His friends say David Berry ’80 was the world’s most avid consumer of Dr. Pepper and Saltine crackers.
His wife says it was his “major snack in life, from when he was eight years old.”
He always studied with them, had stores in his room, even years after he graduated, while he studied in London. After he moved to New York, got married and had a family, his friends remember going to his house and immediately being offered soda and crackers.
In his adult life, Berry was a well-known financial analyst, the executive vice president and director for research at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, a brokerage firm with offices on the 89th floor of 2 World Trade Center.
In the moments after a hijacked plane hit 1 World Trade Center, Berry called his mother, his father and his wife to tell them that he had not been hurt, according to the New York Times. Then the second airliner hit his building, and he was not heard from again.
Before Sept. 11, he was Saltines and Dr. Pepper. He was grilled chicken from Au Bon Pain for lunch every day. He was Manhattan Transfer at Toad’s and Elvis Costello in Manhattan. He was fireworks from below the Mason-Dixon Line and Saran Wrap for Halloween.
He was a researcher and a regular media source because he spoke simply and predicted impeccably. He was a husband and a father of three boys under 10 years old: Nile, 9, Reed, 7, and Alex, 5. He was 43 years old and lived in Brooklyn.
“David was a man who instead of having to think every day, found the thing he wanted and stayed with it,” said his wife, Paula Grant.
She said it was this deep-seated sense of routine that gave liberty to the impulsive, the funny, the daredevil side of her husband that his friends recall as “trademark.”
At Yale, Berry was popular, clever and happy, out of the mainstream but with a group of a dozen or so close friends.
He was a physics and philosophy major, a rabble-rouser, a “clean-cut, good-looking American boy,” said his friend and roommate Jesse Hochstadt. And he was a master of the unexpected, the impromptu.
“On the first day of school our first year, I went up to his room with him and it was lined with record albums,” Hochstadt said. “We’re talking vinyl. I started looking through these records and saw Pink Floyd and, yes, which, in those days, were pretty out, pretty ancient. I remember thinking there’s more to this guy than meets the eye.”
Hochstadt, like most, best remembers his friend for the fireworks.
One year Berry drove south on Interstate 95 just to the point where fireworks became legal. He stopped at a place called “South of the Border” and bought a tremendous quantity of explosives, which he and his friends then launched from the Calhoun roof. Hochstadt remembers people turning their speakers out their windows and blasting the music from Star Wars.
They were called into the master’s office, as everyone tells it. They were told to sit down in a circle of chairs. But before the master even spoke, Berry hopped up out of his chair and said, “these are our demands.”
Friends and family all tell the story the same way: with deference to the ringleader and his guts, and with the same sense of retrospective irony, the iconic scenes of fireworks, smoke, youth and freedom now indelibly paired with the the other, more recent scene of fire, smoke, lost youth and assaulted freedom.
David Shelby Berry was born on May 31, 1958, in Oklahoma City and graduated cum laude from Yale, studying later at the London School of Economics. He joined Keefe, Bruyette and Woods in 1986 and quickly rose in the ranks, making a name for himself as an expert in banking and finance.
Since Sept. 11, the dozen or so friends from Calhoun College, most of whom weren’t in close contact any more, 21 years after graduation, began writing, calling, reminiscing.
Suzanne Lehmer, a friend from London, remembered Berry breakdancing with a group of kids on a street corner in New York.
“It typifies him,” she said. “He just had this incredible spirit for living. He pursued what he wanted to do without concern for whether it was the popular thing to do.”
John Levin ’83, a business associate who shared a house in the Hamptons with the Berrys, remembered David as the last to panic, what his wife calls “well-ruddered.” He remembered him as brilliant at what he did.
And Grant remembers her husband as focused. He was great at archery in high school, pointed and determined in the same manner when it came to his work, his marriage, his children.
“He paid his dues in a way. He was not somebody who decided he wanted to be the best analyst and be on TV. The lesson you learn and what I’ll teach my children is if you are good, if you put in the time and work, all the fame and glory comes to you,” she said.
She said he was focused in the same way as a father. He respected each kid as an individual. He more than tolerated their love of roller coasters and swimming. He knew the names of every Pokemon.
And then there was his music.
All of his friends, his Yale roommates Arthur Lenhardt and Jesse Hochstadt, his friends from work and from the London School of Economics, his wife and his family, remember Berry first as a music-lover. He was always trying to turn people on to different kinds of music, always going to concerts. As Hochstadt says, “he was an avid listener.”
In Berry’s senior yearbook, next to a picture of a good-looking kid with deep-set eyes and a slightly cleft chin, listed under his home address in Oklahoma city and his senior year room number, is a quote from Jim Morrison, Berry’s parting words from this university:
“I will tell you this: no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.”
Sometimes David Berry saw the sun rise over the Long Island Sound from his perch on the 89th floor of 1 World Trade Center, the south tower.
Sometimes he saw it with his wife and kids from his apartment in Brooklyn. Once, he saw the dawn from the roof of Calhoun College, after a fireworks display, with Dr. Pepper and Saltine crackers.
His wife said, “that was his code, wasting time, wasting anything, he just did not do.”