Kent man reflects on life of son who died in 9/11: 'I would like to have been the man that he was'

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Peter Gadiel, of Kent. Gadiel's son, James Andrew Gadiel, 23, of Kent, died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Andrew was an assistant trader at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Peter Gadiel, of Kent. Gadiel's son, James Andrew Gadiel, 23, of Kent, died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Andrew was an assistant trader at Cantor Fitzgerald.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

KENT — Every year for the past two decades, Kent’s Peter Gadiel is notified a donation was made to Washington and Lee University in Virginia, in the name of his late son — James Andrew Gadiel.

At 23, James Gadiel was one of the 2,997 people killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He died while at work as an assistant trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 23rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Peter Gadiel has since learned the donation to the college is made by a woman who went to Washington and Lee with James, and that James “in some way helped her get through an emotional difficulty,” said Gadiel.

“That represents the kind of person James was,” his father says.

In a recent interview, Gadiel spoke of his late son and how his death has impacted Gadiel’s life.

“He was a fabulous child and man,” said Gadiel, who is 73. “He was someone that was really admirable in every conceivable way. I would like to have been the man that he was.”

One year after his son’s death, Gadiel helped create “9/11 Families For A Secure America,” a nonprofit corporation whose goal is to keep America secure from dangerous people living in the country illegally.

The corporation was founded by families of those murdered in the 9/11, and later expanded to include families of victims murdered by people living in the country illegally in other ways, such as in street crimes.

“We had some effect,” Gadiel said, in regard to purpose of the corporation. “We worked to get the government to enforce immigration law so we would know who comes into the country.”

The corporation helped pass the Real ID Act, which allows states to issue non-Real ID-compliant drivers’ licenses and identification cards.

“Under the Real ID Act, there are certain requirements that you have to have when you get licensed that proves that you are who you are and not that you’re somebody else,” Gadiel said.

Additionally, Gadiel testified before Congress several times against the policy of open borders.

While the nonprofit closed in 2013 due to lack of financial support, according to Gadiel, it had hundreds of members.

Town memorial

In 2014, a memorial was placed outside Kent Town Hall in James Gadiel’s memory. The memorial, a large granite stone with an engraved brass plaque, reads: “In Memoriam. To the 2,997 people killed by Islamist Extremists on Sept. 11, 2001. Among those murdered at the World Trade Center in New York City was lifelong Kent resident James Gadiel, 23, a Gentleman and a Gentle Man.”

When the monument first went up, Gadiel said he “made sure that it mentioned that he was one of 2,000-something people who were killed, because it’s not just a monument to James. It’s a monument to everybody who died.”

In reflecting upon the circumstances of his son’s death, Gadiel said his message is to “not be so trusting.”

“We assume people across the world are going to be decent, that they just want to live their lives — and it ain’t so,” Gadiel said. “While we’re enjoying our cars and our steaks and our VCRs, remember, there are real threats out there.”

‘It’s every minute, every second’

Gadiel said thoughts of his late son are never far from his mind.

“It’s like a cloud. You may not see it and may not be conscious of it but it’s there: It’s every minute, every second,” he said. “It colors everything I do 24 hours a day, every second of the day.”

While Peter Gadiel said didn’t have any regular father-son traditions with James, what he misses most is “Just being with him — He was just everything a good human being should be.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com