By Heide Brandes
MOORE, Oklahoma (Reuters) - The chairman of a New York-based investment bank that lost more than half its employees in the attacks on September 11, 2001, handed out $1,000 debit cards on Monday to victims of last May's deadly tornado in Oklahoma, as it continued its program of helping others who suffered devastating loss.
Howard W. Lutnick, chairman of Cantor Fitzgerald LP, which was located on one of the top floors of the World Trade Center when hijacked planes flew into the buildings in 2001, gave the debit cards to more than 2,000 families affected by the massive tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma, on May 20.
The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund distributed the debit cards to families identified by the Moore School District as having a child enrolled in local public schools at the time of the tornado and whose homes were damaged or destroyed.
Cantor established the fund after 658 of its 960 employees perished in the September 11 attacks. The money has been used to help families of Cantor employees who died, as well as victims of disasters since 2001 such as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, the Asia tsunami and the Haiti earthquake.
"We know loss better than almost any company," Lutnick said. "We said we were going to rebuild the company with a purpose, and that purpose was to take care of the families of our employees."
Laura Whitthorn, a Moore resident, said the debit card was a welcome relief. Her children were not among those killed when the massive tornado struck Plaza Towers Elementary school although they attend the school.
"They didn't get to have birthday parties this year, so it would be nice to be able to buy them new clothes and things," Whitthorn said. "Part of it will go to make repairs on the house. We have duct tape holding the house together."
The Moore tornado, rated at the highest EF5 level at its peak, struck the town and adjacent areas with winds estimated up to 210 miles per hour. It's path was up to 1.3 miles wide and 17 miles in length.
Among those killed were seven children at Plaza Towers school, which did not have a tornado shelter.
(Reporting by Heide Brandes; Editing by Greg McCune and Bob Burgdorfer)