In Memoriam Aaron Jacobs ’96

Fernando Plata

When I came to Colgate in the fall of 1994, Aaron Jacobs was studying in Ma­drid with my colleague Fred Luciani. Upon his return from Spain, Aaron enrolled in my “Quixote” class in the fall of 1995. I remem­ber his thick, dark, curly mane and his curi­ous gaze and friendly demeanor. Aaron was an excellent student, the kind who would ask in class the question all new instructors dread the most: the meaning of an obscure word one never remembers when teaching a com­plex, 1000 page novel written 400 years ago. “What is the meaning of bizmar?”

Of course, I had no idea. Bizmar is Old Spanish meaning roughly ‘to apply a balm on a wound in order to heal it.’ Nobody uses it today, and I did not know the meaning at that time, so I made a note to look it up and answered him in the next class period. Aaron went on to write his Honor’s thesis (spring of 1996) with me on Sancho’s process of “quixo­tization” and the Don’s slow “sanchification,” a progression whereby the two protagonists of the novel gradually adopt each other’s con­trasting worldviews. Don Quixote becomes more realistic, while the peasant Sancho’s imagination and dreams take flight as the novel develops. Aaron was an excellent Span­ish major and an excellent student, the kind who, after graduating from Colgate, kept in touch with those who make a difference in a student’s life – the faculty. He e-mailed me often in Spanish from Cozumel, where he had obtained a job teaching English and shared with me his interest in becoming an investment banker.

The tragic events of September 11 shocked us all. I learned what was going on that morn­ing when my mother called me from Ma­drid, horrified. As she was watching the main newscast of the day at 3 p.m., six hours ahead of us, she witnessed live the crash of the sec­ond airplane and the collapse of the towers, the torres gemelas that I had once pointed out to her in one of her visits, as our plane made the beautiful landing approach into Newark. But New York is far from the geor­gic land where Colgate sits, and the horror of that day seemed, to some extent, distant. What brought the point home for me was to hear that Aaron Jacobs was killed in one of the towers, along with nearly seven hundred of his coworkers at Cantor Fitzgerald, the in­vestment banking company decimated that fateful morning where he was Vice President and partner. The New York Times honored Aaron on December 8, 2001, as it honored every single one of the nearly three thousand people killed that day. Ten years later, I want to add my words of remembrance in memory of Aaron Jacobs ’96.

Contact Fernando Plata at [email protected]