“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
July 22, 2011
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.”