Working to keep Peter Ortale’s memory alive forever

When North­wood nat­ive Peter Or­tale was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the World Trade Cen­ter, his fam­ily was not alone.

Or­tale’s friends, ac­quaint­ances and col­leagues honored his life in vari­ous ways.

“The out­pour­ing of sup­port and the let­ters that were writ­ten were really un­be­liev­able when you re­flect back on it,” said his sis­ter, Mary Mal­it­as. “People said the nicest things about Peter. It was really quite a trib­ute.”

Peter Keith Or­tale grew up on the 4900 block of Castor Ave. and at­ten­ded St. Mar­tin of Tours, Penn Charter and Duke Uni­versity, where he gradu­ated in 1987 with a polit­ic­al sci­ence de­gree and was a three-year co-cap­tain and All-Amer­ic­an lacrosse play­er.

In 1989, he settled in New York and joined the firm Tul­let & Tokyo. He worked there 10 years.

At the time of his death, at age 37, he was work­ing for Euro Brokers on the 84th floor of the World Trade Cen­ter’s South Tower in New York.

On the morn­ing of Sept. 11, 2001, a Tues­day, he was work­ing when a hi­jacked Amer­ic­an Air­lines plane crashed in­to the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. between the 93rd and 99th floors.

Or­tale called his wife and moth­er, both named Mary, to say that he was OK and would be leav­ing his build­ing. But nobody heard from him again.

A second hi­jacked United Air­lines plane crashed in­to the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. between the 77th and 85th floors.

The ter­ror­ist at­tacks were not over.

A little later that day, an Amer­ic­an Air­lines plane crashed in­to the Pentagon and a United plane crashed in a field in Shanks­ville, Somer­set County after pas­sen­gers and crew fought with hi­jack­ers.

In all, al­most 3,000 people died, not in­clud­ing the hi­jack­ers. More than 2,750 of the deaths oc­curred at the World Trade Cen­ter.

Ten years later, this past Sunday, events were held at all three loc­a­tions to mark that ter­rible day.

“It’s al­most like re­liv­ing it again,” Mary Mal­it­as said.

Or­tale was mar­ried in May 2000 and lived in the SoHo sec­tion of Man­hat­tan.

In ad­di­tion to his wife, moth­er and sis­ter, he was sur­vived by sis­ters Ju­lie and Cathy Grimes, broth­er Gil and sev­en nieces and neph­ews. His moth­er has since passed away.

Fam­ily mem­bers traveled to New York in the days fol­low­ing the at­tacks. In Novem­ber of that year, they held a me­mori­al ser­vice for their loved one at the Cathed­ral Ba­silica of Saints Peter and Paul, and 1,000 people at­ten­ded.

Or­tale was among 61 em­ploy­ees and friends of Euro Brokers who died that day. Since then, Or­tale has been in­duc­ted in­to the Pennsylvania Lacrosse As­so­ci­ation Hall of Fame.

Each Thanks­giv­ing, his fam­ily con­tin­ues a tra­di­tion by play­ing foot­ball.

“We talk about Peter every single Thanks­giv­ing game,” Mal­it­as said.

At Duke, magno­lia trees were planted for him and five oth­er alums who died in the at­tacks. There’s also been a lacrosse schol­ar­ship es­tab­lished in his memory.

Penn Charter also hosts a me­mori­al lacrosse game and has star­ted a schol­ar­ship in his name. The schol­ar­ship is par­tially fun­ded by an an­nu­al 5k Run for Peace. The fifth an­nu­al run and 1-mile fam­ily fun walk will take place Sat­urday morn­ing on the cam­pus of the East Falls school. A con­cert will fol­low.

The events are held in memory of Or­tale and an­oth­er Penn Charter alum­nus, Kenny Cald­well, who died in the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

“We’re very close with Elsie and her fam­ily,” Mal­it­as said, re­fer­ring to Kenny Cald­well’s mom.

Last Fri­day, Or­tale’s fam­ily traveled to New York’s Bailey Pub and Bras­ser­ie for a be­ne­fit for the schol­ar­ship funds. There were live and si­lent auc­tions for ori­gin­al art. Mu­sic was provided by Quaker’s Dozen, a Penn Charter a cap­pella group.

On Sunday, the fam­ily was back in New York for the of­fi­cial 10-year an­niversary events, which in­cluded the un­veil­ing of the Na­tion­al Septem­ber 11 Me­mori­al.

The me­mori­al, where the towers once stood, fea­tures wa­ter­falls and two gi­ant re­flect­ing pools. It hon­ors all the vic­tims of Sept. 11, 2001, along with the six people killed in the 1993 bomb­ing of the World Trade Cen­ter.

Each vic­tim’s name is in­scribed in bronze pan­els on the edges of the pools.

“It looks beau­ti­ful,” Mal­it­as said.

The trips en­abled Or­tale’s fam­ily to meet up with oth­ers mourn­ing 10 years without their loved ones.

“We’ve come to know and love these people bon­ded by tragedy,” Mal­it­as said. ••

Dona­tions to the Peter K. Or­tale Schol­ar­ship Fund can be sent to Wil­li­am Penn Charter School, 3000 W. School­house Lane, Phil­adelphia, PA 19144.

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at  215-354-3034 or twar­

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