You Should Have Known Marty. You Would Have Liked Him
NEW YORK - You should have known Marty. You would have liked him.
Martin Boryczewski - missing person file No. 133 to New York City - died a year ago today, probably a little after 9 a.m. No one knows for sure because Marty has never been found. Just like everyone else in the office of Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower, Marty likely died from the intense heat and flames when American Airlines Flight 11 was turned into a murderous missile.
They're all gone.
Marty lives on, though, in the hearts and memories of his mother, sister and everyone else who knew him. He lives in the boxes of pictures inside his condominium in Hoboken, N.J., just a seven- minute train ride from the twin towers. Marty was always on the fast track.
"Marty was so loyal to everybody in his life," sister Michelle says. "He was so smart, so brilliant. When he walked through that door though at the end of the day, he was just a regular guy."
Today, people will gather at ground zero to give speeches of hope and inspiration. President Bush will speak about honor. Somber gatherings and moments of silence will be the order of the day as the living try to make sense of the senseless.
What matters most, though, is Marty and more than 3,000 others who died in the combined attacks. They are the reality of Sept. 11.
It's not about sound bites; it's not about revenge.
It is about sorrow, pain and loss.
The politicians will go away.
The pain never will.
Marty was 29 when he died. He was 6-foot-2, about 180 pounds, with a face that could have been lifted from the cover of GQ. His eyes were hazel, but his family says the color depended on the lights around him. And he was always smiling.
He was an up-and-comer at Cantor Fitzgerald, a bond brokerage house where stardom didn't come easily. Before that, he played baseball in college at St. Peters in New Jersey, then four years in the minor leagues. He spent a season with the Lakeland Tigers, a Class A farm team for Detroit. And people say that if he had wanted to, he probably could have been a professional soccer goal-keeper. He was that good.
He graduated from Morris Catholic High School in Denville, N.J., in 1990, then took seven years to work through college because of his baseball career. He left St. Peters with a degree in financial management. Marty didn't like to leave things undone.
He used to take batting practice in the dark. While his teammates were out partying, Marty would grab a bat and head to a pitching machine.
"He told me that if he could hit a ball in the dark like that, it ought to be easier to hit it in the daylight," says Frank Bolton, a friend from Wesley Chapel.
Frank, 70, once employed Marty at his softball school in New Jersey. When Frank and his wife built their retirement house in Wesley Chapel, Marty stayed there while playing for the Tigers.
And when his playing career was over, Marty kept in touch and came to visit a couple of weeks every year. Friends mattered a lot to him.
"Marty and I used to talk all the time," Frank says. "We would have discussions of some depth. He was bright, articulate, a sensitive and caring young man. He liked to read, write poetry. He was interested in Zen and in world ideas."
The day before Marty died, he and Frank chatted over the Internet by instant messages. Frank wondered what Marty wanted to do eventually. Marty messaged back that he planned to work until he was 35, then retire to Montana as a fishing guide. He wanted to work seven months a year, and ski for five.
Fishing was important. He liked to take his bass boat every weekend to Pennsylvania to visit his dad. Once he was out the door, work was behind him. Work was a means to an end, not his life.
Frank planned to come to New York today for the anniversary. He was thinking about Marty, of course, and all those Marty touched. People such as Jeff and Marie Bruener, who live in Clermont now. They used to live across the street from Frank in Wesley Chapel, but Marty might as well have been their neighbor.
He always made sure to visit. He spent time with their 7-year-old son, Tyler, teaching him how to bat and throw.
"There was an instant bond between those two. Marty was one of those guys who wasn't afraid to get down to a kid's level. After Marty got released from the Tigers, he came to Wesley Chapel to gather his thoughts," Marie says. "But even though he was disappointed, he came to see Tyler. He gave Tyler an autographed bat he had used."
Tyler keeps the bat and a baseball card in his room.
A few days after the attacks, the Brueners saw Marty's family on CNN, searching through the wreckage. That's when they had to tell Tyler that Marty probably had died.
Then he did something else. He wrote a letter to Marty to say thank you for being his friend.
Someday, maybe Tyler will understand what happened last year.
Someday, maybe everyone will.
Searching For Anything
There are so many memories about that day, and they come rushing in on Michelle and Marty's mother, Krystyna, at odd times, from unexpected places. But they bring familiar pain.
Marty wasn't supposed to be on the 104th floor that morning. He had been put in charge of a new Cantor Fitzgerald office on the Jersey Shore. It was supposed to have opened in July, but that got pushed back to Labor Day, then pushed back again.
Krystyna heard the news first over the radio. Something was wrong at the towers.
"I thought, 'Oh my God, that's where Marty works,'" she says.
She called her other daughter, Julie, and Julie called Michelle. Something awful was happening. Turn on your TV.
Michelle began to shake and cry, her voice raw.
"I turned on CNN just as the first tower was falling," she says, sobbing. "All I remember screaming was, 'Marty! Get out! Get out!' When the second tower was hit, I'm like, 'Oh my God! What floor is he on? Marty! Marty!'"
"Then the experts come on TV, and one of them gives an estimate of how long the towers could stand and how long it would take for someone to escape from the top."
She frantically counted him down, one floor at a time, as if somehow the urgency in her voice and her will could guide him to safety.
"And I'm like, 'Marty! Oh God, Marty, you're in the 20s. Run! Run!'"
Even now, she shrieks and her voice rises as she tells the story. She calls to Marty still.
Inside they always knew, though, there was no place to run.
A telephone number flashed on the TV screen to call for information. Michelle, Julie and Krystyna took turns dialing. For nine hours straight, it rang busy. When someone finally answered, all that person could say was "sorry" and give them another number to call.
"We had sheets and sheets and sheets of telephone numbers," Michelle says. "We were calling and calling and calling. All the time, just calling. Trying to find something out."
No one could give them anything but another number.
Michelle stayed home and kept dialing while Krystyna and Julie went on foot to the hospitals in New York. Walking door to door. Has anyone seen my son? My brother?
"We heard about all the severe burn victims that you couldn't get in to see," Michelle says, her eyes red and moist. "They wouldn't even say if the person was male or female."
Accepting The Loss
The family used Marty's condo as the central meeting place. A few days after Sept. 11, Michelle was straightening up when she noticed the bathroom sink.
"He had obviously been shaving that morning," she says.
She carefully pushed the flecks of stubble onto a tissue for safe-keeping. She keeps them still.
"It's all I have of him," she says, her hands shaking, her voice barely a whisper.
Later, she went through some of his papers, mail and canceled checks, trying to put things in order. There were so many checks. He gave $1,000 to this charity, $1,500 to that good cause. He gave so much.
"We didn't know he did any of that," Krystyna says. "We never knew."
Officials wanted DNA samples to match against body parts they were finding at the disaster site. Michelle gave them bits of hair from a brush but kept the stubble. No one found a match that belonged to Marty.
Family members were allowed into ground zero, and everyone noticed the office papers littering the wreckage. The sisters and Krystyna began madly sifting through the papers, desperate to find anything with Marty's name. Anything to grab hold of.
"Nothing ... nothing ... nothing," Michelle says.
They even went through the 18 trailers in Memorial Park, set up by the Medical Examiner's Office. Eighteen trailers of body parts.
"There's a part of me," Michelle says, "that says, 'Well, they haven't shown me anything yet.'"
But no, Marty is gone. Krystyna remembers when she accepted that.
"That's the day we went with survivors on a ferry to see the site," she says. "That's when the door closed for me."
Still, some days she wonders. Some days she momentarily forgets.
"I remember one day I thought, 'I'll call Cantor and see if they know anything,'" Krystyna says. "Then I remembered I can't. There's no one there to call."
The family finally signed the papers for the death certificate. That was hard. When it was delivered to their home by FedEx, Krystyna and Michelle knew what it was. They tossed the envelope, unopened, on the table.
Getting On With Life
By now, Marty would have told his family to move on.
Thanksgiving was horrible. Christmas was a little better. That's because the family decided to volunteer for the Salvation Army at ground zero. They painted Christmas ornaments for the workers there, little glass balls with Marty's name on the side.
It was hard to tell who cried harder when the gifts were passed out - the recipients or the givers.
They had a birthday party a few weeks ago. Marty would have been 30. Michelle wasn't so sure that was a good idea, but a lot of friends came. They laughed. They told stories. The children ran through the house and played. Marty would have liked that.
Michelle has organized a softball game in Marty's memory, with the fire departments from Hoboken and New York playing for charity. The money will go to Marty's memorial baseball fund. Maybe some child will go to college because of what they raise.
Michelle was expecting a couple of hundred people to turn out for the game Sept. 21. Now it looks like there'll be thousands.
The people will be there for Marty. Or maybe they'll be there to remember some other friend or family member who got in madmen's way last September.
They'll try to smile. They'll probably cry. The politicians will be somewhere else by then, and the echoes from their speeches will have faded. Pain will remain, along with sweet memories of the kind of people you meet every day.
Martin Boryczewski, missing person No. 133, was one of those.
You would have liked him.
Profile by Joe Henderson published in THE TAMPA TRIBUNE on September 11, 2002.
Leaving Work at Work
Martin Boryczewski, 29, gave himself four years to make it into major league baseball. He played for Class A and AA teams of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers before giving it up and switching to financial trading.
At Cantor Fitzgerald, he dealt energetically with the pace and stress -- and at the day's end, he left it completely behind. "If you'd so much as mentioned work," said Brian Hartigan, a friend, "you'd get this look, like, 'We're not talking about the job.'"
But he would talk about nearly anything else. "Fly-fishing to Nietzsche," said Mr. Hartigan. "Baseball to religion. He'd start with something simple and wind up saying something very deep."
Weekends were sacrosanct. First, he went to Parsippany, N.J., to see his mother and then to rural Pennsylvania to his father's place. There, he took the boat out and went fly-fishing -- his passion. He felt fully at home in the woods and on the lake. His dream was to retire early and become a fishing guide in Montana. Fishing, the woods, wildlife: When he was back in the city, he could happily discuss them every evening.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 14, 2001.
Martin Boryczewski, 29, life of the party
In his 29 years, Martin Michael Boryczewski was a ballplayer, a trader and a fly fisherman. He loved the excitement of his trading job at the World Trade Center, and partying after work with his friends in the business. "Marty-the-one-man-party," they called him.
But every weekend, he would go home to Parsippany to spend time with his family. Then he would head to the home of his father, Michael, in Pennsylvania, where he would fish the afternoons away.
"If you'd see him standing by the water, it was like he was one," said his mother, Krystyna Boryczewski of Parsippany. "He belonged there. He was part of the scene."
On the night of Sept. 10, she called to tell her son the fishing equipment he had ordered was sitting in her garage, waiting for him. The next day, Krystyna Boryczewski heard about the attack on the World Trade Center on the radio while she was at work. She called him, but never got through.
His fishing equipment, still boxed, sits at her home.
Born in Passaic, Mr. Boryczewski grew up in Parsippany and had recently moved to Hoboken. He was the baby in the family, adored by his two older sisters, Julie and Michele.
He went to Morris Catholic High School in Denville and Saint Peter's College in Jersey City. A talented athlete who also liked to write poetry, he excelled in baseball while in school. He went on to play in the A and AA Minor League divisions of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers.
Later, he took a job at the trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald.
"He was multitalented and also multifaceted," said Frank Bolton, who met Mr. Boryczewski over 10 years ago at a batting cage in Rockaway. Despite being about 40 years apart in age, the two struck a close friendship.
The day before Mr. Boryczewski's death, they spent half an hour chatting over the Internet. His dream, he told Bolton, was to retire soon and move to Montana. He would be a fishing guide for seven months of the year and hit the ski slopes the other five.
It was a dream he shared with many, including Corinne Gerin of Manhattan. The two met at a party in Manhattan a year and a half ago, and her attraction to the sweet-faced broker with the "goofy smile" was instant.
On their first date, she made dinner and he brought a movie -- one of his favorites, she said. It was "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."
"He knew every word, he knew every song," she said. "He was this guy who had an incredible life and he was really successful at what he did, but it all came down to these simple kind of truths in life . . . what it means to be a good person."
While their romantic relationship trailed off, they stayed in touch, and were thinking about trying again, Gerin said. "I always felt that he was 'the one,'" she said, "and it was important to stay in touch. We both thought we had time."
To Peter Venturini, Mr. Boryczewski "was the little brother I never had." Venturini met him over 10 years ago, and coached him in baseball. Eventually, he said, "Marty lived at my house. He ate me out of house and home. He was Uncle Marty to my kids.
"Marty lived his life like everybody wished they could," Venturini said. "He did what he wanted and he enjoyed his life and he brought a lot of people along the ride with him. That was why people loved him so much -- he made people love their life."
Profile by Paula Saha published in THE STAR-LEDGER.