His father called him "the perfect son in every respect." Admiration
for the adult child, however, went far beyond the perspective of a proud parent.
John Griffin Jr., director of Operations at the World Trade Center for only
two weeks before September 11, was a man who embraced life - both professionally
and privately. As J.D. Maarleveld once commented, when explaining his brother-in-law's
energy and vitality, "In his spare time, he slept."
At 6-foot, 8-inches tall, Griffin, 38, was a giant in height and heart - very
giving and caring, and rarely thinking of himself. Children from every background
flocked to him - a virtual kid-magnet, according to his friends, who good-naturedly
nicknamed him "Barney" after the fictional purple dinosaur. Inspired
by his mentoring father's career, he began his own love affair with real estate
development and management in 1979; married his soul mate, June; and was blessed
with two daughters, Jenna and Julie.
Griffin was co-founder of The Torch Foundation, a non-profit corporation open
to all members of the real estate, facilities, contracting, and design industries
in the greater New York area, which partners with children-in-need charities
and offers significant donations of time, money, and service to forward its
mission of "Building a Foundation for a Better Tomorrow." The timing
of the foundation's inception (1989/1990) coincided with the personal loss of
John and June's one-month-old son, Jonathan, to a congenital heart defect. Griffin
believed the foundation's philosophy - "passing of the torch" (training
children to be leaders of the next generation) - was a way to keep Jonathan's
memory alive. Among many other benevolent activities, the family is also involved
in Hope With Heart, an organization that offers week-long camps for children
with heart conditions, and the Fresh Air Fund program, which gives urban children
a chance to enjoy summer vacations away from the city.
At work, along with a ready smile, Griffin offered upbeat comments (mixed with
a little trivia about cartoons and movies), yet was the first to offer his broad
shoulders when comfort was needed. More importantly - whether or not the courtesy
was returned - he wanted to meet and know you.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Griffin arrived to work in his office on the 88th floor
of the World Trade Center's north tower when the plane hit floor 89. Miraculously
safe, he and a colleague evacuated a column of 25 people through the stairwell
- Griffin at the rear. At some point, he stopped to help a woman overwhelmed
by smoke. She lived, as did the others. Sadly, John Griffin Jr., further lending
his assistance throughout the descent, did not.
Helping people was his passion - and he proved it time and again, in life as
in death. His spirit remains bright among his family, friends, and colleagues.
Every day, John Griffin Jr. made a difference, and he will be missed.