Project 2996: David Shelby Berry Remembered – South Tower World Trade Center 9/11/01

David Shelby Berry, 43, was on the 89th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the southern side of the Tower facade at 9:03 a.m. EDT. He was on the phone talking with his wife Paula when the line went dead. He had spoken with his parents just minutes before.

David Shelby Berry Project 2996 Memorial

David Shelby Berry
Project 2996 Memorial

Mr. Berry was a well-known banking analyst appearing on television, including CNBC and PBS and was often quoted in financial publications. He was the vice-president and Director of Research at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc. He joined the firm in 1986. He had testified before Congress several times on banking issues. In 2000, thestreet.com named him “the best stock picker” for banks and the Securities and Exchange Commission dedicated this report to him.

Friends at his alma mater remembers that David was “the world’s most avid consumer of Dr. Pepper and Saltine crackers.

His wife says it was his “major snack in life, from when he was eight years old.”
He always studied with them, had stores in his room, even years after he graduated, while he studied in London. After he moved to New York, got married and had a family, his friends remember going to his house and immediately being offered soda and crackers….

Before Sept. 11, he was Saltines and Dr. Pepper. He was grilled chicken from Au Bon Pain for lunch every day. He was Manhattan Transfer at Toad’s and Elvis Costello in Manhattan. He was fireworks from below the Mason-Dixon Line and Saran Wrap for Halloween.

He was a researcher and a regular media source because he spoke simply and predicted impeccably.

“David was a man who instead of having to think every day, found the thing he wanted and stayed with it,” said his wife, Paula Grant.

She said it was this deep-seated sense of routine that gave liberty to the impulsive, the funny, the daredevil side of her husband that his friends recall as “trademark.”

At Yale, Berry was popular, clever and happy, out of the mainstream but with a group of a dozen or so close friends.

He was a physics and philosophy major, a rabble-rouser, a “clean-cut, good-looking American boy,” said his friend and roommate Jesse Hochstadt. And he was a master of the unexpected, the impromptu.

“On the first day of school our first year, I went up to his room with him and it was lined with record albums,” Hochstadt said. “We’re talking vinyl. I started looking through these records and saw Pink Floyd and, yes, which, in those days, were pretty out, pretty ancient. I remember thinking there’s more to this guy than meets the eye.”

Hochstadt, like most, best remembers his friend for the fireworks.

One year Berry drove south on Interstate 95 just to the point where fireworks became legal. He stopped at a place called “South of the Border” and bought a tremendous quantity of explosives, which he and his friends then launched from the Calhoun roof. Hochstadt remembers people turning their speakers out their windows and blasting the music from Star Wars.

They were called into the master’s office, as everyone tells it. They were told to sit down in a circle of chairs. But before the master even spoke, Berry hopped up out of his chair and said, “these are our demands.”

Friends and family all tell the story the same way: with deference to the ringleader and his guts, and with the same sense of retrospective irony, the iconic scenes of fireworks, smoke, youth and freedom now indelibly paired with the the other, more recent scene of fire, smoke, lost youth and assaulted freedom…

In Berry’s senior yearbook, next to a picture of a good-looking kid with deep-set eyes and a slightly cleft chin, listed under his home address in Oklahoma city and his senior year room number, is a quote from Jim Morrison, Berry’s parting words from this university:

“I will tell you this: no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.” Read much more about David at Yale Daily News.

He was born in Oklahoma City, graduated Casady High School and graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Physics. He received a Diploma of Distinction from the London School of Economics.

“In playing with the children, there was no distraction,” she said. “He was nowhere but right there in the moment, right there. He knew where to put his energy, and that’s a form of wisdom.”

“It was so elegant for him, like a fine math proof, simple and just right there, and very clear.” ~ Paula Grant

David was survived by his wife Paula, an executive of Scholastic, Inc. and sons Nile Philip then 9, Reed Nicholas then 7 and Alexander Ashton then 5, his parents Nancy Michaels Berry and Charles N. Berry, Jr. and two brothers, Nelson and Michael, both residing in Washington State, three nephews and one niece. David and his family were living in Brooklyn, New York. His mother, Nancy was a long-time Tulsan, now living in New York City. Her father (David grandfather) was a charter member of Southern Hills Country Club. The SHCC golf course is played on the PGA every few years.

The Oklahoma City Foundation has a fund to benefit Casady School in David Berry’s name.

Visit Project 2996 here.  Bloggers, if you are participating in Project 2996 this year and link here, I’ll link back inside this article.

My previous 9/11/01 Memorials for Project 2996:

2013: Captain Gerald F. DeConto, Pentagon
2013: David Shelby Berry, South Tower World Trade Center
2013: Wayne Terrial Davis, WTC North Tower
2012: David E. Retick, American Airlines Flight 11
2011 – Robin Kaplan, American Airlines Flight 11
2011 – Laurie Ann Neira, American Airlines Flight 11

Linked at GulagBound – read a 9/11/01 Tribute to Mark Shulman from New Jersey here.