Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lest We Forget

It has been 13 years and I still remember this day. We all still remember this day. We remember where we were and what we were doing on that Tuesday morning in September. Some were close to the events of that day by simply being near it. Others, forced into being forever tied to the tragic event due to loss. If you are anything like me, you still find it easy to feel the disconnect that comes when we were not there, nor did we know someone who was. Still, no matter who you are, or where you were, we ALL lost something that day. 

Our sense of Peace, and Security, attacked beyond measure. Decimated in the time it takes to brew our morning coffee. Our confidence shaken to our very bones leaving nothing but questions we could not answer. Uncertainty consumed us all, only to be replaced with strength, as a Nation banded together overcoming fear with resolve. The true American Spirit.

On this day, I find it difficult to put into words what it is that I personally feel so
rather than sharing my story, I would like to share a friend's. Rather than using my words, I would like to use his. After all, it is in not my story to tell as it was the life of his friend that was taken that day. Below, you will find the events of that day as told by someone who lived through that moment.

"It was a beautifully sunny Tuesday morning at the start of what was supposed to be our first year in a brand new middle school, however construction was delayed so the seventh graders in the Town of Norwell found themselves in one of the old elementary schools that had been abandoned and slated for a major renovation. While many of the students were bummed at the notion of being sent back to an elementary school, some of us were delighted to revisit the halls of the school where we first forged our friendships in Mrs. Freehill’s kindergarten class. As a grown-up seventh grader, I remember reminiscing with Jake about sharing the bus to school each morning when we were five. Since kindergarten, Jake and I had become close through sports, especially football, which we both started playing just two years before as fifth graders. Jake’s dad, Jay, was home from the Merchant Marines through the end of the summer which meant he could help coach our football team and take in a few games before heading to California to start another 90 days of work at sea."
            "That Tuesday Jake and I were on our way to gym class when one of our buddies mentioned to us in passing that some plane had hit a building. We didn’t think anything of it since we suspected that the pilot of a Cessna as fallen asleep at the controls and wound up striking some office building in a no-name town, which, in its own right, would be a tragedy. However, one can imagine that since I am writing this story some 13 years later, the event that both Jake and I had envisioned that morning was much more devastating and struck painfully close to home.
            Jake and I finished gym class and headed to our next period, which was History with Mr. Jacobs. As we entered the classroom we were surprised to see our teacher standing next to a television at the front of the room. He calmly explained to us the events that had transpired across America that morning. As far as we knew, two planes that were headed from Boston to Los Angeles had been flown into each of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and another had been flown into The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. All air traffic had been grounded and all but one plane had been accounted for at that time. Mr. Jacobs then proceeded to turn on the news and we all sat in horrified silence as we watched the footage of the planes striking the towers. I was sitting in the second to last row of desks and had turned around to ask Jake if he could believe what we were seeing. All Jake could say was “My dad was flying to California this morning.” We were all stunned. Jake was excused to the office and we didn’t see him for the rest of the day. As the day went on some of my friends were picked up from school by their parents. Rumors were making their way around the classes that Jake’s dad was on another plane and that everything was OK.
            I finished my day at school and took the bus home. As I was preparing for the long walk from the bus stop to my house I saw my mom come whipping around the corner to come get me. We hurried back to my house where I found my dad, and my aunt and uncle all home early from work as all government buildings in the City of Boston had been evacuated.  They asked me if I had heard about Jake’s dad and I assured them, through intel from my very reliable seventh grade sources, that Jake’s dad was OK. They seemed to think otherwise. My parents and I got into the car and drove over to Jake’s house. We were greeted by a whole host of my other friends and their parents who were all very close to the Corcorans. No one really knew what to do. I remember standing in the driveway looking up at their house. Jake’s mom was inside talking to the airlines and Jake and his sister Meghan were sitting on the front steps repeatedly calling their father’s cell phone.
 It rang but Jay never picked up."

"If you go to the small suburban town of Norwell, Massachusetts, chances are you will run into someone who knew Jay Corcoran. What people may not know is that Jay could be found riding his bike around the South Shore when he was home from long stints of work a sea as a Merchant Marine. You see, this line of work would keep Jay away from home, away from his family, and away from his bike for almost 90 days at a time. But when he was home he loved zipping around on his beautiful Bianchi. Jay rode his bike for the pure pleasure of being on the open road. Many of his close friends, myself included, had no idea that Jay was such an avid cyclist, however, much like many of the cyclists you may know, he obsessed over his machine. He would meticulously clean his frame, touch up any places where the Celeste paint may have chipped off, and keep his components running smooth like clockwork. Unfortunately, it has been over 13 years since Jay has graced the saddle of the bike he once loved."
 "On the morning of Tuesday September 11, 2001, John “Jay” Corcoran was on United Airlines flight 175 destined for Los Angeles. In a gesture that typified Jay’s kind and helpful spirit, he had headed out to California a few days early so he could help a friend who was new to the Merchant Marines get acquainted to life at sea. Jay was a loving husband to Diann and a terrific father to Jake and Meghan. He was an unpretentious cyclist with a pure love and passion for the sport. Since that September in 2001, his Celeste Bianchi had laid unused and had fallen into a state of disrepair. Diann came across the bike while moving into a new house this past spring and knowing that I had become heavily involved in the sport of cycling, made the generous gesture to offer the bike to me. I graciously accepted the bike and promised her that I would make sure the bike was restored to a working order that would be a fitting tribute to Jay’s life and legacy."
(Words by: Andrew O' Donnell)

A simple yet poignant reminder of Jay's life: his beloved bicycle,
now in the hands of another person who could truly appreciate it. 
Shortly after he took delivery of it, Andrew shared with me the story that you just heard and asked me if I could help him restore it. Honored to be part of such a thing, it was without hesitation that I accepted his request.
Andrew, now tasked with this labor of love, expressed that rather than having me do the work, he would prefer I show him the way, and leave this in his capable hands. We spent several days bringing this bicycle to a point that honors Jay by once again putting steel and rubber on the road.
Once a mix of SunTour and Modolo, now decked out in Red, White, and Blue
with Ultegra and American Classic.

 Set up in his honor is a Memorial Scholarship Fund which you can find HERE.

In the end, this blog is always about bicycles. But today, it is about more than that. I want this one thing to serve as a reminder of who we really are. What we are truly capable of when we come together. The days, weeks, and months after September 11th, we were united.
Lest we forget ourselves, let us remember that during one of the hardest times we have ever faced as a Nation, we all came together. In the true Spirit of America: brothers and sisters, friends and family, and complete strangers all with one voice. Proclaiming, "We Will Never Forget!" 

By simply remembering those that were lost that day, we honor them.
By embracing that same Spirit of Unity we once felt, we are capable of even greater things. 

I want to thank my friend for affording me the opportunity to share in this experience with him, and also thank him for sharing his story with you. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have lost a friend in such a terrible way, nor can I imagine what goes through one's thoughts as they recount events as life-altering as this.

Please take a moment to remember those who were lost, and be thankful for those who are still with us.

In memory of Jay Corcoran 
and the nearly 3,000 other lives lost on September 11, 2001.

Never Forget.