A deeply personal note

Frank, one of my best friends, worked for Canter, Fitzgerald and was lost in the World Trade Center Towers on 9/11. On this fifth anniversary of that dreadful day, I wonder where we are in our fight against terrorism and in our aspirations to be a better people. But most of all on this day, I keep wondering about him. I met Frank during the first week of my freshman year at Skidmore College. We were eventual roommates, drinking buddies, tennis partners, and political opponents during heated arguments in Case Center over Leonard Silk’s columns in The New York Times business section. He introduced me to the music of the inimitable Billie Holiday and others, too.

Just under five years ago I was to speak at my 20th college reunion as my classmates and I were set to dedicate a room in Palamountain Hall to Frank. The day came and I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I stayed home.

Like all of us, I remember vividly where I was when I learned of 9/11. I was at home that day too, this time writing a chapter on “civic faith” for a new book. My own faith in our collective ability to respond to events like 9/11 has not waned, even though my amazement at our collective ability to deflect and defer and detach ourselves from real issues has also risen to new heights.

I eventually stopped work on that book so I could write Hope Unraveled, which has a chapter on Americans’ views on the nation’s response to 9/11. The chapter is entitled False Start – in some ways a sorrowful reflection of people’s belief that the nation did not live up to its claims and potential to come together to change public life and politics in the aftermath of 9/11.

But today my desire is not to write about the condition of public life and politics. Today, amid all the non-stop stories and speeches and spectacles about 9/11, I find myself alone in the feeling that I simply miss a friend.

I know it is trite to ask, “Did my good friend Frank die in vein?” Of course he died too soon, at too young an age, robbed of his time with his wife and kids. He was a bystander, caught one-hundred some-odd stories up in a New York City skyscraper, unable to get out, frantically calling loved ones on the phone, knowing that the end was closing in.

Just the other day my wife suggested that I call some college buddies to plan a weekend get-together. My mind immediately went to Frank. I sat there in silence for a time only to eventually shrug my shoulders and respond, “Yeah, maybe.”

But this much I do know. In May of next year will be my 25th college reunion. This time I will go. I will visit the room in Palamountain Hall named in Frank’s honor. And I will sit there alone and think about Frank. There won’t be any fanfare. But my heart will be filled with memories on that day, as it is today, and has been everyday since 9/11.