There is a story told to young trial lawyers about this classic opening statement for a personal injury trial:
A man walking along a beach spies a child picking up starfish, one at a time, and throwing them back into the sea. He ask the child, "Why are you wasting your time at this? They just come back after you throw them in, and look how many there are! You'll never get them all back into the water."
The child answers, "But it matters to this one, and to this one, and to this one...."
The people who died on September 11, 2001, had families. When I thought about whether it would matter if I or anyone else posted a tribute to any of those who lost their lives in that attack, I thought of this story. It matters to this one. It matters to the families to know that people remember their loss, their grief, their anger, their pain.
And as much as it matters to the families, it matters to us, too. Whether we agree with the choices made in the wake of the 9/11 attack, our lives have been irrevocably changed, much like the lives of our parents or grandparents were changed after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and possibly like the lives of those families who survived the Holocaust were changed.
The balance to tragedy, war and grief is remembrance. Remember the ones who were lost. Talk about them, what they might be like, what their favorite flavor of ice cream was, whether they followed the Mets or the Yankees, the Cubs or the Sox.
My person is Edward T. Fergus, age 40, of Wilton, Connecticut. I did a little checking online, and I found that he was a husband, a father of two children, a "junior", an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald, and a boating enthusiast. He graduated from St. Michael's College in 1983.
I cannot imagine the loss his family feels because he is not at the table for celebrations. He will miss his children's graduations and weddings, his parents' anniversaries, his wife's birthdays. He will miss family vacations and the time to sit and reflect on the ups and downs of business, life, and love. There is a beautiful tribute to his memory on Legacy.com here.
According to The Hartford Courant, he enjoyed the outdoors and spending time working on his lawn and home (from neighbor Lisa Crosby). Fergus, his wife, Linda, and their children moved from Norwalk to Wilton a year before the Courant article ran. As a family they hiked, skied and enjoyed boating.
His family will miss his presence and his influence - his children will need someone else to whom to take their troubles, their questions about decisions they have to make, their stories and their laughter. He will not see their weddings. He will not see his grandchildren, and his grandchildren will never know their grandfather. His wife will not have her husband's hand to hold during each of those moments, and if he has a daughter, she will not have her father to walk her down the aisle. If he has a son, his son will not be able to ask his dad about what it means to be a father. There are skills he had, family traditions he held and memories he knew that are lost forever because of that day.
What will this tribute matter, really, to anyone? It will matter to this one - his family, his friends, his colleagues - to know that somewhere, people remember him and the impact he had on those he loved.
This is supposed to be a tribute, and I hope I've succeeded in that effort. However, I would like to make it a little more than that. I'd like to make it a bit of an exhortation to those of us who remain among the living: whatever it is you've been meaning to do, do it now. Write the letters, make the phone calls, mend the wounds, reach out to those you love but haven't had time for in a while. Understand that you can't fix everything - not in a moment, not in a day, not (maybe) in a lifetime, but that you can take one step toward a different future. Because some day, it will matter to someone.