Meet The Asian-American Man Who Sacrificed Himself to Save Lives During 9/11

zack zeng

Nearly 20 years ago, an Asian-American man witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attack from his office situated just three blocks away from the World Trade Center. Though he was out of harm’s way, 29-year-old Zack Zeng decided to sacrifice his life in order to save others.

Zeng, whose Chinese name is “Zeng” Zhe, was born in Guangzhou, China in 1972. He moved to the United States in 1988 and went on to earn his undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester. He received his MBA degree from Rochester at the William E. Simon School of Business Administration before serving as an assistant treasurer at the Bank of New York in the receipts depository division in 1998.

His office building, located on Barclay Street, was merely blocks away from the twin towers on the fateful day of the Sept. 11 attacks. When the planes struck the World Trade Center, Zeng was forced to evacuate with the rest of his building.

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The University of Rochester held a Remembrance Ceremony for Zack Zeng on May 31. Zack’s classmates (Class of ’95; Simon …

Posted by Brighton Volunteer Ambulance on Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Instead of finding a safe shelter, Zeng collected his first aid and medical supplies from his building and told friends and colleagues that he was heading to the scene to aid other rescue workers. Zeng, a former certified emergency medical technician, was allegedly alongside firefighters who assisted two injured women by guiding them to safety.

He was, by chance, reportedly filmed by Fox 5 TV channel during their coverage at the scene of the attack where he was believed to be last seen before losing his life when the towers collapsed.

In May 2002, New York police informed Zack’s mother, Jiao Xiao Chen, that his remains had been recovered from the ruins and identified by DNA testing. Hundreds of people gathered at a memorial service in New York’s Chinatown to pay tribute to the heroic Chinese-American who sacrificed his life to save others.

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John C. Liu, New York City Council member, said of Zeng:

“Zack’s deeds are an inspiration to all New Yorkers and all Americans and his stories need to be told over and over again.”

Timothy Keaney, the representative for the Bank of New York where Zeng worked, described Zeng as a hard-working and selfless person. Keaney also revealed that one of the bank’s divisions will be dedicating a conference room in his honor. In addition, the bank will raise funds each year to donate to the Brighton Emergency Ambulance.

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Zeng was a volunteer certified emergency medical technician in the suburbs of Rochester. In October 2001, the Brighton Volunteer Ambulance placed a special plaque inside the Brighton 3059 ambulance in memory of Zeng.

In May of this year, Brighton Volunteer Ambulance held a Line of Duty Death Remembrance Ceremony for Zeng. The ceremony was attended by his mother from Brooklyn and aunts and cousins from Boston. His mother spoke at the ceremony and said:

“We are extremely thankful for the people in Brighton and all of Monroe County for remembering Zack and for remembering all of the rescuers who died in 9/11. Our family is extremely touched by everyone who has graciously made such tremendous efforts to remember my heroic son on this special day. I hope this Brighton ambulance will serve not just a remembrance of Zack, but also as part of a continuous effort to help those in need.” 

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Zhang Hongxi, the Chinese Consul General in New York, described Zeng as a model for Chinese Americans. Following the tragedy, people in Guangzhou held memorial services in Fengqing Shouyue Primary School and the No. 1 Middle School in honor of Zeng.

Today we remember the nearly 3000 lives lost in the attacks on September 11, 2001, 15 years ago today. This memorial concert will feature both bagpipe music and songs played on the Hopeman Memorial Carillon.

Posted by University of Rochester on Sunday, September 11, 2016

The young man is remembered for his heroism and selflessness. Oliver Tan, a representative from the governor’s office said of Zeng:

“People won’t forget his willingness to help others even if it meant risking his own life.”

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