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Honor 9/11 Victims By Giving Back

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BGC Partners leads way by donating 100% of commissions to charity.

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September 11, 2001 is a day that changed the lives of all Americans forever. It affected each person differently, but its reach had no boundaries. Some had more personal losses than others, but everyone felt it.

Many of you may know that it's the day I lost my father, who was Cantor Fitzgerald's Chief Market Analyst, at the entirely-too-young age of 49. Obviously, that day changed my life in that I no longer had a dad and a good friend. But the aftermath of those tragic events and the outpouring of love and support also caused a drastic change in my life. For the first time, I was inspired to do what I could to give back and help those less fortunate.

I've written about my experiences of that day and of the weeks thereafter, so I won't rehash that tale, but on this seventh anniversary of the attacks, I'd like to focus on what I learned and what I consider to be some good that came of it. The one thing that stood out is that people are at their best when they're helping others.

At the time, I was an admittedly immature and selfish 20-year-old who grew up in the upper-middle-class suburbs and took a lot of what I had for granted. I hadn't faced too many hardships prior to September 11th, but was instantly faced with one that I don't even think I fully comprehended for weeks or maybe months.

I knew it wouldn't be the last, and it hasn't been, but it opened my eyes to how little it takes to help others in need. The support I received from family, friends and complete strangers was astonishing, and certainly helped me through the toughest of times. Charities and scholarship funds were instantly set up to help victims' families and enable us to continue to lead our lives. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be on the receiving end of charity, but I was, and I'm forever grateful. I knew as soon as I was in a position to give back that that's exactly what I wanted to do - thoughts that had never really entered my selfish adolescent mind.

Ironically, my dad's last column, published September 10, 2001, was entitled "It Could Be Worse." In the days following the tragedy, I kept that in mind, knowing there were thousands of people affected by the attacks who were much worse off than I, and millions of people around the globe even worse off.

Every day I remind myself that it could be worse. Even as the stock market and our economy goes through tumultuous times, remind yourself that it could be worse. If you're in a position to help others, do so. It will feel very rewarding.

And speaking of helping others: This wasn't meant as a "me" column, but instead as a look at one company in particular who's using today to help others in need. I spent this morning down at BGC Partners (BGCP) for their fourth annual charity day. BGC was spun-off from Cantor Fitzgerald in 2004, so I felt a certain personal connection to the company as an extension of the Cantor family.

Today, 100% of the commissions they make worldwide will be donated to an assortment of worthy charities. In a time where much bigger firms are worried about losses and writedowns, BGC is giving away a day's worth of revenue. Last year, BGC was able to raise $6 million for charities and this year they're hoping to double that figure.

While today is a day of remembrance, it is also a day to honor all those who lost their lives. As both Chairman and Co-CEO Howard Lutnick and Chief Administrative Officer Roger Campbell told me, the day is intended to remember, but also to raise money to help others in their honor.

Danny LaVecchia, Executive Managing Director for the Americas, said: "In memory of those lost on 9/11, we are fortunate to be able to give back to others in need through this uplifting, exceptional event." Speaking for myself, I can't think of a better way to honor my dad and the thousands of others who lost their lives that day.

The planning for such a day begins many months in advance. BGC chose charities that are locally based, focus on children and ensured that they put forth the majority of money donated toward actual programs. For a list of all charities involved this year and links to their websites, click here.

While the Asian and European desks were already abuzz, the day started off with a prayer in the company's memorial room at 8:30 before the real chaos started. This wasn't just your average trading day though. BGC and the charities called in the big guns to generate bigger trades and commissions – celebrities. Celebrities came out to represent their favorite charities, but also to work the phones next to brokers to hopefully sweet talk clients into bigger trades, thus bigger commissions for charity.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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