This morning began quite normally. The walk with the dog was cut short by rain, but by the time I came home, showered, and dressed, the Doc was out the door and the boys were awake and getting ready for breakfast and school. By 9:00, they were on the bus, and I was back in the house, just like any other Monday during the school year.
And so it was five years ago today. I had dropped the boys at daycare and driven to my office, arriving at about 9:00. I saw a colleague in the parking lot; he was a transplanted New Yorker, and we talked briefly about the news on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It took only a few minutes to get from there to my office, but in that time, what first seemed just another odd bit of news on an average day became the first of several cataclysmic events that continue to have an enormous impact on the world.
I knew two people who died that day: Steve Jacoby, who was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; and Matt O'Mahony, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. I knew them peripherally, through professional relationships, but they were close friends of people I consider friends. I had met Matt once, when I was working at Johns Hopkins. He was an alumnus and had played varsity basketball, so I sat with him for a few minutes at his desk, 105 floors above Manhattan. He was just as gregarious as his friends had said he would be, reminiscing about his days at JHU.
Matt's best friend and former basketball teammate, Glen Wall, also died that day. Early in 2002, I helped several of their friends organize a tribute dinner and memorial fund at Hopkins. We had a halftime ceremony at a basketball game, where we presented the families with framed photos, and the crowd rose to their feet for a long standing ovation. That night, friends and family spoke fondly and emotionally of both men at the dinner. The basketball team locker room is named for Matt and Glen, and each year the University awards a scholarship in their name from the memorial fund.
I wasn't sure whether to write about any of this today. For many people, the pain is still difficult and the annual media hype must feel invasive and exploitative. But I also know that I learned a lot about friendship from Matt and Glen's friends, and I know that some of what we did and continue to do in their memory helps to heal the pain. Two years ago, I brought my boys to the annual basketball game and reception.
After the bus took my sons to school this morning, I joined them for an assembly and "Freedom Walk." We gathered in the gym, and one of the teachers introduced her husband, a soldier who had recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The students had sent letters and packages while he was there, and he introduced another member of his team and thanked the students for their support. After his brief remarks, the teacher introduced several members of the local volunteer fire department. Led by the soldiers carrying an American flag, we all then marched in a parade around the school grounds. Most of the children wore red, white and blue, and many waved small flags as they walked.
My boys are too young to really remember 9/11, and we sheltered them from it, just as we protect them from other harsh realities until we think they are ready. The best I can do at this point is try to get them to understand how personal this is, that the people who died had had families and friends just like we do, and so do the people who are trying to protect us. And tomorrow, I will take my sons with me when I go to vote in the primary.