Ruth Ketler photo

Ms. Ketler

Ruth Ketler was kind and compassionate.

She was funny and athletic, intelligent and a successful business executive.

Most of all, she was bright, a light in the lives of those who knew her.

When that light was snuffed out five years ago during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, it left a void in the hearts of her family and friends which they still feel deeply to this day.

Ms. Ketler, 42, who was born and raised in Grove City, worked on the 94th floor of World Trade Center Tower 2 in New York. She had been employed as senior vice president and head of research with Fiduciary Trust Company International.

Just after the first plane hit Tower 1, Ms. Ketler called her boyfriend to tell him about it, saying they had not been asked to evacuate. When another line started ringing, she said she loved him and had to go. That was the last time anyone heard from her.

“We weren’t sure at first if she was among the victims,” said her cousin, Bruce Ketler of Grove City.

“It didn’t seem believable. I saw it on TV and it seemed like a movie,” added Bruce’s mother, Ruth’s aunt, Alice Ketler of Grove City. “Then my sister-in-law (Ruth’s mother, Jane) called and I realized it was Ruthie.

“It’s her mom I feel so badly about,” Alice added. “She never got over it. It was a terrible blow. You just don’t know what to say to her.”

Months after the attacks, Ms. Ketler’s remains were recovered and identified through DNA testing. A memorial service was held in Florida, where her mother and younger brother, David, live. Her father, David, had passed away a few years before.

Bruce and his wife and mother attended the service, as did many of his extended family members.

“We wished we could have met under different circumstances,” he said.

The remaining staff of Fiduciary Trust also held a service Oct. 16, 2001, to remember the co-workers and friends they lost. On the company Web site dedicated to those individuals, there is a section just for Ruth.

“Smart and respected, Ruth always found the bright side, and she was funny, never without a great story, and self-effacing. She was focused entirely on others and was the most caring and trusted colleague, mentor and friend. ...

“Ruth was the glue that held her family together. ...

“She was the epitome of compassion. Her ringing laugh and beautiful smile are burned in our memories forever,” the memorial states.

A 1976 graduate of Grove City High School, Ketler was active in athletics. She was a member of the Ski Club and Girls Athletic Association. She played girls basketball, ending her career as the fifth-highest scorer. She also participated in track.

She then headed for New York, attending Vassar College, a private school in Poughkeepsie. Following graduation, she moved to New York City. She later earned a master’s in business from New York University.

“After she went to college, she just never came back,” Alice said. “She was a career girl, very bright. She had a wonderful personality. She was bright and alert and so fun to be around.

“I can’t imagine that someone in the prime of her life would just disappear like that; just gone.”

Bruce and Ruth grew up 100 yards apart, and though he was 10 years her senior, the two saw one another regularly and were close.

“I miss her intellect. She was very bright, very funny. She had a personality that just sparkled. I can see why she was so successful,” Bruce said. “And even though she moved to the city, she never lost her small-town values. She was quite an athlete too; she was the total package.”

Although Ketler never did return to Grove City after college, “She still left a presence here,” Bruce said.

High school friends of Ketler’s still ask about her, he said, “and that’s OK.”

Ms. Ketler’s family doesn’t talk about her much, Bruce added — and in fact calls to her family for their thoughts were not returned before deadline — but if something reminds them of her, they’re glad to reminisce.

“You learn to live with it, with time,” Alice added.

However, it’s been difficult for the Ketlers to come to grips with the tragedy and to find a way to find peace with what happened to Ruth.

“It’s still a raw feeling,” Bruce said.

He had been serving with the Air Force at the time of the attacks, and shortly after Sept. 11, he went on a mission refueling planes over Iraq.

“It was a little eerie for me,” he added, knowing what happened to his cousin.

No one in Ms. Ketler’s immediate family has been to Ground Zero, either, except for Bruce’s son Andrew.

One thing has given the family a sense of finality, enabling them to begin to move on: A ring.

One of Ms. Ketler’s rings was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center, covered in ash. It was identified as hers from DNA found on it, and returned to her eldest brother, Richard, who lives in Dallas. The ring had belonged to their grandmother. After having it cleaned, he gave it to his wife.

“It really was the ring that brought closure,” Bruce said.

However, “I don’t think we’ll ever get over this; it’s so beyond description. It’s just pathetic, so sad that it happened to anyone. I guess my wish would be that people not forget this. It’s bigger than even Pearl Harbor. It’s not even about Ruth.

“(But) the day that happened and Ruthie died, it just took something out of us — and we’ll never get that back.”

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