rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » '20 days after 9/11 we concluded he was gone'

'20 days after 9/11 we concluded he was gone'

Last updated on: September 14, 2011 08:50 IST

'20 days after 9/11 we concluded he was gone'

     Next

Next
Arthur J Pais New Jersey

Neil G Shastri's family has found solace in founding a trust in his name. Arthur J Pais reports.

From the putting greens to the basketball court, Pittsburgh-born and New Jersey-raised Neil G Shastri displayed his passion for sports with a professional zeal.

He even pleaded with his wife Kruti to put a Tiger Woods poster in their room and took out time to play golf during their honeymoon in Hawaii.

Neil, 25, an information technology consultant with Scient/IXL, was working in the offices of one of his clients; financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor of the One World Trade Center (North Tower) when the plane hit the tower between the 94th and 98th floors at 8.46 am. Kruti received his last call some 15 minutes later. He was having breathing issues from the clouds of smoke.

His father Gautam Shastri, a retired engineer, found a way of coping with his grief by starting the Neil G Shastri Foundation.

Click NEXT to read further...


Image: From left, brothers Jay Shastri, Umang Shastri and Neil Shastri

     Next

'Neil was more of a friend than a son'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Hindus cremate members of their family but who would have thought that our Neil would be cremated alive on 9/11, says Gautam Shastri.  

Even though we cannot fully overcome his death, we have been working through the past decade to keep his name alive through the Neil G Shastri Foundation.

Neil was more of a friend than a son. We played golf together, cleared the backyard and dabbled in the stock market. I can still hear his voice saying, 'Dad, the market is tanking.'

Some members of bereaved families go for therapy, but my wife and I did not go. I remember every moment of the fateful day and what happened subsequently.

I was working in the city September 11. I believe Neil called his wife (Kruti nee Naik Shastri; they had been married just three months at the time) and told her about the smoke spreading through the top floor. When I heard what was happening, I rushed to the twin towers, and saw thousands of people coming out. I felt helpless, but I kept looking for Neil, even though the security people were cordoning off the area.

After several hours, I went to his flat in mid-Manhattan and he had not returned. I started feeling then that there would be no chance of his survival.

Family and friends came to help. We started calling up hospitals and the police, but there was no sign of Neil. After about 20 days, we concluded he was gone though they did not find the body.

We had a memorial service in his high school and offered prayers with a few speeches of recollections. We also showed a video of his childhood. We told people, don't bring flowers, but help us to set up a foundation in his memory.

Click NEXT to read further...


Image: Neil Shastri and his twin Jay from their childhood

Prev     Next

'It took us a long time to come to terms with his death'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Neil's brother Umang Shastri recalls happier times and says that accepting his death was very difficult for the family. Neil had four siblings.

My brother and a few friends had planned a backpacking tour in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany, a few years before his death. I joined them with my future wife. Neil had brought along his college sweetheart Kruti, who would be his wife in a few years. At one point some of the boys decided to go to Holland. But Neil and I, and our girlfriends, ended up doing a Sound of Music tour of the countryside in Salzburg, Germany and places associated with the movie, said Umang Shastri.

It took us a long time to come to terms with his death. We were not raised with much religion and we could not take refuge in it.

We had seen a few deaths in the family, but these were older people. It was difficult to deal with the death of someone being taken away so early in life.

Click NEXT to read further...


Image: Neil and Jay Shastri

Prev     Next

'Neil would be proud of scholarship recipients from his school'

Prev     More
Prev

More

The birth of my first child re-energized the family. I was a bit hesitant about naming him after Neil. But then I thought people do it so often - name a child after one's grandfather or a granduncle or a friend. So why not Neil?

Starting the foundation to award a scholarship in my brother's name has given us a lot of satisfaction. It is a small fund now, and helps a few students in New Jersey's Midland Park school, which Neil attended. We also donate money to a school in Bihar.

Among other things, the foundation organises golf tournaments to raise money. This year the producers of the 9/11 play Barriers are helping to raise money for the fund.

Neil would be so proud of the recipients of the scholarship from his school.

Milan Kalawadia, Neil's roommate at Rutgers University has fond memories of a bike trip with Neil.

After we graduated and started working, Neil and I decided to participate in the MS bikeathon (Bike MS that raises money for those afflicted with multiple sclerosis) in New York City along with his brother Umang. On the day of the ride Umang and his friend Rob showed up with their fancy street bikes and biker shorts while Neil (just) brought two 10-speed bikes that he and his twin brother Jay used in high school. I don't think the bikes had been used in over five years.

By the end of the ride neither Neil nor I could bear to sit on the bikes. Our bottoms were so sore! This is my favorite memory of Neil.

He was one of the few people I knew at Rutgers who knew the importance of internship. If he felt something was right, he would do it. And that was true for his marriage at 25.


Image: Portraits of Neil Shastri and his twin Jay from their childhood

Prev     More