He Needed the Horizon
He was a corporate cowboy. Gary Bird worked in risk management, but his great joy was riding horses. He was practically born in the saddle. His mother was riding horses when she was eight months pregnant with him, until her doctor stopped her.
He lived in Tempe, Ariz., where he kept three quarter horses. He rode as often as he could, including multiday trail rides. His wife, Donna Killoughey Bird, and two children, Amanda, 15, and Andrew, 13, rode, too, but Mr. Bird was the avid one.
If he wasn't surrounded by open spaces, he would get edgy. In 1984, he was in New York for four days to attend a conference. By the fourth day, he told his wife, "I'm really claustrophobic here, because I can't see the horizon." As she put it, "It was a case of 'don't fence me in.' "
Mr. Bird, 51, took last summer off and spent a good part of it training a new filly named Dani. On Sept. 7, he rode the filly with a saddle for the first time. On Sept. 10, he began a new job as senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan. He was to work out of Phoenix, but spent the first two days in New York for meetings. On Sept. 11, he had a three-hour meeting starting at 8:15 a.m. at the Marsh offices in the World Trade Center. He told his wife he'd be home in Tempe by 8 p.m. for dinner.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 6, 2001.