By Emily Gold Boutilier
Three alumni—Frederick C. Rimmele III ’90, Brock Safronoff ’97 and Maurita Tam ’01—were among the nearly 3,000 who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Maurita Tam ’01 logged into Planworld (the blogging system for the Amherst community) on Sept. 10, 2001, to tout New York City as a place to work after college and to report that she’d seen the movie Sweet November. “From the 99th floor of the World Trade Center,” she wrote, “there’s a beautiful rainbow spanning across the Manhattan skyline. Wowiee!”
On that floor in the South Tower, Tam worked as an executive assistant at Aon Corp. The Staten Island, N.Y., native spoke six languages, held a yellow belt in tae kwon do, played the piano and sang. “My little songbird,” her mother called her.
At 8:46 a.m. the next morning, Tam was at work when American Airlines 11 struck the tower next to hers. Seventeen minutes later a second plane, United Airlines 175, crashed into the floors below her office.
Tam is one of three Amherst alumni killed in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Frederick C. Rimmele III ’90, a family practice physician who lived in Marblehead, Mass., was a passenger aboard United 175. He was traveling to a medical conference in Monterey, Calif. Brock Safronoff ’97, a computer programmer at Marsh & McLennan, was on the 99th floor of the North Tower. A chemistry major, he grew up in Traverse City, Mich., and led the Amherst baseball team in earned-run average.
“Maurita was cheerful, friendly, loving,” says Mallorie Chernin, who directed Tam in the Concert Choir and Women’s Chorus at Amherst. “She had a gentle nature.” President of the Asian Students Association and a webmaster at Amherst, she majored in economics and enjoyed cooking and painting. Says her mother, Julie, “She is forever young.”
Rimmele grew up in Clifton, N.J., and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst, where he rowed crew, edited the humor magazine Sabrina and majored in chemistry and English. His biochemistry thesis focused on sense of smell in cows. In its acknowledgments, he displayed a characteristically self-effacing sense of humor, thanking professors “for their seemingly endless reserves of patience and humor in the face of my seemingly endless reserve of questions and anxiety.”
After medical school at Duke and a residency at Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice, Rimmele practiced in Danvers, Mass., and was on the faculty of the Family Practice Residency at Beverly (Mass.) Hospital. At Rimmele’s memorial service, Allen Kropf, a professor emeritus of chemistry, was struck by how the young doctor had already become an influential colleague and mentor.
Rimmele’s widow, Kimberly Trudel, donated his medical books to Kabul University. In his bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, who delivered the books for Trudel, wrote that she made the donation “believing education was the key to resolving the crisis with militant Islam.”
Sept. 11, 2001, changed several Amherst families forever. Pat O’Hara, the Amanda and Lisa Cross Professor of Chemistry, has a younger brother, Rob, who is a New York City firefighter. Off-duty that Tuesday morning, he was called in after the towers collapsed and spent the months that followed at Ground Zero. He lost half of his ladder company in the attacks. O’Hara’s older brother, Tom, witnessed the World Trade Center attacks from his office across the street. Their cousin Peter Jurgens, a Port Authority police officer, was on his way to a doctor’s appointment when he heard the emergency call and went straight to the scene. He died in the basement of the North Tower.