Man on a Mountaintop
Alan Lederman and his wife, Nancy Zuckerman, had not spent a vacation apart in the 10 years they were together. But he really wanted to climb Mount Whitney in California. They talked it over. She gave him the go-ahead.
Mr. Lederman, 43, hiked a lot and had done some modest mountain climbs, but nothing like Mount Whitney. A friend, Ed Gilroy, was going to make the attempt, too. They had met in fifth grade. "My brother had very long friendships," said Roni Salkin, one of Mr. Lederman's sisters. He got himself as fit as he could. Every day, he went up and down the 14 flights of his Manhattan apartment building, listening to his Walkman.
In July, he and Mr. Gilroy traveled to the West Coast and began climbing. It was not easy. Some altitude sickness stopped Mr. Gilroy short of the top, but Mr. Lederman went on and made it. On his cell phone, he called his wife at her office and breathlessly announced his achievement.
Mr. Lederman was a senior client specialist for Aon, a job he had started just two months before Sept. 11. His wife had returned from her own trip to visit friends on Sept. 7. Awaiting her in their apartment was a picture showing Mr. Lederman at the peak of Mount Whitney, his route and his signature in the visitors' log. He had written, "Where is the snack bar?"
"I have it high on the wall in my bedroom, above his desk," Ms. Zuckerman said. "I feel my husband is peering at me from heaven."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 20, 2001.
Alan Lederman, 43, at the peak of life
Alan Lederman was on top of the world this summer.
In July, he landed his dream job in the World Trade Center with Aon Corp., the insurance company.
And in a two-week break before he reported for work, Mr. Lederman and a childhood friend from North Brunswick decided to climb Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States.
When his pal, Ed Gilroy, couldn't make it all the way up the 14,494-foot peak in California, Mr. Lederman tried to spare his feelings by saying he too had fallen short.
But he hadn't. A picture the 43-year-old New Yorker took of himself at the summit shows him in shorts and a cap, a delighted grin on his face. He also signed the visitor's log at the top.
"He wrote down, 'Hey, where's the snack bar,' " said Jeffrey Salkin, his brother-in-law.
Mr. Lederman was in his office on the 92nd floor of Two World Trade Center when a hijacked jet tore into the other tower on Sept. 11. He called friends and family members to say he was okay.
Most of his co-workers left the building before a second plane rammed into his building. But two women were paralyzed by panic and weren't budging.
"He stopped and tried to help them," Salkin said. "That's the last we know. They're missing as well."
Born in Flemington, Mr. Lederman spent most of his life in North Brunswick. He was crazy about animals, particularly collies, and was one of the first people in his neighborhood to have a computer.
He worked for many years for his parents' North Brunswick hardware business, then took a series of jobs in the insurance industry. He moved to Manhattan about a decade ago, after marrying his wife, Nancy.
Mr. Lederman had a knack for making and holding onto friends. When he went out for his climbing trip this summer, he stayed at the home of Steve Kerekes, a buddy from elementary school.
He sent a steady barrage of group e-mails to friends and family members, featuring jokes, petitions to protect the environment or updates about what he was doing that week. Some of his friends are using those messages now to share their grief with other people whose e-mail addresses appeared on those lists.
"He just always had a way of making you smile," said Matt Manuel, a friend of Mr. Lederman's since 1988. "He would call up and say, 'Hey, buddy boy.' It was what he always called me. It's one of those things: You're going to miss those phone calls."
Mr. Lederman is survived by his parents, Stanley and Lila Lederman of North Brunswick; two sisters, Jean Lembo and Roni Salkin, and a brother, Nathan Leaflight.
A memorial service will be held at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Temple Neve Shalom, 250 Grove Ave., Metuchen.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the Sierra Club.
Profile by Jeff May published in THE STAR-LEDGER.