9/11: Hemanth’s Memory Set In Stone

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A Tribute By Team Mangalorean
Photographs: R. K. Bhat/Brian Santhumayor/Roshan D’Souza


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Mangalore Sept 10, 2006: As we move forward, we pause to look back at that horrific moment in time, to relive those stories.  Five years ago, Hemanth Kumar Puttur was working for a Wipro’s client – Marsh and McLennan on the 97th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  He is one of the many who succumbed their lives in this horrible tragedy that transpired on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, at 8:46 a.m.  He was only 28 years old then. There were four US planes that were hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania; killing nearly 3,000 people in a matter of hours.  On this day Americans saw a worst tragedy in its civilized history to date.


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September 11, 2001 (File Photo: Roshan D’Souza, USA)


American Airlines Flight ?11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. and at 9:03 a.m., the United Airlines Flight-175 crashed into the South Tower, the World Trade Center in New York and at 9:59 a.m. and 10:29 a.m., the two towers collapsed.  At 10:29 a.m., American Airlines Flight-77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. And at 10:10 a.m., United Airlines Flight-93 crashed in Southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


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WTC Soon after 9/11 (File Photo: Brian Santhumayor, USA)


Hemanth Kumar was the proud son of Shri. P. Ananda and Smt. P. Kusuma of Puttur, a town 30 miles away from Mangalore.  Speaking to our team member – R.K. Bhat, Hemanth’s father says – a few days before the tragedy, Hemanth called home and wanted to take him and his wife to US on holidays.  Hemanth’s wish was fulfilled, not to join him for a holiday but to pay homage to him.


Hemanth’s father Anand, a simple yet humble man is a tailor by profession and owned a small tailoring shop, through which they made their living.  His desire was to give all his three children good education.  Hemanth was the youngest among sibship of three.  He has one sister Seema P and a brother Prashanth Kumar.


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A Memorial with life size picture of Hemanth inside the ‘Hemanth Kumar Smaraka Bojana Shaley’ (Pic: R.K.Bhat)


Hemanth did his pre-university education at St. Philomena College after attending Mai de dues, a local school in Puttur.  Hemanth knew there was no way his father, who had already incurred debt just to put his two elder children into college, could afford the ‘donations’ to secure admission to his younger sibling.  Hence, it was a vital need and worked extra hard at the pre-university level to ensure he got a merit seat in college.  Due to his hard work and determination Hemanth secured first class with distinction and found a seat in the Kauruji Venkatramana Gowda Engineering College in Sullia, about 20 miles away from Puttur. 


After graduation in 1995, he worked for a software firm in the Information Technology Center of Bangalore.  He joined Wipro in 1997.  His job at Wipro, ended up traveling around the world, handling the robust company’s clients in Britain and the US.


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Hemanth’s Parents


Hemanth arrived in New York in July 2001, and was appointed as a Database Manager at Marsh and McLennan.  As a highly conscientious and hardworking man, he was in the habit of getting to work well before 8 a.m. – hence, he was at his desk, when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. that surreal morning, which shook the Nation in disbelief as well as the whole world!  An agonizing moment in Hemanth’s parent’s life to see his body for the last time but unfortunately, no trace of Hemanth was ever found!


Hemanth’s family has received a considerable amount of money as compensation.  However, money cannot be equalized to Hemanth’s life.   Hemanth’s father ? Anand paid Rs. 300,000 (about $6,500) to the local government authorities in Puttur, to erect a huge welcome arch just before entering the town in 2004.  The simple inscription at the base says it was built in memory of Hemanth Puttur.  Anand’s family takes their surname from their hometown Puttur.


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‘Hemanth Kumar Smaraka Bojana Shaley’  (Pic: R.K.Bhat)


‘Hemanth Puttur Memorial’ it says in Kannada and English on the side of the nearly 20-foot high concrete structure.  Hemanth’s family has built a shopping complex named ‘Hemanth Plaza’ with the money they got as compensation.


Anand Puttur also donated Rs. 1.5 million (about $35,555) to the Sree Narayana Guruswamy Mandir in Puttur to build a dining hall named ‘Hemanth Kumar Smaraka Bojana Shaley’ (written in Kannada – Dining Hall in memory of Hemanth Kumar), in his son’s memory.   Every September 11, they have memorial ceremony for Hemanth with special prayers.  All the devotees who attend are provided with free meals.


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Hemanth’s residence – Puttur (Pic: R.K.Bhat)


Three of Hemanth’s colleague’s also met the same fate.  Hemanth, Shreyas Ranganath, Shashikiran Kadaba and Deepika Kumar, were all working at Marsh and McLennon in New York’s World Trade Center.  Wipro in Bangalore has named four halls in its rambling campus at Bangalore’s Electronic City after them.


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A memorian plaque displaying the names of victims also includes the name of Hemant Puttur (Photo by : Shyamala Rao Kuwait)


Hemanth carved out a niche for himself not only in the family circle but also in the society in general.  He had a rare quality of intelligence and commitment, with his simplicity, integrity, honesty, humility, transparency and God-fearing nature.


Anand says that Hemanth’s loss has left a gaping void in his family’s life, which, otherwise, remains unchanged even despite the compensation that they have received and the saga continues.  He was on his way to a great success and many dreams yet to be fulfilled which remains unfulfilled? Anand’s voice breaks off, and his eyes glaze over in grief. 


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Five years ago, those who plotted ruin brought chaos and destruction to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight-93 as so many died, so many suffered, so many continue to grieve, to question, to struggle with the aftermath of lives so abruptly and violently ended.


A treachery was worked, a treachery of hate. There may indeed be reasons for the hate.  Nevertheless, hate needs to be named, and recognized.  When hate seeks to be embodied, it ensues in inhuman acts of terrorism.


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WTC Today (Photo: Brian Santhumayor, USA)


In the wake of the tragic events that occurred on Tuesday, September, 11, 2001, our heart goes out to those people and families who have lost their – mother, father, son, daughter, grandfather, grandmother, friends and their dear and near ones.


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‘Hemanth Kumar Smaraka Bojana Shaley’  (Pic: R.K.Bhat)


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9/11 Memorial at Madame Tussauds New York (File Photo: Roshan D’Souza, USA)

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