In 2006, I signed up to commemorate one of the lives of the people who lost their life on September 11, 2001. I knew it would be hard , or so I thought. It was hard, and easy. It's not gotten any easier since then.
I’d started off concentrating on the death, when the realization hit me that it wasn’t about how he died, but rather, it was that he had lived. That it is important to remember that each life is precious and irreplaceable.
So. Here is the face of an important man. It’s a nice face. It’s a handsome face. His face could be the face of anyone’s brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, grandson, husband or father. And, the very fact that he could be anyone, makes him someone important. Not because he died, but because he was a person, with a life, a soul, a destiny, a place in his family.
His name is Kevin McCarthy. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. He was probably somewhere between the 100th and 105th floors when the plane hit the North Tower. Things may have happened so quickly for him that he didn’t have time to feel fear. I hope so. I fervently hope that when he left this world, he entered into the next with joy.
Kevin was so close to me in age that I’m pretty sure we experienced many of the same things. We watched the Brady Bunch, and the Love Boat, the Carol Burnett Show, Sonny and Cher, and perhaps my favorite, Red Skelton. He would have watched the A-Team and the Rocky movies and ET and Star Wars and wondered who shot JR. Maybe he watched MacGyver and Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels. He may have had a poster or three on his walls.
He probably practiced fire drills, safety drills and learned to duck under his desk in case of a nuclear bomb. He probably teased his sisters at home and fiercely protected them outside of it. My family had five children, his six. I suspect that a remark once made by my mother, might have been made by his: "When the girls are gone to camp the laundry is cut in half. When the boys are away, the food bill is cut by two-thirds."
He may have liked the Beatles and owned their records. He knew what records WERE… and would have been trying to explain them to his grand children eventually. He experienced the amazing transformation of our world, from records, to eight tracks, to floppy disks, to CD’s and DVD’s. He went from Pong to surfing the ‘net.
He was probably in the first classes that experienced true desegregation. He sadly watched as Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were shot. He watched the news coverage of the riots at Kent State.
He would have watched the evacuation of the embassy in Vietnam. He may have had friends with older brothers in ‘Nam. He may, as I did, know of a brother who never came back, and others that came back as changed men. Then he probably asked himself: WHY?
He watched a man walk on the moon for the first time. He watched astronauts soar into space, some dying in the attempt. He watched as the Challenger flew its brief flight. He watched a space station be built, and then fall to the earth, and another space station be started.
He experienced a boy’s life with the freedom our children do not have anymore. He might have gotten a BB gun for Christmas one year, or a ray gun or a water pistol. He might have been a cowboy for Halloween one year, and routinely have worn his six shooter, loaded with caps. And just when he was old enough to go out by himself on Halloween, to hit the good neighborhoods for candy, it changed forever because of a poisoned pixie stick.
“Just be home for dinner before darkness falls”, our mothers would have told us. “Wash up well before coming to the table, and YES you DO have to use soap.” We watched the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night. You could go to a movie and get drinks and some popcorn for under $2.00, and we could go there alone. Our world was smaller, but we explored it a little more one on one than is possible today. Our bikes could take us anywhere. Just get home before dark…
After college he got a job and a wife and family. He lived in Fairfield, Connecticut and must have had a lovely home. The commute was long and he may not have made it home before dark every day, but I’m sure he was glad to get there at last.
He left for work one day on a beautifully sunny, clear day. He was a Stock Trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, who occupied the 101st to the 105th floors of the North Tower. The view must have been breathtaking from his floor, the 104th. The day was so clear, the sky so blue. I’d venture to guess that he and his colleagues probably remarked on the nice weather, and clear air.
And then darkness fell, and he left this Earthly home. He was 42 years old. He will live on in the memories of his family and our minds forever as a 42 year old. His hair will never grey. He’ll never age. He’ll never walk a daughter down an aisle. He’ll never smile at the sight of a son and his bride. He’ll never be the fun uncle to his nephews and nieces. There will never be a time when his particular place in his family will be filled. There will always be a face missing from the family photos.
He is survived by his wife Debra, daughters Chelsea and Stephanie, and son Andrew; parents Charles and Marie McCarthy; four sisters; Kathleen Sullivan and her husband, Richard; Karen Toomey and her husband, Kevin; Maureen Baumgartel and her husband, Scott; Mary Ellen Rice and her husband, Tim; one brother, Charles Jr. and his wife, Deborah; and 9 nieces and nephews as of September 11, 2001.
And be cause of that place he left, he is an important man. Please, instead of Speaking, Thinking or Feeling angry about the end of his life, Stop. Think, hmmm no make that: Ponder about the beauty of the world around you. Study it well and Smile. Celebrate his lives, both the Earthly one and the Eternal One.
As Red Skelton would have said: “And May God Bless”.
We still remember, Kevin.