This tribute is part of a series of reflections from HLS faculty, staff and alumni on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. View all tributes.
Contributor: Robb London
Robb London is Assistant Dean for Communications at Harvard Law School. Between 1995 and 2002 he was an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, where he served in the Major Crimes Unit.
In August of 2001, on a beach on Cape Cod, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in years. She introduced me excitedly to her three young sons and her husband. He was wonderfully vibrant, friendly, smart, and fun, and we clicked instantly – one of those immediate connections that hold great promise of a future bond. Like a kid with a new toy, he proudly showed me his new Palm Pilot. With his stylus he entered my name in his contacts list and said he looked forward to knowing me. “He loves that thing,” his wife said. “He’s never without it.”
Three weeks later, back home in Seattle, I watched with disbelief as the attacks unfolded on national television. Life as we knew it would never be the same. For those of us who were prosecutors, one of the differences became apparent within hours. Federal agents were taken off many of our investigations and re-routed to anti-terrorism work or air marshal duty.
In the days that followed, I began to hear from east coast friends. Everyone seemed to know someone – or someone who knew someone – who had perished. I thought I was insulated from this by distance. And then I learned that the wonderfully happy father of three young sons – my future friend — had been on the 89th floor of Tower B. He had watched through the windows after Tower A was hit, and had told colleagues and subordinates that anyone who wanted to leave should go ahead. Many did. He stayed, and called his wife to say that he could see people jumping from Tower A but Tower B was fine. He assured her that he was ok. In the middle of that call, the line went dead.
I remembered that my name was in his Palm Pilot. I imagined that it was there among the millions of pieces of twisted rebar and ash-covered circuit boards in the rubble and smoking kerosene of Ground Zero. And I began to mourn the loss of someone I barely knew, but who surely would have graced my life. His name was David Berry, and I will always miss the friendship we never got to have.