Written by David Arluck, Founder of Fitter and Faster
Like millions of other people, the attacks of September 11th remain a deep wound for me. The day was even more terribly tragic for those who lost husbands, wives, fiances, parents, children, siblings and other loved ones.
It is still so hard to talk about the events of that day. A few months back I explained to my son what happened and where I was. It was very difficult to get the words out. We discussed the heroism of those who risked their lives to help – and those who perished. We also talked about how first responders from throughout the USA came to New York to help with the rescue in the aftermath. Amidst all the tragedy, it really was special how the country united.
The horrible events of September 11, 2001 were life altering for so many people. The decisions I made about my life in the days and weeks following this awful event led me to the life I live today and perhaps the connection I have with you through Fitter and Faster and the Olympics.
In 1997 I moved back to New York after several years in San Francisco. Despite living for 3 years across the street from the only 50 meter pool in New York City, I had never taken a swim in it. I was always working. In late 2000 I decided to join the Masters Swim Team at the facility – Asphalt Green. Quickly my passion for swimming and the new friends I made became an important part of my life. We worked out together about 3 or 4 days a week. A few of us would lift weights together. Every Thursday, after evening practice, a dozen of us would go to Brother Jimmy’s for dinner. We had a lot of fun together.
At the time of the attacks I was 30 years old and had been out of college for a bit over 8 years. That day, all of my friends and I on the swim team lost people in our lives: friends, family, colleagues from work and acquaintances. We also lost two teammates: Andrew Fisher and Doug Irgang.
These horrible events left me and so many others feeling empty. I became acutely aware of the fragility of life and the realization that my time on earth was finite.
Seeking a sense of purpose, a few days after the attacks, I co-founded and became Chairman of the Andrew Fischer and Doug Irgang Memorial Scholarship and corresponding fundraiser called “Swim for the Future” at Asphalt Green. The scholarship enables deserving kids from diverse backgrounds to join the team at Asphalt Green. Since its inception, more than 400 scholarships approaching $1 million have been awarded since 2001. One of the very first recipients of this scholarship – Lia Neal – went on to become a two-time Olympian and attended Stanford University.
As a result of working with Swim For the Future, I began to think differently about the direction of my professional career and a future with a family. I started a company called Arluck Promotions and had a number of clients in various sports, but my passion was always swimming. In late 2003 Gary Hall, Jr. reached out to me to see how he can help with Swim for the Future and explore other business opportunities. Soon after, he became a client and I moved down to Miami Beach to be closer to Gary as he made a run at qualifying for his 3rd Olympics in Athens, Greece, where he went on to win his 9th and 10th Olympic medals.
Six months after moving to Miami, I met my wife, Jessica. She lived in the same building as me! Next week Jess and I will be celebrating our 16th anniversary. We have two kids: Alex and Alivia.
The worst things that happen to us can lead us in a positive direction. “That day” led me to my family and led me to turn my passion for swimming into a career working with hundreds of thousands of swimmers through Arluck Promotions and Fitter and Faster… and likely led to you and I becoming connected in some way.
Memories of the World Trade Center surround me every day in my office. My most special memento is an 8 inch banner that my parents bought for me when I was probably about 10 years old when we went as a family to visit the top of the World Trade Center to look at the magnificent views of New York.