September 11, 2001
The mere thought, utterance, or in this case typing that day out floods every fiber of my being with the same range of emotions that coursed through my body on that catastrophic day. A lot of innocent people were lost. Including a friend from my hometown of South River, N.J., Christopher Dincuff. He was in the North Tower, the first building that was hit at 8:46 a.m. He was in that building for 102 minutes, above the impact zone, until it collapsed.
I didn't find out he was missing until I finally finished my 14 hour shift at MSNBC, covering every second of the horror, at 8 p.m.
Chris was a senior in high school, I was a freshman. In the DNA helix of high school hierarchy, seniors and freshman rarely talked or hung out together. It was, and probably still is an unwritten code. However, Chris and I shared a love of sports and we talked about our teams often while taking breathers at basketball practice.
I remember one Saturday afternoon, Dinc (as he was known by all of his friends) was bummed because our coach scheduled an afternoon practice that was going to interfere with his beloved Villanova Wildcats schedule. Chris was an absolute fanatic when it came to his Wildcats. As luck would have it, he was beaming with happiness that day, because the basketball scheduling gods decided to air the Villanova-St. John's game on tape delay. He proclaimed the news like he had just won the lottery. That is no exaggeration either. His smile as all of his friends have said countless amounts of times, would light up a room. The gym was especially bright that day.
The other day I remember quite vividly was running into him at a South River homecoming game after he graduated from Villanova. What, you thought he was going to Georgetown? He graduated a Wildcat and decided to chase after his dream in sports broadcasting. He was working in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., with a Minor League baseball team. I wanted to get into sports broadcasting as well. So when I found out Chris was getting his feet wet in the business, I had a viable fellow South River graduate who was out there doing it. It gave me hope, it really inspired me. I thought, if Chris is out there doing it, I can do this too.
Now besides being a huge Villanova Wildcats fan, Dinc also had a love affair with our hometown, South River, and his many close friends. Being 3,000 miles away from everyone he loved and barely being able to make ends meet was not what he had in mind. So, after a year, Chris packed up from California and moved home and changed careers getting into the business world. Despite the fact he switched careers, Chris didn't know, in fact, he never found out, how big of an inspiration he was to me. I will never forget that homecoming concession stand conversation and what it meant to me. I don't think I would be sitting here writing this blog without having him as my glimmer of hope.
So back to 8 p.m., September 11, 2001. I walked into the Meadowlands Hilton not knowing what to expect next. There was no going home. Routes 3, 17, 46, and the New Jersey Turnpike were all closed. I checked in at the front desk, walked towards the bar and that is when my cell phone rang. It was my mother and that is when I found out Chris was still missing. I was basically walking in a fog. I didn't know what to feel, or what to think. When I got up to my room, I looked out of my window and saw blue and red lights as far as my eyes could see, up and down the turnpike and Route 3. That image amongst many others is scarred into my memory banks for the rest of my life. The weight of the destruction of the day wouldn't really hit me until I was able to go home a couple of days later.
I remember the memorial service that was held for Chris at St. Thomas Church in Old Bridge, N.J. I just remember the throngs of people. The church, which is gigantic, was at capacity, so the cafeteria behind the pews had to be opened to accommodate everyone. Garth Smalley, Chris' next door neighbor growing up, and best friend, did his best to keep it together as he eulogized the kid he used to talk to window to window at their houses growing up.
Nothing can bring Chris back to this earth, but through our hearts and minds all of the people that were lost that day will continue to live on through us.
I want to take this opportunity to thank him for inspiring me. I want to thank him for letting me know my dreams could come true.
It has been said that time heals all wounds. There is some truth to that statement. However, the wounds from that day run deep. Nothing can erase the jagged emotional scars that were inflicted that day.