Guest commentary: My son was killed on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. His last moments still haunt me.

Ted Adderley is pictured as a boy with his mother, Mary Beth, and sister, Elizabeth.

La Jollan Mary Beth Adderley: ‘When I look back over the past 20 years, I realize how much I lost, his sister lost and his father lost, but mostly I think of all Ted lost.’


With the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks coming Saturday, La Jolla resident Mary Beth Adderley reflects on the personal horror that she and her family suffered that day and its lasting impact.

My beloved, sweet, generous, sensitive, brilliant, loving son, Terence Edward Adderley Jr., known as Ted, was 22 years old when he was killed.

He was working in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, on the 93rd floor, for Fred Alger Management, an investment firm. It was his first job after he graduated from Vanderbilt University in May 2001; he started his job in July 2001. He enjoyed working for David Alger as a financial analyst in a field he studied at Vanderbilt. He was both excited and nervous about working for such a prestigious investment firm in New York City.

I can’t imagine the terror that was felt when the people in the upper floors of the World Trade Center saw the airplane flying right toward them, if they saw it. But I know the terror I felt when I couldn’t get in touch with my son that morning. He didn’t answer his phones. Calls to his cellphone went right to voicemail.

I sat and watched the building burn with the gaping hole where I knew my son was likely located, then I saw the building collapse. The feelings of hopelessness were overwhelming. It took me a week to look at a photo of him. He was gone.

I had the unbelievable joy of watching my son grow from a sweet, bright little boy into a strong, handsome, brilliant, mature man. A young man on the threshold of life. A young man whom I loved with all my heart, a young man who loved me back as much.

When I look back over the past 20 years, I realize how much I lost, his sister lost and his father lost, but mostly I think of all Ted lost.

Ted Adderley
Ted Adderley was 22 when he was killed while working on the 93rd floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower on Sept. 11, 2001.
(Courtesy of Mary Beth Adderley)

He never would continue to enjoy doing the research and analysis that he was doing for David Alger. When Ted gave his eulogy for his grandfather, Russ Kelly (the founder of Kelly Services), he said that Grandpa Russ taught him how to read the Racing Form (Russ had been raising racehorses for years) and The Wall Street Journal. Ted said The Wall Street Journal was harder. Working for the Algers was exactly what he had been studying to do from when he was a very young man. It was a wonderful opportunity.

Ted never had the satisfaction of pursuing his chosen career. He never earned his master’s of business administration in finance. He was never to start his own investment firm or work with his father growing the family business, Kelly Services. He never had the gratification of seeing his hard work help others. He never had a well-deserved retirement.

Ted never had the fun of making his first apartment in New York City just right for him and his two friends from Vanderbilt who were to be his roommates.

Ted never had the joyous experience of marrying a wonderful woman, someone whom he could dote on and love completely.

Ted never had the unbelievable joy and undeniable pride of holding his own precious babies. He did not see them grow up to become strong, independent people, contributing to the betterment of society, as Ted would have done.

Ted never met his sister’s two boys. They know about him, but they will never know him, or have him instill in them his values of kindness, generosity, commitment and living a decent, good life. They didn’t see the love and devotion Ted had toward their mother, his sister Elizabeth.

Ted was not with his father when he passed away three years ago. He was not with him to hold his father’s hand and tell him he was loved as his father took his last breath.

No one was with Ted, that we know of, when he took his last breath, and that haunts me to this day. He most likely was alone.

Ted missed the greatest times of one’s life, the struggles that make one stronger, the joys that make life worth living. He didn’t have the opportunity to learn from other cultures and people in travels around the world.

When I think of the life that he should have lived — a rich, full, hopeful, happy life — I realize, too, that the world lost out on the contributions that he could have made to society and the differences he may have made in others’ lives.

In that respect, we all lost when he and the other victims’ lives were cut short that fateful day in September 2001. The world is a poorer place because of the loss of all those beautiful lives.

— This commentary was originally published by The San Diego Union-Tribune.