Tribute: Lindsay Coates Herkness III
Lindsay Coates Herkness III was born on the 8th of February 1943. His father was a military officer who graduated from West Point in 1939. At the time of his death, he worked for Morgan Stanley as a senior vice president. He lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a bachelor apartment which suited his tastes and lifestyle. He shared that apartment with his beloved basset hound, named Beauregard Hound.
He loved to play squash at the Union Club, where he was a member with his own personal cubby. His friends considered him a ladies' man and a "true bon vivant", yet he chose to be behind his desk every morning before eight. Such a seeming contradiction reveals the complexity of this principled man who set an example for everyone who worked under him, putting his clients' interests first. He stood by his principles, threatening to quit "on the spot" when he learned his assistant was due to be downsized.
A man known among his many friends for his wit and sense of humour, he once designed a Christmas card with a picture of himself in top hat at Wimbledon, being hustled away by two bobbies. The caption read, "I only recommended to Her Majesty that she fund an IRA account". He had custom cards designed and printed each year, often including illustrations of his dogs. The supplier of these cards remembered him as a great guy who was "fun to work with".
Even one of the porters who cleaned his office mourned the passing of this likeable man. And Lindsay took the time to travel to Maine the month before he died to attend his step-sister's birthday party. Clearly he cared about the people around him, and genuinely liked them, and they responded in kind. After the tragedy, a worker on the hotline set up for Morgan Stanley employees and their relatives and friends noted others' love for him was "tangible", evidenced by the fact he received the most calls, "as well as the most urgent calls".
He inspired affection and loyalty in those who worked with him, and women seemed to adore him. One woman contacted him after seeing a "dashing" picture of him holding a tennis racquet in a full page ad. He asked her out, and they dated several times. Lindsay made no secret of the fact that he was a confirmed bachelor, yet she found him mesmerizing. She found his lifestyle, his energy, even his world irresistible.
Another woman thought of him as her "Knight in shining armour". She saw him as a "superman who could be on the go 20 hours a day", then "return to work at 7am for another action packed morning, noon and night". Despite the fact his life was cut short, she felt he had been able to do so much, and brought happiness to so many.
The story of how he broke into the business reveals how witty and charming he could be. Fresh out of business school, he secured free passage on a cruise ship in exchange for conducting an investment seminar on board. By the end of the cruise, at least a dozen wealthy widows were begging him to manage their investments for them. Lesser men might have taken advantage of such a situation, yet it is clear from the reactions of everyone who knew him that he was conscientious and took good care of those who entrusted their interests to him.
He didn't have to come to work on Saturdays, and surely a man with such a love of life could have found other things to do, but he came in on Saturdays to make sure all his clients were well taken care of. He was "always willing to share an idea" with colleagues, and "very helpful to the new kid on the block". He used to "glide around the office from broker to broker", talking, laughing, but always with a purpose. No wonder his co-workers respected this "intelligent, worldly and kind" gentleman with his quick wit and confidence.
One friend described him as "a rare bird, his personality and presence so arresting and impossible to grasp". She also noticed his tendency of "gliding purposefully down a corridor", with "one hand thrust in his pocket and his eyes full of intent and sparkle - like a hummingbird, with so many blooms to probe before the day's end". No wonder friends and acquaintances found the man who inspired such an unusual but vivid portrayal fascinating.
A classy man with his "own unique brand of fun", he nevertheless worked harder than many other, lesser men. Devoted to his own business, he still found the time to offer "words of encouragement" to another man setting up his own investment business. Such contrasts suggest depths of character not often found in any man, let alone one so unfamiliar with adversity his close friend could say "there was never a cloud in his sky".
Yet at the very end he met adversity bravely, and head on. After a plane flew into the tower where he worked, he decided to stand his ground. Remaining where he was, around the 70th floor, he stated, "This is the strongest building in America.", and went back to his desk. In the harsh light of hindsight, this may seem to have been a foolish choice. However, at the time he uttered those words, no one was expecting the towers to collapse.
As a leader, he may have tried to set an example of bravery and so avoid spreading panic. No one knows exactly what he thought that morning, but if he suspected this might be a terrorist attack, perhaps this was his way of refusing to yield to them, of defying them. In light of what we know of his charcter, I am sure he believed he was doing the right thing. If such an icon had shown anything but calm confidence in this terrifying situation, who knows how many might have panicked?
His example probably helped ensure a more orderly evacuation, enabling more of the occupants to escape than would otherwise have been the case. Surely he remembered the chaos during the 1993 bombing, when it took so long to empty the buildings. He had every reason to do whatever he could to prevent a recurrence. He may have saved lives that day, and no man can forsee all that lies ahead.
If he erred, it was an honest error. I believe he deserves credit for making the hard, the least obvious, choice, one that would take away everything he had. So this extraordinary man died as he lived, gallantly and on his own terms. Lindsay, I wish I'd had the pleasure of knowing you while you lived, and I'm grateful for the chance I had to get to know you a little now.
I'd like to extend my apologies to all those who cared deeply for Lindsay Herkness, and who may have tried in vain to find his tribute yesterday. Technical issues prevented some posted tributes from appearing, and those of us who became aware of the problem attempted to provide substitute tributes as soon as we could.