At Ground Zero: Publisher Reevaluates Life After Attack

On Sept. 11, 2001, Paula J. Grant Berry ’79 received a phone call that she will never forget.

David, Berry’s husband of 10 years, worked as a director of research for the brokerage firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center and was in the South Tower that morning.

“I was at home and he called me, and I spoke to him just before the second plane went in and then the line went dead,” recalls Berry.

Berry’s husband lost his life on Sept. 11, leaving her a widowed mother of three children at the age of 44.

“On that day I kept expecting him to come home. My Sept. 11 was assuming the first couple of hours that he would arrive home and when that didn’t happen I went into New York to look for him,” Berry says.

While Berry is still coping with the tragedy, she has been able to find some solace in taking a leading role in planning the Sept. 11 memorial.

Last summer Berry was selected to be one of the 13 jurors—and the only representative of the victims’ families—who would ultimately choose the winning design for the Sept. 11 memorial.

“People handle these situations in a variety of different ways, and I happen to handle it this way,” says Berry.

Despite the enormity of the tragedy, Berry refuses to define herself as a victim, citing her children as a her primary reason to remain upbeat.

“You know you have to be there for them,” Berry says.


Although projects relating to Sept. 11 have come to be the central theme in Berry’s life for the last two and a half years, she pursued a very different career prior to that cataclysmic day.

Berry was born in 1957 in New York City, but she spent the better part of her high school years in Eugene, Ore. Despite growing up in Oregon, Berry says she was still quite familiar with Harvard, having spent her summers in Cape Cod.

When she enrolled in 1975, Berry, who would become a history concentrator, took part in dance and experimental theater at the Loeb Drama Center. She also worked at the Phillips Brooks House and wrote theater reviews for The Crimson’s weekend magazine, then entitled, “What Is To Be Done.”

During her years here, Berry cultivated an interest in publishing, and she was offered a job from Doubleday while still an undergraduate. After graduation, she enrolled in a Radcliffe publishing course to learn more about the business, and following her completion of the class she was hired to work full time for Doubleday in New York City.

Berry says that although she had become interested in publishing during her undergraduate years, going to work for Doubleday was not part of any master plan.