LAWRENCE — David Beaty’s heart sank when the phone call went unanswered.
Like many Americans, the Kansas football coach remembers exactly where he was the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Then an assistant coach at North Dallas High School in Texas, Beaty was set up in a hallway selling doughnuts to students as the day's first classes got underway.
At 7:46 a.m. CST, American Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. Within minutes, every major TV network and most classrooms across the country locked in on the developing terror attack, though few identified it as such at the time. That changed when United Flight 175 struck the South Tower at 8:03 a.m., a moment Beaty witnessed live while watching on a school TV.
Beaty’s first thought went to friend Steven Genovese, a high-ranking partner at financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. Genovese worked in the North Tower on the 104th floor, just six levels below the top of the city's tallest skyscraper and only a handful of floors above the impact zone.
“I saw that plane go in there and I reached down and called his number right away, and he didn’t answer,” Beaty recalled. “I knew something was wrong. Just, wow.”
Days passed with no communication from Genovese, one name among the thousands declared missing in the aftermath of the attack. Eventually, Beaty’s worst fear about the situation was realized.
Genovese was one of the nearly 3,000 people who died as a result of the attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. He was 37.
Beaty took a moment to honor Genovese as well as the other victims and their families at the beginning of his weekly news conference Tuesday, the 17th anniversary of the attack. In a later interview with The Topeka Capital-Journal, Beaty went into more detail on his friendship with Genovese — one which formed from a lifelong bond between the pair’s wives.
Genovese’s wife, Shelly, and Beaty’s wife, Raynee, had been close since the two met in middle school — “They’ve been best friends forever,” Beaty said. A professional model, Shelly moved from Texas to New York and there met Genovese, a natural of sorts in the financial world.
“He was a really, really high-up guy — a very, very successful stock guy,” Beaty said. “He didn’t even go to college, but this guy was so sharp. I mean, just a sharp guy."
Shelly and Steven got married and in 2000 welcomed their first child, daughter Jacqueline.
The new family’s trips back to Dallas helped develop the friendship between Beaty and Genovese. Just months before 9/11, the Beaty family made its first and only visit to the Genovese residence in Basking Ridge, N.J., staying overnight while on a trip to attend the graduation of Raynee’s brother from West Point.
One subject from that evening still sticks with Beaty. After a few drinks, he convinced Genovese to discuss the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center, an attack Genovese survived.
“It was a crazy story because they all thought it was going to be a bad deal then because there was so much smoke,” Beaty said. “He said he didn’t know if they were going to make it down because there was smoke in the stairs. Remember, they bombed the bottom.”
Beaty couldn’t help but think about that story as 9/11 unfolded.
An obituary in The Star-Ledger in New Jersey described Genovese as a motocross enthusiast and thrill seeker whose view on life was "live it to the fullest while keeping family and friends as close as possible." The New York Times reported Genovese’s family-first approach included adopting his wife's family tradition of wearing matching pajamas on Christmas morning — "He thought we were the biggest dorks dressing alike, but he totally went along with it," Shelly said.
Shelly struggled to process the devastating day. Her husband’s last words to her came in a voicemail left shortly after the first plane struck, pleading with her to wake up and turn on the news. In the days after the attack, she baked her husband strawberry bread and made him dinner, holding out hope for a miraculous return. She still talked about him in the present tense a month after his death.
Faith helped her eventually cope with the crippling loss, Beaty recalled.
“Man, she’s been the picture of what being a great Christian woman looks like,” he said. “She has used her story, her testimony all over the country. She raised her daughter. She’s remarried to another terrific guy, Heath Calhoun, who is just a godsend because he’s become that family leader and knows how you should handle a situation like that, right."
The bond between Raynee Beaty and her childhood friend grew after the attack in part, the fourth-year Jayhawk coach believes, because Raynee also experienced the unexpected death of a loved one — her college boyfriend, Stephen F. Austin football player Cally Belcher, died after suffering a brain aneurysm at a practice in 1994.
“So they both have been through a loss,” Beaty said. “(Shelly) has been just a picture of what professionalism looks like. She continues to really use her story to empower others throughout.”
Opportunities to spend time with Shelly have been hard to come by in recent years, Beaty said, but fate has again linked the two families in one fitting way.
Jacqueline Genovese, only a toddler when her father passed, and Beaty’s daughter Averie are both students at Texas A&M and even share the same house as members of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
“(Jacqueline) wasn’t even looking at Texas A&M, and then all of a sudden she goes to visit and now she’s rushing,” Beaty said. “... It’s funny how the world brings you back together.”