‘He lived a hero’s song;’ family remembers Winnetka man who survived 9/11 and drowned in Lake Michigan

‘Luke lived his life guided by his experiences, and he had several that allowed him to bestow compassion, love, inspiration and leadership to others,’ his family said.

SHARE ‘He lived a hero’s song;’ family remembers Winnetka man who survived 9/11 and drowned in Lake Michigan
Elder Lane Beach in Winnetka.

Elder Lane Beach in Winnetka.

Owen Ziliak / Sun-Times

Luke Laidley, the 43-year-old Winnetka man who drowned Tuesday in Lake Michigan, was a Sept. 11 survivor and a hero, his family said.

Laidley was boating with friends near Elder Lane Beach early Tuesday afternoon when he noticed a group of children having trouble while tubing.

He jumped into the water to help the kids but struggled to swim and went under, officials said. He was pulled back onto the boat, where the friends started CPR. Paramedics met the boat at the shore and also tried to revive him. But he died at Northshore Evanston Hospital.

“A true family man to his core, not only with his own wife and kids, but an incredible brother to his 5 siblings [and] in-laws and uncle to 17 nieces and nephews. His smile lit up the room. He exuded positivity and perseverance with everything he did. He loved deeply and truly with all his heart,” a written statement from his family read.

He and his wife, Lauren Laidley, have three children — 3, 5 and 7 years old. Luke Laidley and his family are members of the Catholic parish Faith, Hope and Charity in Winnetka, where his kids attend school.

“Luke was well liked in the community and was very popular in our parish school community,” said the Rev. Martin O’Donnell, the lead pastor at Faith, Hope and Charity.

Laidley, one of six kids, was born in Libertyville and grew up in the north suburbs, according to his family. He was an avid athlete and devoted to his faith. He graduated from Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein and got a bachelor’s degree from Boston College.

His first job out of college was with Morgan Stanley in New York City. His second day on the job was Sept. 11, 2001. Morgan Stanley operated in the second tower of the World Trade Center, and Laidley was on the 61st floor when a plane hit the first tower, according to his family.

“I encourage all of us to count our blessings each and every day. Give of yourself and expect nothing in return. And become part of something that is greater than yourself,” Laidley later wrote, according to the family statement.

He moved back to Chicago after 9/11 and continued to work in finance. He also became a high school football coach at Carmel and Loyola Academy.

“Luke lived his life guided by his experiences, and he had several that allowed him to bestow compassion, love, inspiration and leadership to others. He lived a hero’s song,” the statement read. “Luke Laidley embraced and lived this belief to the end on July 4, 2023, where he risked his life for the children who were struggling when their tube flipped on Lake Michigan.”

The statement said Laidley would continue to give and serve a greater purpose as he was an organ donor.

It concluded: “A life lived with purpose. A life lived to serve for others. A life lived as a hero.”

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