Jewish American who survived 9/11 among 21 killed in Nairobi attack

Jason Spindler had been working in Kenya on a mini-power grid project; authorities raise death toll

Jason Spindler (I Dev International)
Jason Spindler (I Dev International)

NEW YORK — Jason Spindler, an American Jewish man who was among the 21 people killed in an attack on a luxury hotel complex in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, was a consultant who survived the 9/11 attacks, and specialized in emerging economies.

Authorities did not formally name Spindler as one of the victims, but his mother Sarah and brother Jonathan confirmed his death on Facebook and to several US media outlets.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I have to report that my brother, Jason Spindler, passed this morning during a terror attack in Nairobi,” Jonathan wrote on Facebook, in comments visible only to his friends.

“Jason was a survivor of 9-11 and a fighter. I am sure he gave them hell!”

Kenyan security forces aim their weapons up at buildings as they run through a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. Terrorists attacked an upscale hotel complex in Kenya’s capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A local Chabad house in the Kenyan capital confirmed that Spindler was a member of the Jewish community.

“At Chabad of Kenya we’re sure that Jason will forever remain in our broken hearts,” the group said in a Facebook post.

Posted by ‎Chabad of Kenya – בית חב"ד קניה‎ on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Nairobi attack was claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabaab, which has targeted Kenya since it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

Spindler was a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the New York University law school. He spent time in the Peace Corps in Peru.

On September 11, 2001, Spindler was working for investment bank Salomon Smith Barney in the World Trade Center.

The main Twin Towers collapsed after being hit by two passenger jets commandeered by Al-Qaeda operatives.

In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, as seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, New Jersey, smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes flown by Al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into both towers. (AP Photo/Gene Boyars, File)

Spindler’s building, 7 World Trade Center, collapsed in the aftermath, but none of the nearly 3,000 fatalities that day resulted from that incident.

Kevin Yu, who attended UT-Austin with Spindler, said Spindler had helped save people stuck in the rubble on 9/11.

“That’s exactly the kind of person he is,” Yu told The Washington Post.

“I have no doubt that when he heard the explosions outside the hotel, he was one of those trying to jump in and help.”

Development work

After his ordeal on 9/11, Spindler’s life changed, according to Yu.

“Something struck a nerve and changed how he felt and thought about things,” he told the Post.

Jason Spindler (Facebook)

After law school, Spindler co-founded consulting and investment firm I-Dev, and was working in Kenya on a mini-power grid project tailored for remote areas, according to the company’s website.

“Jason was based mainly in Nairobi, but traveled frequently to San Francisco and across Latin America, Africa, Europe,” a spokesperson for the company told AFP by email.

Security forces help civilians flee the scene as cars burn behind, at a hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

His mother Sarah told NBC News that her son “was trying to make positive change in the third world in emerging markets.”

“We all miss him so much. And it’s so sad that such a bright young person is taken away by terrorism,” she added.

Spindler’s Facebook account had been converted on Wednesday into a tributes page.

He would have turned 41 on Monday, Yu said. His family was planning to hold a religious service that day instead.

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