Sunday, September 10, 2006

Patrick Thomas Dwyer, 1964-2001

I am participating in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11.

Patrick Thomas Dwyer, 37, Nissoquogue, NY. Bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. Left behind a wife JoAnn, a son Brendan and a daughter Sarah, who were five and three at the time of their father’s death.

When Patrick was randomly assigned to me, I stared at my computer screen blankly for a long time. Weeks, in fact. I wanted to do the right thing by this man, but what do I say which doesn’t become political, maudlin, or somehow all about me? Even the best eulogy becomes as much about the speaker as the departed, and I don’t claim to write a world-class eulogy. The memorial becomes doubly difficult when you don’t know the person intimately, and I had no desire to write something general and inane about how he was a nice person and that this was such a tragedy. My first rule with this blog has always been: “Tell your truth, Quinn”, and I certainly wasn’t going to break that rule now.

I never met Patrick Thomas Dwyer. From what I have read about him, this is my loss. Patrick loved what he did for a living and did it well enough to find plenty of time to enjoy his family and friends. He and his wife centered their lives on their kids and their friends and extended family. They loved entertaining.

I have never met nor spoken to anyone in his family. I do, however, know what it’s like to have your father die when you are very young. The brutality of losing a parent when you are a child is that the death continues to reverberate forever. It isn’t a huge single loss; it’s a continuum of huge single losses.

Patrick was there to teach his son to ice-skate, but he wasn’t there to teach his daughter.

He was there to see his son go to school for the first time, but not his daughter.

Brendan will remember him, and probably idolize him his entire life. Sarah might not have anything but filaments of memories from a birthday party or an afternoon at their pool that last summer of 2001 -- memories which are half-real, half constructions from photos she has seen or stories she has heard. Brendan and Sarah will grow up, and laugh, and cry, and slam doors, and graduate, break bones and win awards. And each time something happens in their lives their father will be dead.

Within their family and their community, they will be Patrick and JoAnn’s kids. There will be plenty of people around them eager to tell them what a funny guy their father was, what a sports fan and a true friend, and what a great marriage their parents had. But as they grow up, and make new friends and meet new people, there will always be that hanging question: “You were how old when your father died? When did he die? Oh my God, did he die on 9/11?”

At the least likely moments, when all they want to do is be normal and anonymous, they will be forced to embody a national trauma and to relive the greatest pain a family can endure.

For a while after my father died, I told inquisitive strangers -- people I never expected to see again -- that my parents had gotten a divorce because that was accepted without further comment. A dead father led to more personal interrogation than I was prepared to undergo. Until my thirties, I would actively avoid telling people he died on the last day of shooting of “The Goodbye Girl”, because the combination of pity and curiosity was nearly unbearable. Brendan and Sarah will never stop being victims of 9/11 and I feel so wretched for some of the stupid and thoughtless things people are going to say to them in years to come.

If Consort gets home late, after Daughter is sleeping, he will always go in and kiss her goodnight. Being a very sound sleeper, she takes this with nothing more than a slight break in her teeth-grinding and maybe a murmured grunt. But Consort doesn’t mind. He says, “She knows I kissed her goodnight. Her skin knows it.”

With a father who took the 5:20 train every morning to get to his desk at the World Trade Center, I bet Sarah and Brendan had a lot of kisses left upon them when they were sleeping. I hope their skin remembers. I hope his kisses give them some comfort today, and every day of their lives.

JoAnn Dwyer, my condolences on your loss. I wish I had met Patrick. I wish I had no reason to be writing about him.


Blogger take vienna said...

So well done. Thank you, and all the rest of the 2,996 bloggers for honoring these people. Thank you, Quinn, for telling your truth.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...


10:34 PM  
Blogger Paige said...

Crying at my computer. Beautiful.

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you for such a deeply thoughtful eulogy, and for helping us all be aware again of the loss we all feel when we lose someone.

I am touched...

2:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...the skin remembers... Quinn, that was powerful.

I was 22 when my father died suddenly. At his memorial service, someone told me that you never get over the pain, but that you get used to it. Twenty one years later, I still agree. Every now and then, in a crowded room, I'll smell his cologne. I close my eyes and breathe in deep and just for a moment, he is there.


11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never really understood what all the fuss about life was. To clarify, that means that although I knew there would be people who missed me if I was to go, I didn't really think the Great Earth would see it as much of a loss.

Until I gave birth.

Now I get it, that the Great Earth is really that World which exists around my daughter, and for her it would be....some series of horrific words here...were I to disappear.

So, thanks for making me cry at my computer, too.

12:38 PM  
Blogger red fish said...

I agree that there is nothing we can write that will do justice to the life lived or the loss felt. I struggled with the same thing. You did a great job, though. He sounds like a wonderful family man. Tragic.

2:24 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

Thanks Quinn...there are so many stories for each person lost.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Raggedy said...

Wonderful Tribute!
Your tribute brings us closer to knowing a little more about the people who lost their lives.
Thank you.
These are heartbreaking stories and difficult to read....
I am honored to be a part of this project.
Mine is posted also...

The 2996 link is down. I have a new link on my site to view the participants.

Bless you...

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challengeand controversy. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

That was wonderful. I wish I could have been as eloquent with the person I was honoring - David Defeo - on my blog. I did the best I could, but I do not have the same gift of stringing words together to get something so moving, as you do.

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did it. Brought something of him to life for those of us who also never had the chance to know him. No one could have done more.


9:06 AM  
Blogger Goslyn said...

Quinn, this is one of the most beautiful and moving tributes I've read. I am so glad I stopped by and read this post.

Thank you for your beautiful and humanizing memorial.

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn...that was so well thought out. Your grasp of things amazes me. And yes, I am sitting here at my computer crying as well. Beautiful......

8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for being so moving with your words.
Thanks for making me think about the children who lost parents on that day, perhaps saving me from making an unintentionally insensitive comment sometime in the future.
I wish you had never had to write about Patrick either, but the way you did was one of the best.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful, Quinn.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented earlier on your beautiful tribute, but now I have a question: do you know if Patrick's wife read it? And if so, what was her response?

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so nice, I would love to do something like this since I was living in NYC on 9/11.

8:08 PM  

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