I went to middle and high school with Steve Ward…we graduated from the same class. We weren’t close….we knew one another, but were not really ‘friends’….and occasionally something close to ‘enemies’. The last time I saw him was in June of 1996 at our 10th H.S. Reunion, the only one I’ve ever attended. He had to introduce himself to me again, as I didn’t recognize him. I recall exactly what we said to one another: ‘
‘Steve…I remember you of course, I just don’t remember you being so…’
“No, tall….I honestly don’t remember you being so tall.’
I hadn’t really noticed the bald yet, in truth, until he said something about it.
We spoke for a bit, caught up on our lives, and the conversation was friendly and enjoyable. Ten years had changed both of us somewhat (I admit I didn’t have as much hair on my head either) it seemed, and whatever differences we might have had once upon a time were forgotten to history, as they so often are. It wasn’t a lengthy conversation, but one (of many that night) that filled me with a feeling of nostalgia and serenity that old wounds were finally healing. Speaking with Steve was one of those ‘healing moments’. We never met again after that.
On September 11th 2001, I had been living in Massachusetts for two months. I worked in Boston, across the street from South Station. I was growing accustomed to ‘city life’ and all the hustle and bustle. I had been advised that it was more intense, more ‘dangerous’ than what I was used to…what I’d grown up with in Gorham, Maine.
I was sitting at my desk when a coworker rushed into the area to tell us all, ‘The World Trade Center has just been bombed.’ The news was shocking, to say the least, and confusing, as details were limited and panic was already high. Everyone crowded into the conference room, a television set was tuned to a local news broadcast, and we all watched in both silence and horror as the scene unfolded before us in vivid colors of people injured and trapped and fleeing for their lives…blood red and black despair in clouds of white destruction.
I didn’t know then that Steve Ward was in one of the towers that were attacked that day, and that on September 11th, 2001 he would lose his life. Over the years, on this date, I think about watching the events unfold on television that day and thinking that I was, unbeknownst to me, and like so many others, watching someone I knew depart the world in such a horrible way.
Some time later, when the rubble had been cleared and a barrier erected around the site, then known as Ground Zero, I visited Manhattan and went to the (former) World Trade Center location. On the wall people had written names of people lost that day. There were too many walls and too many markings to read through them all, even if I was only looking for one.
Fortunately I had a pen in my coat pocket that day. I took it out, removed the cap, and added Steve Ward’s name to the others. It may have been there already, but if not…at least it was then.
Each year on September 11th I think of Steve – the ‘brainy jock’ I knew only so well…..despite six years of attending the same schools. I think of his family’s loss, and how this date must impact them each year. I think of the brother, son, and friend that was lost to so many that day, and I think of how grateful I am that my last tangible memory of Steve was a friendly conversation, a warm smile, a gracious handshake, and a pleasant exchange.
Steve Ward…..never forgotten.