Remembering Andy O’Grady – Former UCLA Swimmer Who Died in the Terrorist Attacks of 9/11

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Photo Courtesy: Donna Nelson

Remembering Andy O’Grady – Former UCLA Swimmer That Died in the World Trade Center on 9/11

September 11, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks that occurred in 2001, where nearly 3,000 people died after two planes hit the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City. One of the lives lost on that horrific day was former UCLA swimmer Andy O’Grady, whose story was commemorated in a Los Angeles Times story from late September 2001 written by Helene Elliott.

Andy O’Grady was a native of Harrington Park, New Jersey and swam four years at UCLA for legendary coach Ron ‘Stix’ Ballatore from 1988-1991, making the NCAA meet three times as a freshman, sophomore and senior. He was a co-captain for the Bruins in 1991 and stayed on an extra year as a grad assistant.

About six years after finishing his career at UCLA, O’Grady met Rachel Uchitel on a blind date and a romance ensued. On August 5, 2001 the couple became engaged, with a wedding date set for May 4, 2002.

On that horrific Tuesday morning 20 years ago, Andy O’Grady was a managing director at the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners, working on the 104th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Uchitel was an editor in charge of future projects for Bloomberg News, a television news service.

When the North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit, Uchitel called O’Grady and talked to him briefly. He sounded stressed, she said, but when she asked if anyone was being evacuated from the building, he told her no. When they spoke again, she said he sounded increasingly stressed and told her, ‘Rachel, it’s really chaotic here. You don’t understand. I just saw somebody jump out the window.'”

Seventeen minutes later, when seemingly the entire world watched the second plane hit the south tower, she called O’Grady again. No answer. She searched for days, going to each hospital in the city in hopes she would get some answers whether he was still alive. His body hadn’t been recovered at the site.

“It’s just awful,” said Andy O’Grady’s best friend Rich Tuohey, who helped arrange the memorial service. “Andy was an incredible guy who touched the lives of everybody he met in a special way. His loss will be felt on both coasts, by everyone who knew him.”

Hundreds of O’Grady’s friends and former teammates were on hand at his memorial, including former coach Ballatore, who passed away in 2012.

Each and every year, Andy O’Grady is remembered by the swimming community on September 11.

To read the full story on Andy O’Grady, click here.

 

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