I rarely remember what the weather was like on a particular day– especially over a decade later, but I will never forget the clear blue skies and the perfect morning on that fateful day of 9/11. From such a glorious beginning, it is amazing how quickly all hell broke loose. When I got to work, one tower had already been hit– soon after the other was hit, and we got word that the Pentagon had also been struck. One block from the White House, our building went into lockdown mode and snipers appeared on nearby rooftops. With no ability to call anyone and traffic jams everywhere, it was impossible to figure out what to do right away. I had never felt so helpless in my life.

Eventually, I walked home in a frightened, along with many, many others whose cars were simply inaccessible. Later I would learn that one of my high school classmates, Todd Isaac, was a victim trapped in one of the NYC towers when it collapsed. Life for those of us that survived has gone on, but it definitely has never been the same again. Americans once oblivious to the dangers out there now are painfully aware that we have many enemies, not all easily identifiable. And yet, amazingly the human spirit continues to triumph over tragedy.

Many of my former classmates have gone on to have children of their own, and as we struggle to achieve a work-life balance, we are trying to keep our children safe and raise them with sufficient skills to help them survive. More importantly, we want to instill them with hope that they will have promising futures. In that same vein, a group of Todd’s friends created a scholarship in his name, and thus far have raised over $500,000 to help underprivileged children secure a stellar education.

This weekend, there will be a basketball tournament in his name, and many of his friends will be there to celebrate his life. It is stories like Todd’s that continue to provide me with hope for humanity. His friends rose above the tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to honor his legacy. In our individual way, we should all aspire to do the same. Life is full of crosses that we have to bear, but it is how you choose to bear that cross that defines you.

Todd and I both went to Andover on scholarships, and it was not easy being surrounded by ultra wealthy kids 9 months out of the year, and then returning to the hood during the summer. It was not easy knowing that those around us had this awesome safety net, yet for us failure was not an option. It sucked to realize that we could not just pursue whatever we wanted– because money was a real concern. But rather than sit and pout about our poor beginnings, Todd and I both appreciated the opportunities presented to us and decided to make the best of it. Todd was an amazing inspiration to all those that met him, and it speaks volumes to his character that even long after his death, he continues to inspire us.

Rest in peace my friend.