In memoriam: three die on Sept. 11
By Barbara Sieck
While the entire country was recovering from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the College community learned that one alumnus was on board one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers and two other alumni were working in the two main towers and were reported missing after the attacks. Dr. Frederick Rimmele III '90 was a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the World Trade Center. Brock Safronoff '97 was working as a computer programmer at Marsh & McLennan on the 96th floor of Tower 1. Maurita Tam '01 was on the 99th floor of Tower 2 working for the Aon Corporation.

Here are their stories:

Frederick Rimmele '90

Frederick Rimmele III is often described as a man with a wonderful sense of humor, an outgoing, playful personality and a deep, trusting manner. He was a doctor, a teacher and a nature-lover.

Rimmele grew up in Clifton, New Jersey. He attended Montclair Kimberley Academy and was an Eagle Scout during his high school years.

At Amherst, Rimmele majored in Chemistry and English, rowed crew, was an editor and writer for the humor magazine The Sabrina and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude.

His thesis advisor, Professor of Chemistry Allen Kropf, said he remembers him as a "soft-spoken, serious student who was conscientious and enthusiastic in his research." Rimmele wrote his senior thesis on the role of certain proteins in one's sense of smell.

"He loved his time at the College, and made it a point to keep in touch with many members of his class," his wife, Kim Trudel, said. "It was very important to Fred to maintain friendships and relationships with people, and he did so successfully. He was always reaching out to people."

After graduation, Rimmele attended Duke Medical School. His best friend from Duke, Dr. Moshe Usadi, remembered Rimmele's medical goals. "He was unusual for Duke, because it is a research and specialty oriented medical school, and he was very interested in primary care," Usadi said. "He was always into delivering healthcare to those people who needed it."

Dr. Mike Lambke, who gave the eulogy at two recent memorial services for Rimmele, agreed. "When he chose primary care as his specialty, some people told him he was throwing his career away. But it reflected his vision."

Rimmele completed his residency training in Maine and then moved to Marblehead, Mass. There, he worked at the Hunt Family Medical Practice and taught medical students in the Beverly Hospital residency program.

Trudel des-cribed Rimmele's teaching experience as one of growth for both professor and student. "He was so into growing and learning more, and felt he had really done that in his residency," she said. "He wanted to go back and teach residents. Not only was he training new doctors, but he was being intellectually challenged himself."

According to those who knew him, Rimmele cared deeply for his patients. Trudel said she received over 300 letters and cards in the weeks following his death, many of them from his patients recounting Rimmele's special impact.

"Many of his patients have talked of Fred's ability to thoroughly lay out the options for treatment, discuss the pros and cons, and not just make the decision on their behalf," Trudel said. "He was very compassionate and kind and they valued his guidance."

Rimmele met Trudel, his wife of four years, on a hiking trip in Maine. Friends of the couple speak of their close relationship with each other. "They were incredible together," Usadi said. "He had always been a cheerful person, but he became happier when they met. They complemented each other so well."

"He had such a special relationship with his wife. As a couple they kept getting stronger and stronger," Lambke added. "Together they were so welcoming and honest."

Rimmele's other loves included nature and bird watching. Usadi recalled how he and Rimmele would escape the stress of medical school by fishing, exploring swamps and enjoying the outdoors.

On Sept. 11, Rimmele was headed to California, where he planned to attend a medical conference and to do some bird watching in Monterey.

Friends are devastated by his death. "He treated every human he met as a substantial, important person," Lambke said. "Fred was a remarkable person. He was the kind of person you always hoped you could be."

"At his memorial service, there were people from all different walks of life. They were there because they had the same feelings about him," Usadi said. "He had the amazing ability to bring people from different backgrounds together."

Frederick Rimmele was 32.

Brock Safronoff '97

Safronoff was raised in Traverse City, Mich. "He was a marvelous, multi-faceted person," said his high school principal Dick Townsend.

A man described by many as passionate, talented and genuine, Safronoff excelled in many areas while at Amherst. He was an excellent student, majored in Chemistry and was a starting pitcher on the baseball team for four years.

Professor of Chemistry David Hansen, Safronoff's organic chemistry teacher and thesis advisor, remembered him fondly. "Brock was an ideal colleague in the lab: intelligent, outgoing and personable, yet gentle and understanding. He wrote a beautiful thesis on antibody tutalysis and was a hard worker an all around great person."

Although Safronoff had planned on going to medical school, an Introduction to Computer Science course he took during his junior year changed his plans. Safronoff loved the language and programs of computer science and took several advanced programming courses while at Amherst.

After college, he worked in Cincinnati and then as a programming analyst at the Marsh and McClennan Company located on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center.

Safronoff was the star pitcher for his Traverse City Senior High baseball team and continued his streak while at Amherst. He was a four-year pitcher, and was described by his Amherst baseball coach, Bill Thurston, as "one of the finest young men I've ever coached."

Thurston said Safronoff led the team in earned-run average two of the years, was meticulous on the mound and was an excellent all-around player. However, he added that Safronoff is most remembered for his spirit and sense of responsibility to the team.

Thurston spoke last week of plans for a plaque on the Amherst baseball field in Safronoff's memory, and an annual baseball award to be given in his name.

Several friends remembered Safronoff's passion for music, citing Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana as his favorites. "Brock had every Pearl Jam CD ever made. We went to some concerts together, saw Rush on their last tour," friend Ian Downes '97 recalled. "He was a huge music fan."

While at Amherst, Safronoff also filmed basketball games and worked in the equipment room and the athletic office.

Downes looked to Safronoff's ability to balance things equally and fairly, citing two Amherst faculty members who attended his memorial service. "Both his chemistry teacher and his baseball coach were there," he said. "He touched people equally. He was always the same person. Everyone appreciated how genuine he was."

Safronoff was a man with many passions: his friends, his work, his baseball and his music-but most of all, his wife. Married only 40 days before the morning of Sept. 11, Brock Safronoff and Tara Neelakantappa-Safronoff '97 dated since the beginning of their freshman year at Amherst.

After a seven-year courtship, they were married on August 3, 2001 at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Staten Island, with a Hindu wedding ceremony the evening before.

Friends spoke of their commitment and love. "Everyone who knew them knew they were absolutely perfect for each other," said Downes. "They were both funny and both did incredible things, but didn't take it all too seriously. They took everything in stride." He went on to talk about how Neelakantappa would come to watch Safronoff play baseball. "You could tell that she knew what was going on in his head: when he was happy and when he wasn't. They were connected," added Downes.

Over 300 people, including Amherst President Tom Gerety, several professors and coaches and 15 of Safronoff's baseball teammates attended his Sept. 29th memorial service in Staten Island. His brother Aaron Safronoff gave the eulogy, speaking of the incredible role model that he had in his brother. "It was a heartbreaking service," Gerety recalls. "Traditional, lyric, with an eloquent eulogy."

Fellow baseball team member Justin Cronk '97 described the service as emotional, but full of remembrances of the kind of person Safronoff was. "It was just very sad," he said. "Brock was a hero to us all."

Downes agreed, "He was a selfless, caring person. A role model for everyone."

Brock Safronoff was 26.

Maurita Tam '01

Maurita Tam grew up in New York City, a second generation Cantonese-American.

Tam attended Stuyvesant High School in New York. There she was involved in many activities, earning academic honors, studying French, working on science research and winning a prize in Chinese storytelling.

Her major advisor, Professor of Economics Beth Yarbrough, spoke of reading Tam's high school teacher recommendations. "They are glowing with praise of her classroom performance, and of her ability to help other students," she said. "At this very young age, faculty viewed her as a colleague and friend."

Tam spent her first two years at Amherst studying sciences, but an introductory Economics course in the spring of her sophomore year changed everything. Despite the lateness in the process, she decided that she wanted to change her major.

Yarbrough talked about how Tam was able to successfully complete her "crash Economics major" by doubling up on certain courses. "She took difficult courses that we usually recommend students don't take together in the same semester, but she did it all, producing terrific work."

After graduating, Tam took a job at the Aon Corporation on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center.

While at Amherst, Tam was involved in the Asian Students Association and lived in the Asian Culture House (ACH) her junior and senior year. Friends and professors speak enthusiastically about Tam's kind nature and sunny personality. "When I remember Maurita, her smile comes to mind," fellow ACH resident Tanya Sengupta '03 recalls. She points to a continuing theme of Tam's ability to be a mentor and "big sister" for others. "It was nice when it was two in the morning and you're trying to get work done. She was always there to talk and hang out with," she added.

Her friend Debbie Liao '00 remembers Tam as "one of those people who could touch you and leave an impression on you years later. Her general joy for life, her sweetness as a person and her intelligence, marked by modesty and openness, pointed to who she was."

Perhaps the greatest of all Tam's passions was her love for singing. A soprano and member of both the Women's Chorus and the Concert Choir, singing was a large part of Tam's life on campus.

The day after her graduation in May, Tam joined Choral Director Mallorie Chernin and 40 other choir members on a two-week tour of Central Europe and the Czech Republic, where they performed in four different concerts and at a church service in Hungary. Tam made a video of the entire trip and presented it to the choir when they returned.

Fighting back tears, Chernin spoke of a recent conversation with Tam's mother. "She called Maurita her 'nightingale,' because she loved to sing so much. When singing, she would have the most beautiful look on her face."

Tam's memorial service was held on Saturday, Oct. 6th in the United Nations Chapel in New York City. Amherst choir members and alumni attended to pay their respects and to sing three songs that they knew Maurita loved, including Randal Thompson's "Alleluia."

Just three weeks before she was killed, Tam was back at Amherst, singing. "We beg the alumni to come back for the freshmen's orientation performance and a handful do," Chernin said. "Maurita was one of them."

"Maurita is someone who would have wanted us to build stronger bonds with each other and to rejuvenate old friendships," Liao said. "She was always happy and smiling and sunny, she was someone to go to when you needed joy and love."

Chernin agrees, "She was a happy, healthy, charming, intelligent and loving human being."

Maurita Tam was 22.

Issue 07, Submitted 2001-10-22 11:20:23