(Note this post was originally published on September 8th, 2006; I’m republishing it today to honor not only the life of Tommy Swift, but the lives of all who perished on 9-11-01)
I remember 9/11 and its immediate aftermath like it was yesterday – it was a beautiful late summer morning, and as I was getting my daily latte there was chatter about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Being only 30 miles away from that place it wasn’t hard to turn on the radio and hear eyewitness accounts of what had just occurred. Then, the second plane hit – and I knew this was now a day unlike any other day I had lived through up to that point.
It was like a bad dream – I kept telling myself, “no way, this can’t be happening”, as I got to my office and eventually found a TV set to get the horrible visuals. I then realized I needed to go home – who knew what else was going to happen? So I drove back home, and my wife and I sat out on our back patio and tried to fully comprehend what was going on.
It didn’t take long to start thinking about the innocent victims – some of these people lived in our immediate neighborhoods, and were trying to start a normal day’s work, just like the rest of us. Our hearts grew very heavy as the rest of the day unfolded. It carried over into the aftermath as well, especially when we went to our local park that overlooked the Long Island Sound and we saw, in the distance, the still smoldering fire and a missing part of the familiar skyline.
So as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 approached, I was intrigued by a project being put together by a fellow blogger named D.Challener Roe, where he was looking for 2,996 bloggers to individually honor each of the victims of that day. I was more than happy to volunteer, and I was the 2,661st blogger to sign up (he’s since found all 2,996 volunteers – the list can be found here).
My honoree is named Thomas F. Swift- he was in the World Trade Center that day. The NY Times had run a series of profiles on each of the victims (I recall at the time that these pages of profiles were very hard to read because of all the heartwrenching stories), and here was his:
December 16, 2001
THOMAS F. SWIFT
Master of Factoids
When Thomas F. Swift was around, no one wanted to play Trivial Pursuit or any game that relied on factoids and cultural flotsam. That was because Mr. Swift, whose brothers called him ”the book of useless information,” knew a bit about all kinds of things, maybe because of those childhood years reading encyclopedias at night for fun.
Mr. Swift, who was 30, worked as an assistant vice president at Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center. He worked long days, said his wife, Jill, but he managed to be well-rounded. He used to unwind by spending hours listening to music, any kind of music.
The Swifts had been married five years. They celebrated Mrs. Swift’s 30th birthday in June by going to the Bahamas with a group of friends. ”He was a die-hard Yankees fan,” Mrs. Swift said of the man she met when they were both high school students. ”He yelled at a lot of TV’s because of it. I had to become a Yankees fan before we married. My family was National League, they like the Mets, but it was a deal I had to make.”
I also found and read several tributes from members of his family that not only confirmed the NY Times portrayal, but revealed a loving husband, a great sense of humor and a love for the “simple things in life”.
These descriptions were truly eerie, and I realized that I was destined to honor the memory of this wonderful man. I too have been called a book of useless information, and used to read encyclopedias when I was a kid just for fun. I too love all kinds of music, and love to listen to it to unwind. His devotion to the Yankees matches mine for the Green Bay Packers. And yes, I have the same kind of bond with my wife and an appreciation for the “simple things”.
These parallels deeply effected me, and prompted many difficult questions in my mind as to the seeming randomness of life and the reasoning behind taking this person away so young and so senselessly. But I don’t seek any answers today – I only wish to pay a proper tribute to a man I now only wish I had a chance to know myself, and who is missed and will continue to be missed by all who knew him.
Godspeed Thomas – we will always remember.