My morning commute takes roughly 75 minutes, which might be taxing even without the existential exercise that goes with it.
A car ride, a train, a packed subway, and then a 10-minute walk to 1 World Trade Center, where thoughts of my friend Chris Mello creep into my steps.
Chris’ plane crashed into the tower when we were all in our 20s, so he never got the chance to have his own family, or a career, or to know the stress of those two worlds occasionally colliding. When I walk by the 9/11 Memorial many mornings, I strangely think how fortunate I am to be consumed by the dumb minutia of middle age. So many people that day were stripped of even that.
The first year Golf Digest had offices at the World Trade Center, I entered through the North Lobby, a drab entrance that took me past a series of boarded-off construction sites. I didn’t even know you could enter the building another way, and that first year, I was too harried coming and going to really care. Only when I was upstairs would I periodically look down at the two reflecting pools that mark where the towers stood. I knew Chris’ name was printed somewhere along the edge, but I always felt I needed the proper headspace to spend time looking for it.
One day in the spring, though, I was late for a meeting at a nearby building, and I was randomly shot out another exit. It was the South Lobby, where the reflecting pools are mere steps from the door. This was the first time I had seen them up close, or could even detect the inscriptions of names.
This isn’t the time, I recall thinking
A part of me wanted to at least see what it was like, however, so I walked to the corner of the nearest reflecting pool. There are more than 3,000 names inscribed in bronze along the edge of those pools. I wouldn’t believe this next part if you told me, but that day, Christopher D. Mello was the first name I saw.
Chris’ brother J.D. has reminded us he doesn’t want people to think Chris was perfect, because then we cease to remember him as real. Chris wasn’t, although factoring in his agile mind, his athleticism, his gentle spirit, he ventured closer than most.
To me, though, as the sound of his real voice fades in my head, Chris more represents an idea, about promise, and fleeting opportunity, and why even the most mundane of journeys need to be savored. I believe the reason his name jumped out at me that day was to always remind me of that.