Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The bells toll for me.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the end of Jesse's life. Every year since I learned what he did, I've felt torn between pride and horror at that pride, that he went down there to volunteer. That I raised a child who had the moral courage to do that, and that my teaching him this concept ultimately cost him his life.

I don't know how many of his friends realize why he died, what the cause was. You knew a hero. You knew he was special, that he goaded you to do more, do better, change the world for those who couldn't. I've heard some of your stories, and I am so proud of each of you for what you do. Tears well in my eyes as I type this and think of how you are risking your lives, or devoting your time to enlightening the next generation, each in your own way leaping forward into a career where you know you can do good for others. A little bit of Jesse I know follows with you.

 9-11 gave him the leukemia that killed him. But it gave him time that other victims didn't have. And he used that time-- he lived -- as hard as could. As if he knew the clock was ticking. I am grateful to all of you who were part of that whirlwind of full-on living.  The trip to Europe, the sky dive, the push through college to law school. The push toward knowledge, understanding, and greater compassion. The push to teach that zest for knowledge and exchange of ideas to kids a few years younger than him. And the wise ass humor he sought in every aspect of life. He could be a pill I know. He could be rough. He had a temper he was learning to channel in better ways.

It breaks my heart to know who he might be now, at 29. How proud we all would be of him. What risks he would be taking for someone else's sake. What ideas he would have inspired us with. And how we'd be laughing when he turned things on their heads so we could shake the humor out of it.

I am certain that one thing he would be doing is pushing awareness of the relationship between acute leukemia and 9-11. Warning the volunteers and residents of the signs and symptoms, so they will know. I wonder sometimes, if Martin Tallman's move to Sloan Kettering was just a little inspired by Jesse. The man who knew all there is to know about APL is here now, that means that lives will be saved, where before, when Jesse was there, the ignorance was so deep that Sloan Kettering refused to admit him early, till Tallman called and told them he would die within a week.

Because of this, his death was not in vain. His life certainly never was.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Missed Connection

The first fossil I ever found on my own was a whole trilobite, curled up in a ball like a potato bug about the size of the tip of my thumb. I'd never seen such a complete little specimen in my life. It was resting on a bed of limestone on a hillside park in Ohio, probably knocked loose by the recent rain. I picked it up and showed it to my biology teacher, who asked if I'd mind him displaying it in the park's museum. I was thrilled. I knew my dad would love to see it, so I put it in a cup and stuck it in the back of the car. At some point after I got home, I went back to the car to get it to show him, and it was gone. When I found him and asked him if he'd seen it, he was mad at me for leaving trash in the back seat. He said he chucked it in the grass and threw the cup away.

I never did figure out where he tossed it.