Shaun Powell shares how a meeting with Michael Jordan helped his family heal after his brother died on Sept. 11.
My younger brother, Scott, worked as a computer contractor at the Pentagon when the plane hit at 9:37 a.m. ET. He was in the wrong section in the wrong place on the wrong day in the wrong year. He and thousands of others in Lower Manhattan and northern Virginia and a small field in western Pennsylvania never returned home on September 11, 2001. Nothing prepares you for the horror and the shock and definitely not the immediate aftermath of that.
How can you, for instance, deal with waiting all morning and afternoon for a sign of life that never came? Or cope with your mother’s voice cracking on the other end of the line when she gathers just enough strength to say “He didn’t make it” before hanging up? Or reaching out to family and relatives and loved ones and becoming too choked to finish a thought? Or just shaking off the numbness of it all? You can’t, not really; even 20 years later, with a bit of healing from the passage of time, the memory is a fuzzy, confusing blur.
The phone never stopped ringing that day, that night, or the next. People you didn’t know checked in, and people you did know checked in twice and three times. One was Brian McIntyre, an NBA senior vice president, calling on behalf of the league. I was then, and now, a reporter and yet, by virtue of my job on the NBA beat, I was an extension of the NBA family. The conversation was brief and somewhat clumsy, as they all were then. Before it ended, he said: “Let us know if there’s anything we can do.”
That courtesy is probably exchanged a million times a day. You’ve said it, I’ve said it, and it has become a passing comment among friends and colleagues before the good-bye. And I never took anyone up on that, for any reason, large or small … except once. Except this time.
Days turned into weeks and months, and once semi-normalcy returned to our family — obviously, nothing would ever be the same again — I asked McIntyre about that offer.
“Sure. What do you need?”
“Well, just one thing.”
“You think his kids could meet Michael Jordan?”
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