Years after 9/11, financial advisor keeps spirit of patriotism alive by giving back
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Steve Gatto was on the 61st floor of the World Trade Center's south tower. Fresh into a career in the financial services industry, Gatto was in New York City for training, with Sept. 11 only the second day in a planned three-week session.
As that tragic day unfolded, Gatto witnessed many things that would stick with him for the rest of his life, including the courage and bravery of the many first responders who rushed past him into danger to help others. Later, Gatto was also inspired by the sacrifice of military servicemen and women defending America abroad.
“What I will never forget about 9/11 and the struggles that followed is how it made me feel proud to be an American,” says Gatto, now a financial advisor in RBC Wealth Management's Lake Forest, Ill. office.
It was that sense of patriotism that led to 9/11 being proclaimed a National Day of Service and Remembrance in 2009. In the official proclamation, President Barack Obama wrote, “... the National Day of Service and Remembrance is an opportunity to salute the heroes of 9/11, recapture the spirit of unity and compassion that inspired our Nation following the attacks, and rededicate ourselves to sustained service to our communities.”
That's how it is for Gatto—and many others—who, in the years since 9/11, have found opportunities to give back that honor and celebrate the spirit of that solemn day and everything that followed.
Steve Gatto (center) at the 2019 Oscar Mike Ball, standing next to Noah Currier, founder of Oscar Mike.
Watching the country come together
The day had only just begun when the World Trade Center's north tower was attacked. Gatto and his colleagues in the south tower started evacuating a few minutes later, and then their tower was also hit.
“After our building got hit, it was scary,” Gatto recalls. “The building shook, there was glass shattering, and people were screaming.”
As he and others made their way down the tower through the stairwell, they eventually passed firefighters making their way up.
“That was something that made an impact on me,” Gatto says. “I doubt many of them made it out alive.”
After reaching the ground level and getting out of the building, Gatto witnessed the chaos and confusion on the streets as more firefighters, police officers and FBI agents ran toward and into the building to help.
“Seeing how people were looking out for one another, the selflessness, the willingness to run into danger to protect others, it was so inspiring to see,” he says.
And in the weeks and months following 9/11, he watched, along with the rest of the country, as thousands of people from all backgrounds enlisted in the military to fight the war on terror.
“They knew the danger they would face in fighting for our freedom, and did not back down or hide,” he says. “It was amazing to see our country united together.”
Remembering by giving back
Years later, Gatto was introduced to an organization called the Oscar Mike Foundation, which helps injured veterans stay on the move through adaptive sports programs, experiences and events. Through Oscar Mike, Gatto was reminded of the sense of unity he saw after 9/11, and how everyone came together to support first responders and the military.
“Seeing what Oscar Mike did for injured veterans really got me motivated to get involved,” Gatto says. “The organization honors and gives back to veterans who have sacrificed so much for America, and it's been extremely powerful to see what they've been able to do to change people's lives.”
Gatto now regularly raises funds for Oscar Mike, and participates in the organization's annual fundraising ball, to benefit programs that support injured vets' physical and mental health. In that way, his involvement helps to keep the spirit of patriotism alive.
Each year on 9/11, Gatto—like many other Americans—takes time to remember, celebrate life and spend the day with family and friends.
“It's a special day for me that I use to remember those who were lost,” he says. “But, also, it's a time to celebrate the positive of how it united us and brought us together.”
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