Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Joshua David Birnbaum

Joshua David Birnbaum at archive.org

A DJ and Bond Trader Who Made an Impression

March 8, 2002

Jill Birnbaum stood near the finish line of the San Diego Marathon in January because of a promise the 19-year-old had made to her older brother, Joshua, sometime last year.

It was a run the 24-year-old Joshua hoped to finish, but never started. The assistant bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald was killed in the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11.

But Birnbaum's sister waited at the finish line of the 26.3-mile race that Martin Luther King Jr. weekend just the same.

Joshua David Birnbaum had planned to run the marathon and had requested his sister be there at the finish line. Despite Sept. 11 and its aftermath, his sister still made the trip to San Diego, their mother, Marcel Birnbaum of Oceanside, said.

"Jill decided she would get tickets a few weeks before the marathon, and go there and honor her brother," she said.

Sharing her grief and reason for being there with some in attendance, she inspired the event's organizers: The first "Spirit of Joshua Award," will be given to a runner who had overcome great odds to complete the San Diego Marathon next year.

In a message written to her brother on his Web site, www.samsson.com, she wrote: "You did it, You crossed that finish line like a true champ. OK, so maybe you didn't physically cross the finish line in San Diego, but in your life, with all you accomplished and all the obstacles you overcame... you crossed that finish line. And the greatest part about it was that I got to keep my promise. I stood there, with tears in my eyes, sorrow in my heart, and you on my mind."

Born in Holbrook in 1977, Birnbaum graduated from Oceanside High School in 1995, and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Columbia University in 2001.

Birnbaum spent a semester interning at Atlantic Records in Manhattan where "he made a lasting impression," his mother said. He was one of three out of 75 applicants who received a job on the bond trading desk of Cantor Fitzgerald, "shortly after graduation," his mother said.

But his alter-ego was never fully suppressed by suits and ties. DJ Samsson, as he called himself, spun records in his spare moments, at benefit shows in college, raves, and even in Tennessee, his mother said. Birnbaum coined the moniker from family dynamics. He was Sam's son, and proud of it, Marcel Birnbaum said.

Birnbaum's father, a director for global quantitative research at Salomon Smith Barney in Manhattan, was instrumental in his son's choosing a career in finance, and always served as a guide, and friend for him. "He felt that being that his dad is in the financial field, it was the true path for him," his mother said. "I think he realized what a good family and support system he had."

She called her son "a persevering spirit," who "influenced a lot of people in his life along the way to do positive things." He was "always there to guide and to listen."

Birnbaum, a resident of Manhattan, spoke to his mother shortly after the first plane flew into Tower One, she said. Her son worked on the 104th floor.

"He said something hit the building and that there was smoke everywhere," she said. "He told me the ceiling was falling down around him, and that he needed to tell all of us that he loved us. I told him to find someone to be with so he wasn't alone. He said, 'OK, Mom,' and the phone went dead."

-- Nick Iyer (Newsday)

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