Keith K. O'Connor

World Trade Center

Keith O'Connor, 28, proud dad and bagpiper

Keith O'Connor had lots of plans, and they all seemed to evolve around the city he loved -- New York.

The 28-year-old Hoboken resident had worked for two years as a sales trader for Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. on the 89th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Eventually he wanted to become a teacher.

Then he planned to move his wife and daughter back to New York, where he was born, back to the center of culture that he craved.

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 put an abrupt halt to those plans.

Mr. O'Connor has been missing since a hijacked airliner crashed into the skyscraper. Moments before the crash, Mr. O'Connor had talked to his wife, Sandra, assured her he was okay and told her to call his parents. She said he had seen evidence that the North Tower had been hit.

"I hoped and prayed that he had evacuated, that he got below where the plane had crashed," his wife said. "Then I prayed that he got out before the building collapsed . . . I stayed home and waited while friends and family went out looking for him."

Now Mr. O'Connor's wife of almost three years is planning a memorial service to commemorate his brief life.

"He was my best friend," she said. "He was the best person I knew. I want to talk to him about all this stuff that is going on, but he's not here."

His friends called him "a gentle giant" because of his stature, 6 feet 5 inches, and his shyness.

He doted on his 2-year-old daughter, Rhiannon, and declared himself a rich man just for having her, his wife said. She said the child is the spitting image of her father with her light-colored hair. She doesn't have his freckles -- yet.

Mrs. O'Connor said she is sure her daughter knows something is wrong. The toddler may be surrounded by a mountain of toys, but still gets clingy and irritable as if she is yearning for her father, Mrs. O'Connor said.

She said Mr. O'Connor, who grew up in Hillside, was very patriotic and regretted that he was never able to serve his country.

Mr. O'Connor also loved music and anything to do with the arts. From the age of 8 on, he played the bagpipes and as an adult was a member of St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band in Kearny. He would showcase his skills in local parades.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. O'Connor is survived by his parents, Frank and Susan O'Connor of Hillside.

Memorial services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Saints Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church, 404 Hudson St., Hoboken.

Profile by Judith Lucas published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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