THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Beverly Beckham

Bathed in light, let us reflect

By Beverly Beckham
Globe Columnist / September 12, 2010

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His name was Richard Ross, and I knew him for a long time, but I did not know him well.

He was the other travel agent in town. His parents owned a travel agency and my husband’s parents owned a travel agency, and both Richard and my husband were boys when they went into the family business.

One married an artist; one married a writer. Each had sisters who went into the business. Each had three children — two girls and a boy. And both eventually left the family business.

They were alike, my husband and Richard Ross. They were like trains on parallel tracks.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, both were at Logan Airport sitting on planes. My husband and I were in an exit row on Continental Airlines Flight 847 to Newark. Richard was in first class on American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles.

Our flight was delayed because of a mechanical problem, something about the door. Richard’s flight took off on time and was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. We watched the second plane crash into the south tower while in Continental’s lounge waiting to learn the status of our flight.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drum Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. W.H. Auden wrote these words some 60 years before the horror of Sept. 11. But it was just like this. Time stopped and the mourners came. Everyone mourned. On television, the two planes kept crashing into the towers again and again, and people kept saying “How can this be? How can this be?’’ Phone lines were jammed. Air traffic was grounded. People huddled and gathered, lit candles, and prayed. Many wept.

Thousands attended Richard Ross’s remembrance service. The temple was packed and hundreds had to stand in the foyer. All three of his children spoke, the youngest, Alison, straight from the airport, just back from Europe where she’d been when she learned that her father had been killed. Stuck in another country for days after the attack, away from her family and her support, in shock, frightened for sure, she had to board one of the first planes to fly again in order to get home in time for his memorial. She must have been so scared.

My youngest daughter was stuck in Los Angeles waiting for domestic flights to resume, and I knew how frightened she was to fly. I know how frightened I was for her to fly. And here was this other young girl, who had lost her father in an unimaginable way, composed and eloquent while speaking to thousands.

Her sister, Abigail, was eloquent, too. “Daddy, You are my long drive, my slow dance, my summer wind, and my starry sky,’’ she said. “We share eyes and hands and now my heartbeat. So long as I live, so will your many memories and the stories I tell. Edith Wharton wrote, ‘There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror which reflects it.’ Daddy, you are my light and I am your mirror.’’

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Richard Ross and the light his family spread and that postcard perfect September morning that exploded and burned and changed our world and our lives forever.

Nine years later and life goes on. A family copes, thousands of families cope, but only because we are all mirrors, only because as long as we live, all the people we’ve loved and lost live, too.

They live in our words. We talk about them. We tell their stories. They live on our walls. We hang their pictures. We keep them on our computer screens. We think about them. They live in our heads and in our hearts.

His name was Richard Ross. He lived for 58 years. He had a wife, Judi, and two daughters, Abigail and Alison, and a son, Franklin, and sister, Irene. He had hundreds of friends. And he had even more people he hardly knew who remember him.

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at bevbeckham@aol.com

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