his memory.

Even since hitting that goal, the Luganos have continued to use the party to raise funds for other causes, donating money to organizations such as the World Trade Center Tribute Center, the Wounded Warrior Fund, the Adaptive Sports Foundation, and the Lead the Way Fund.

Friend to All

Today, Sean’s mother, Eileen, gives tours of the Ground Zero site, telling visitors about her son—the second of her five children. “It helps her talk about who he was,” John said. “Rather than just missing him, it’s a way to relive him.”

When Sean died, he was single and establishing his career. But it is his magnetic personality his family and friends miss. “He was an everybody’s friend kind of guy. It didn’t matter what kind of clique you were in. He bridged a million gaps, and that was one of the really sad things about him not being around,” John said. “That’s one of the really great things about the party. Now we’re all back together again.”

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  • Posted by Mervin Luciani | February 13, 2012

    We live in the best place on earth but at times the worst.

  • Posted by Patrick Pregiato | September 11, 2013

    I was a teacher at Xavier HS and Sean was in my homeroom.
    I know he and all the others are now in God’s care. We will never forget them.

  • Posted by Debbie M. Colo | September 11, 2013

    What is really sad is that they were telling people to stay put in the second tower. I wonder if more people could have gotten out had they not heeded this advise. So sad, so horrible.

  • Posted by John | September 12, 2014

    If the school was planning on building the athletic complex anyway, why did it cost $1 million from a family who just suffered a tragedy just to name the field after him?

  • Posted by Ben Bush | December 24, 2014

    I was lucky enough to be a team mate of Sean’s with the New York Athletic Rugby Club. The season of 2000-2001 we went 19-0 only to be defeated in our last game for the US National Championship. Sean was our captain and his leadership was responsible for this success. Athletically this was probably the highest achievement of everyone on that team.

    Aside from being a great leader Sean was simply a genuine and beautiful person. He is greatly missed and loved.

    Ben Bush

  • Posted by Kevin McIvor | September 12, 2015

    Beautiful. Prayers today for John and all the Luganos.

  • Posted by The Bowen Family | September 13, 2015

    Sean was a sweet and kind young man with a big heart. When he came to California to play rugby against Long Beach, we, his California cousins came out to watch him. It was a joy to see the intensity and the love of the game in his face. At the end of the game he came over to thank us for coming and he had a team t-shirt for his then young cousin Danny. Danny still has and treasures that team shirt of Sean’s. Sean you will always be in our hearts and we will never forget you.

  • Posted by Alice Schneider | September 11, 2017

    Today…9-11-17 I think of Sean. Not that I knew him but because I didn’t. It reminds me of the sadness of that day and also his life that was way to short but well lived. Sending a prayer for family and friends and for us as a nation.

  • Posted by Robb Young | February 2, 2018

    Today a friend sent me a picture of the USA East collegiete all stars team photo from 1993.
    It was taken on the Steps of Bancroft Hall at the Naval Academy.
    Sean and i are in the middle holding the ball as co captains. Ive shared that photo and memories of Sean today with a lot of guys we played with.
    I went to Georgia and Sean was Yankee but he was all right
    Captain as a sophomore says a lot
    special guy he comes to mind so often

  • Posted by anon | September 6, 2018

    Although I was only a baby, I always reflect on that tragic day in history. Doing so, I came across Sean’s story and was touched.


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