Dinah Webster: A Tribute
Nobody needs to remind you that today is the fifth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, the crash of Flight 93, the attack on the Pentagon. Each one of us can still describe, to the tiniest detail, where we were when we first heard about it and how we spent that day in fear, afraid to step away from the news coverage, heartbroken over the losses. But let’s not focus on fear and anger today. Let’s instead remember and honor and love those 2,996 men and women lost — whether we knew them or not.
Today I honor Dinah Webster, a beautiful woman beginning a new phase of her life. I never met Dinah, but I feel a kinship with her. I’m close to her age, and my life is experiencing similar change, new beginnings. From what I’ve learned, she’s the type of woman I would have enjoyed sharing laughs and memories and dreams over a glass of wine. I’m sad that I know her only after the fact.
Dinah spent her last hours at Windows of the World, on the top floor of the North Tower. She and several of her Risk Waters Group coworkers — including her fiancé, Neil Cudmore — were attending the Waters Financial Technology Congress, hosted by her company. The meeting began minutes before American Airline Flight 11 crashed into the floors below them. The president of Risk Waters shared his memories of that day one year later.
I watched a Discovery channel special on the World Trade Center attacks last weekend. One of the vignettes was on Windows of the World, with reenactments depicting what the conference attendees went through — fear, confusion, sadness. It was that vignette that most affected me. Dinah Webster was assigned to me the next day. I’m glad I saw the program so that I could understand her final hours.
The recently engaged Dinah and Neil (weren't they a lovely couple?) had transferred to New York City after working together in Hong Kong. Dinah was with Risk Waters longer than anyone, joining their London office in 1989, transferring to Hong Kong in 1995, and moving to New York in 2000. She was the advertising manager at the time of her death.
According to a tribute to her on the Risk Waters site:
The one virtue almost every client mentioned was her professionalism. She was successful in what she did because she made clients feel at ease. They enjoyed meeting her and many of them became her friends. Dinah was always willing to take on anything asked of her and go anywhere on business she was asked to go. She took everything in her stride and never got flustered, even during organisational or travel crises that would have taxed the resources of the United Nations. Dinah could be stubborn but you could never get upset with her, said a former colleague, who also recalled that Dinah brought a touch of glamour and class to the office.
But her life wasn’t just about her work. Over and again friends mentioned her zest for life, her elegance, her thoughtfulness, her meringue-topped mincemeat pies she served with champagne.
According to friend Peter Skipp:
Dinah was a wonderful, lively, breezy, feisty lady. Never a bore, never even a suggestion of fatigue! Very British and upright. I remember her once coming to the office after her flight from America had been delayed. Short of change, she had borrowed a 50 pence piece from someone at the airport to ring-in and apologised for being late (this was before mobiles, of course)! Her first job in the office? To tape a 50p coin to a piece of card, write a nice 'thank you' note and mail it back to whoever had lent it to her! I also remember once furiously beating egg whites with her so she could make us all a strawberry Pavlova on impulse. Dinah had served as a stewardess with Monarch Airlines way back, and I remember being slightly awed by her because of that.
After a year in Manhattan, Dinah and Neil purchased a home on Long Island, and they were planning to adopt a child. As friend William Rhode wrote in an online tribute, they were putting down roots and finally settling down. “Neil was applying what he wanted for his life to his life. He and Dinah really knew how to live passionately, especially in their love for each other.”
Dinah and Neil’s new home was in Port Washington, on the north shore of Long Island, supposedly the real-life version of East Egg Village in The Great Gatsby. How fitting that Dinah lived happily amid the elegance we imagined for Daisy Buchanan. At that home she loved gardening and being with Neil.
Another friend, identified only as J, posted her photo I’ve used here, and wrote:
I took the photo of Dinah that sits above these tributes. It was taken in Hong Kong on one of our many nights out. We worked there together in 2000, a time I remember fondly for her and Neil Cudmore's hospitality. They were truly together wherever they travelled. They lived for each other. That they died together, horrific as it is, was fitting. Dinah was a beautiful, vibrant lady — a real touch of old-fashioned class that so many people these days could have learned from.
There’s a bench dedicated to Dinah and Neil in the graveyard of the Dorset, England, village where Neil owned a home. Dinah’s parents held a memorial and thanksgiving service for the couple in the U.K. one month after they died.
Dinah and Neil are remembered and loved daily by the friends and family they left behind.
Dinah Webster was memorialized on The United in Memory 9/11 Victims Memorial Quilt:
To you, Dinah, my respect and remembrance. To your family and friends, my thoughts and prayers.
If you knew Dinah or Neil and have a story to share or a fact to correct, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Labels: 2996 Project