Susan Blair '88: An Enduring Legacy

Susan Blair ’88 had big plans.

Engaged to be married and less than five months into a new job with Aon Insurance on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, the 35-year-old had just taken her first steps toward an eventual career change.

Blair enrolled in night classes, motivated by her love for children, and set her sights on earning a degree in teaching.

“Sue’s joy in life was interacting with children,” said Susan’s sister Leslie Blair ’83, who, like Susan and their mother Sally Trussell White ’59, also graduated from Colby-Sawyer. “She was ‘Aunt Sue’ to dozens of her friends’ kids and was able to make each one feel as though they were the most important child in the world. She would have been such a great teacher.”

But in the blink of an eye on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Blair’s dreams — and those of 2,976 others — met a sudden and tragic end.

Leslie Blair said her family has heard enough witness accounts to piece together a timeline of Susan’s final moments, and one that fits seamlessly with the way she lived. Shortly after the North Tower was struck by American Airlines Flight 11 at 8:46 a.m., Blair sprang into action, urging those around her to evacuate to safety. Witnesses credit Blair with helping to guide a pregnant woman who was struggling in a stairwell to about the 78th floor where the two women entered an elevator. At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower between the 77th and 85th floors. The women were never seen again.

Such selflessness was nothing out of the ordinary for Blair. When the child of one of her Colby-Sawyer classmates was diagnosed with cancer, Blair put her own life on hold to be there for her friend, even sleeping at the hospital so the family could rest without having to leave the child alone.

Leslie Blair recalled another instance when Susan drove for more than five hours across five states to watch their cousin’s 4-year-old daughter, Sally, dance in a school recital. Leslie said Sally’s routine lasted all of five minutes, but to Susan, it was well worth the drive.

“After the show, Sue presented her with a huge bouquet of flowers like she was the prima ballerina of the whole performance,” Leslie remembered. “To Sue, she was. And to little Sally — and her siblings who loved riding around in Sue’s convertible — Sue was everything.”

Though Blair never realized her dream of becoming a teacher, her family, along with friends and classmates from Colby-Sawyer’s Class of ’88, have gone out of their way to ensure that others can. In 2002, the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in Susan’s honor, intended to support female students majoring in Colby-Sawyer’s child development or education programs.

“Like Sue, we believe that every child deserves to feel as though they are the most important person in the world — not just at their recitals,” Leslie Blair said. “She never got the chance to have her own kids, but watching her taught me how to listen, how to understand, how to be present in the moment and how to love generously with laughter and without conditions. She was always so good at that. I know that her Colby-Sawyer classmates remember that girl and miss her as much as our mother and I do.”

For more information about the Susan L. Blair ’88 Memorial Scholarship Fund, or to make a gift, contact the Office of College Advancement at (603) 526-3426 or