Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Heller staffer recalls loss of brother in WTC attack

Published: September 9, 2011
Section: Featured, News

It is impossible for Claudia Jacobs ’70 to forget the pain of Sept. 11, 2001, as society reminds her every day of the terrorist attacks that devastated a nation, reshaping American life as we knew it and turning her own life upside down.

Sept. 11 is more than a defining moment in American history to Jacobs, who works as a communications director at the Heller school. Instead it is day that left an irreplaceable hole in her family when her 29-year-old brother, Ari Jacobs, a prominent sales executive from Briar Cliff, NY, died in the World Trade Center just days before the birth of his son Gabi.

“This 10th anniversary hoopla is just the worst because it’s everywhere. Instead of private pain, it’s public pain,” Jacobs said in her Heller School office on Thursday afternoon. “It’s one thing to be scarred, but it’s another to have a gaping wound all the time.”

The last time Ari Jacobs spoke to his sister at a family birthday party in New York, he talked about how excited he was to be a father, hopeful that his son would be born on his birthday, Sept. 16. He was born one day later.

“It’s even sadder that he couldn’t be a father,” Jacobs said. “Those are great father characteristics—to love someone purely.”

Jacobs told stories of her brother’s cherished time with his family and how he loved to laugh. One time he jumped fully clothed into a swimming pool filled with freezing cold water. On one of Ari’s first dates with Jenna, whom he married in September 2000, he brought his two nieces along for the movie date.

“People were just attracted to him. He was like a magnet,” Jacobs said. “Imagine a person that you could connect with on every level.

“I never met anyone with a personality like his. He was so warm and spontaneous that he lit up a room,” Jacobs said about her brother.

Although he never excelled in school, Claudia Jacobs explained that Ari had risen to become a top sales executive in the financial services industry, running the U.S. operations of Caplin Systems.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Ari Jacobs was running late for a meeting at the Windows on the World, a restaurant on the top floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Jacobs arrived at the meeting just five minutes before the plane struck the tower.

“Life turns on such small decisions,” Jacobs said, explaining the torment she faces every day, wondering why her brother couldn’t have been just 10 minutes later to his meeting.

“[The victims] weren’t heroes,” Jacobs said. “They were people that happened to be in a building the wrong day of the year.”

In fact, neither Claudia Jacobs nor anyone else in the family even knew Ari was at the World Trade Center that day until his office notified them.

“Somehow I was never as angry at the people who did it as at the randomness of it,” she said. “It was a senseless loss of life.”

It’s the senselessness and randomness of the attacks that bother Jacobs the most, and the wars that America launched only strengthen that anger. America needs to focus on helping its own poor who are struggling to survive in order to reunite the nation, she said.

Ari’s nine-year-old son Gabi is torn between a life full of conflicting identities, as he struggles to make sense of the new family he inherited, with two brothers and the older stepsister he gained when his mom remarried and his old life.

“Instead of feeling like I have two dads, I feel like I am two Gabis,” he wrote in a letter published in the Sept. 12 issue of People magazine.

Gabi explained that every year his family sends balloons up into the air with notes attached to Ari.

“I give him an update on how my life is going. Mostly it’s ‘I miss you’ or ‘Life’s going great’ or ‘I just won a championship in baseball.’”

Ten years after Sept. 11, many will disagree over whether our country is united or divided; whether wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are justified; or whether we have grown to live in a culture of fear or security.

And 10 years after Sept. 11, the Jacobs family is reminded once again of the gaping hole in their life.

Speaking about the public discussion of 9/11, Claudia Jacobs said, “You can’t get away from it. If my brother isn’t coming back to me, then none of it matters.”

Terrorism killed Ari Jacobs. And now, Claudia is left with a gaping hole and a smiling photograph of her brother that she never leaves.

On Sept. 11, 2001, few could understand the most senseless of attacks.

Ten years later, it still makes no sense why Ari Jacobs and nearly 3,000 others had to die.

This article has been edited to reflect the following corrections.

Ari Jacobs was head of U.S. operations for Caplin Systems, not Capitol Systems.

An earlier version of this article stated that on one of his first dates with Jenna, whom he later married, Ari Jacobs took his nephews to the movies with him. He took Claudia’s daughters, his nieces, to the movies with him.