I repost this opening missive annually with a heavy heart...Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal but love leaves a memory no one can steal.
"What do you want me to do,
To watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well, please don't be surprised when you find me dreaming too;
It's just a box of rain,
I don't know who put it there.
Believe it if you need it,
Or leave it if you dare;
But it's just a box of rain
Or a ribbon for your hair;
Such a long, long time to be gone,
And a short time to be there.
- Grateful Dead, Box of Rain
As many subscribers are aware, on every anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy on Sept. 11, I honor my closest friend who was lost 20 years ago -- Chuck "Brown Bear" Zion -- as well as the other victims of the terrorist attacks that day.
After two decades, it doesn't get easier.
Relatedly, two years ago I received this email from a mutual friend of Chuck's, Don Gher:
A bit of a tear in the eye as I think about tomorrow. I remember the first time you and I talked. You called me and said Chuck told you we should meet. As we were about to hang up after talking, I said you should ask Chuck what was the best baby gift he ever received. About a minute after we hung up, my phone rang and I heard, "A leather bound book of magazines from the week Zachery was born with his name and birthday embossed in gold on the front!" Chuck proceeded to tell me that all these years later, there were times with no one in the house that he would pull the book out that I had made for him and, as he flipped through it, he would cry remembering when Zach was born.
Stay safe, my friend.
Donald L. Gher, CFA
Sadly, Chuck Zion's dad, Rabbi Martin Zion, has passed away. Recently the lovely Jane, Chuck's mom and Rabbi's wife, died. They have joined Brown Bear after all these years of separation.
Please read this column, "Keys to a Life Well Lived," that I had written about Rabbi Zion, based on a letter he sent me in October 2016, two months before his death:
"Who is wise? One who learns from every man ... Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations ... Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot ... Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows."
- Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers
Today marks 20 years since the Sept. 11 World Trade Center tragedy. (Please take some time that day to watch Ground Zero Rising, Jim "El Capitan" Cramer's brilliant documentary on the attack and the subsequent rebuilding).
Sept. 11, 2001, is a day that we will forever remember with clarity and disbelief. I lost my best friend, while members of TheStreet community lost one of our own -- the late Bill Meehan.
It still seems like only yesterday to me, and it's a day that I'll forever remember vividly. As I've written before, 2001 will for many of us forever be annus horribilis, the year of disaster.
On this day, as has been the case for the past 20 years, my eyes remain full of tears. I'm drafting this column in memory of all of those I knew (and didn't know) who lost their lives in the World Trade Center, in Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C.
As I've written previously, it's said that death leaves a heartache that no one can heal, but that love leaves a memory no one can steal. And so it will be today as we observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
As I've done in each of the intervening years, I want to use my opening missive to repeat the thoughts that I've often expressed about Sept. 11. As always, I dedicate this column to those who were lost -- especially to my best pal, Chuck Zion (a.k.a., "Brown Bear"):
"Chuck worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokerage firm that lost nearly 700 employees 18 years ago. It was the hardest-hit company in the World Trade Center tragedy, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the building's deaths that day. I lost many friends at Cantor on Sept. 11: Eric, Pat, Timmy -- too many to count. So did many others. And of course, we all lost one of TheStreet's own, Bill 'Budman' Meehan.
In Cantor Fitzgerald's equity division, none had more of a presence (literally and figuratively) than Chuck Zion. He was known to his friends and clients as 'The Brown Bear,' a sensitive, giving and caring friend; father to Zack; son to Martin and Jane; and husband to the amazing Carole ('Cheezy'). His love was pure, and there was never any pretence -- not wordy, he was on point.
The largest producer over the past decade at Cantor Fitzgerald, Chuck was master of his universe. He was straightforward and clear-cut, a no-nonsense and respected partner who was remarkably generous but never, ever wanted others to know it. He gave often and substantially but always anonymously, without strings attached. Chuck, who also worked at Salomon Brothers and Sanford C. Bernstein, put on some of the largest trades in the history of the equities market. He was the player the 'big boys' went to when they wanted anonymity. And I am talking multimillion-share trades, the really big prints.
And it was Chuck who introduced me to Bill Meehan. He even had me fill in for Budman on a few occasions in the Cantor Daily News.
I cherished and loved Chuck Zion -- he was my confidante and a brother that I never had. When I moved to Florida in the late 1990s, Chuck introduced me to his father and mother -- asking me to take them out once or twice a year, to look after them a bit. In time, Rabbi Zion and Jane became more than casual dinner mates; they became my mother and father, so Chuck and I really were like brothers (though absent the same blood).
I spoke to Chuck every morning at around 6:15 a.m. If I didn't call him on my direct line to Cantor's trading desk by 6:20 a.m., he'd get angry and yell at me in no uncertain terms! Invariably, legendary money managers Neil Weissman, Stanley Shopkorn, Dan Tisch or Phil Marber (Cantor's former CEO) would interrupt our daily calls. He would take their calls, and then shortly, Chuck would call me back. We rarely talked about the stock market, preferring to talk sports and food (his favorite activity!). Sometimes Chuck would tell me to check out Maureen Dowd's editorial piece in The New York Times ('Dougie, she is mandatory reading'), or who was on Imus that morning. I got him to buy a couple of harness horses with me for fun and he got a kick out of them as we followed their losing races. 'We'll get him next time,' he would say (his credo) -- though we never did!
We played golf together (Chuck wrote the word 'Lost' on each of his golf balls because he lost so many of them that he wanted the other players to know they were his), usually with Phil Marber or SAC's Andy Smoller. We talked NCAA football and basketball, especially about Syracuse University's teams (his alma mater). But mostly we talked about our children.
The Friday before Sept. 11, 2001, was my last day in the office, as I was leaving for Europe for 10 days. That day we spent a lot of time talking about his son Zack, reminiscing about the trip Zack and I had recently taken to New Haven to Yale University, where he watched me lecture at Dr. Robert Shiller's class on short-selling. Chuck was so proud of the way Zack had become a man. And he was nervously awaiting Greenwich High's football season with such anticipation. (They had won the state title the previous year, with Zack playing the offensive line.) Every time he talked about the upcoming season, his voice would rise several decibels. He was the proudest father on the face of the earth.
That Friday morning, the last day I spoke to Chuck, I was playing a Grateful Dead song in the background and I had Chuck on the speaker. Chuck was never what I would call 'into' music. He was certainly not a fan of the Grateful Dead -- maybe Motown, but not the Dead. Surprisingly, in our early morning talk, Chuck remarked how beautiful the song was. The song was Box of Rain, and the lyrics captured the concept of how short life can be.
Chuck's New York Times obituary is still taped to my stock monitor in my office as a forever reminder of his loss. The paper is now aged, yellowed and torn, but the scars still seem fresh.
Today, after writing this missive, I will again share Chuck's memories with his many friends (like Phil Marber) and with numerous longtime subscribers to TheStreet and Real Money Pro (like Don Gher who has already sent me a note). They were all Brown Bear's business associates, recipients of his wise advice or just friends -- and who, as they have every year, will pass on their day's thoughts to me in e-mails or phone calls, which I eagerly anticipate and will always cherish.
Real Money Pro subscriber Don Gher mailed me a classic story [two years ago] about Brown Bear. Don was thinking about Chuck and relayed that one of his pals, ex-Cantor Los Angeles and Dallas trader Eddie Weber, told him that one day he was at Cantor's NYC office, and he and Brown Bear walked out of the World Trade Center to grab lunch. There was a hot dog vendor there, and Chuck asked how many he had left. The guy said 12, and Chuck said, "Sold!" And then they proceeded to eat all of them. That was my brother, Chuck -- an original.
I will never forget Mark Haines' report on CNBC of the first, second, third and fourth incidents that day, as I watched the horror on a television on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.
And I will never forget the real-time reporting -- the confusion and emotion -- at TheStreet on that fateful day, the revelation of the extent of the tragedy and the follow-up tributes by our contributors. (TheStreet's headquarters were physically very close to Ground Zero.)
Ironically or sadly, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) quickly followed on the heels of Sept. 11, 2001.
The most poignant recollection on TheStreet was the following post by Jim "El Capitan" Cramer, who recalled an incident at his synagogue. To this day, it always brings me to tears:
"At our synagogue last night on the eve of the Jewish New Year, our rabbi asked us to shout out the names of friends and family that we'd lost that day. There were so many names, it was frightening and I was glad we had left the kids at home. I felt honored to yell out Bill's name. And I feel honored to have gotten to meet and work with him in his short time on earth. Oops, wanted to cry as I wrote that. Could feel it coming on. Nope, no can do. Not with that picture of him in my mind wearing that funny floral shirt. He wouldn't want us to remember him in any other way than with laughter. God bless your soul, Bill. God bless the Meehan family."
- Jim Cramer, Remembering Bill Meehan
Today I will also share my fond memories of TheStreet's and Cantor Fitzgerald's Bill Meehan with his good pals Jim Cramer, Tony Dwyer, Herbela Greenberg and others, and we will all toast him as so many subscribers did in the fall of 2001.
"All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
Fortunately, on May 2, 2011, some very good and courageous men gained revenge for Osama bin Laden's deeds some 10 years earlier. I hope bin Laden rots in hell, but revenge doesn't reverse the loss of so many.
As Samuel Johnson once wrote: "Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged."
I suppose that living and remembering are the best forms of revenge.
Thanks for reading this, and thanks for letting me wear my feelings on my sleeve.
... As you watch the annual tribute in downtown New York City on Saturday, think about our lost loved ones and how lucky we all are. We all miss you, Chuck.
Below is a plaque memorializing Chuck at Temple Emanuel in Davenport, Iowa, where his dad Rabbi Martin Zion led the congregation:
Finally, I have dedicated my book, Doug Kass on the Market: A Life on The Street to Chuck Zion -- so that every time I pick up my book, I think about and feel ever closer to my pal.
(This commentary originally appeared on Real Money Pro on September 10, 2021. Click here to learn about this dynamic market information service for active traders and to receive Doug Kass's Daily Diary and columns from Paul Price, Bret Jensen and others.)