Monday, September 3, 2012

Shoulder to Shoulder

Fight, CU, down the field.
CU must win.
Fight, fight for victory.
CU knows no defeat.
We'll roll up a mighty score.
Never give in!
Shoulder to shoulder we will
Fight, fight, fight!

Boulder, Colorado is a considerable distance from the East Coast of the United States.   I know of which I speak - having followed my sister Jill out there for college a long, long time ago.  The thing about distance however is this:  it is not always static.  Sometimes in fact it is an elastic concept. 

I am lucky in that no one I knew well or loved was murdered on September 11, 2001.  I have an everyman's feel about the events of that day:  they impacted me as they impacted all of us.  But I attended no funeral for a loved one.  I gave no thought at all to how to console a friend or family member over their own particular loss.  People I know - including members of my own family - were not as fortunate and were in fact among the thousands grieving not just the loss of many but the LOSS of someone special.  I would not pretend to claim to know what that feels like for them.  I can never know. 

A month after the attacks the Missus and I flew to Boulder.  The trip had been planned several months in advance of that terrible Tuesday.   Margaret had never seen the campus of my Alma mater so we spent Homecoming Weekend there.   The CU-Boulder Alumni Association is one of the few "organizations" to which I belong.  When we arrived in Boulder the campus was in a festive mood but it was one tempered by somber undertones.  We stopped in at the Alumni Association office for something (I cannot recall now what it was) and learned that the University of Colorado "family" had suffered a loss on September 11.  Several members of the herd had been killed, including these people who I never met but with whom I stand - as all Buffs stand - shoulder to shoulder....

Nina Patrice Bell (Bus’85) was a Senior Manager at Marsh & McLennan.  Her time on campus in Boulder and mine did not overlap.  She earned her degree in Business Administration in May 1985, a short few months before the Class of '89 arrived to begin our journey.  She was only thirty-nine years old in September 2001.  295 Marsh & McLennan employees were killed that morning.  On the memorial page created for her on her employer's web site she is described in glowing terms: Nina Bell was every inch a fighter pilot’s daughter — slender, athletic and looking even taller than her 5 feet, 8 inches. Born in the Netherlands, the first stop in a nomadic Air Force childhood, she grew up confident, smart, "the It girl," as a friend once put it. 

At age 39, she had reached a point in her life where she had seemingly attained the peace we all seek.  On the final full day of her life, she had confided to a friend in an e-mail message, "I am so very happy."   Her parents - who lived every parent's worst nightmare when they buried their child - have grown something beautiful out of a horrible event.  In 2002 they created in her honor the Nina P. Bell Scholarship Fund. Their ability to transform their daughter's death - and their profound loss - into something that benefits others is nothing short of transcendent.  

Brian Thomas Cummins (Fin’86) was thirty-eight years old and was an equity market maker and partner with Cantor Fitzgerald who was in his office on the 104th floor of the North Tower when he was killed on September 11.  Cummins was a Jersey boy - born in Belle Mead and after graduating from CU with his B.A. in Finance in 1986, returning to Rutgers to get his MBA.  He settled in Manasquan.  He was not married and he had no children but he was survived by his parents and four brothers. 

In talking about his brother, Brendan Cummins said, "His colleagues and bosses would all probably say the same thing about Brian — he was driven to succeed.  I believe he enjoyed the process of accomplishing and shunned the idea of his own success and replaced it with the desire to do better. He was one of the sharpest guys I've ever met."

Leslie Whittington Falkenberg (PhDEcon ’84) died when the terrorists who hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed it into the Pentagon.  She was forty-five years old.  She had been preparing to travel to Australia where she was going to spend a few months working at Australian National University in Canberra.   Dr. Falkenberg taught at Georgetown University where she was an Associate Professor of Public Policy and an Associate Dean. 

She was far more than a skilled professional however.  She was also a wife and a mother.  And on one terrible morning - due to the criminal acts of others - her entire family was obliterated.  Dr. Falkenberg was travelling with her husband Charles Whittington and the couple's two little girls:  Zoe and Dana.  Two little girls who were eight and three years old respectively.   Is there solace to be found in the fact that each of them was in the company of the three people in the world who loved them best and who they loved most of all?  Or does that fact merely heighten the level of anger at what occurred? 

One wonders if in this case those must be mutually exclusive concepts....

Through it all an eagle flies
Some people walk on some look paralyzed
I pray through the glass for heaven tonight

Some ask when do we dance
Hope needs repair faith’s in a trance
Schoolbus window paper heart’s our only chance


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