Finding Tommy Ashton At the 9/11 Memorial

From Thursday’s New York Times:

Constructing a Story, With 2,982 Names

How do you find a name?

How do you find one name out of 2,982? How can you spot two or three incised words around twin pools that — taken together — extend an acre and a half? How is it possible to discern letters no higher than an inch and a half in the shadow of what is to be the tallest skyscraper in New York City?

Start with a map.

In essence, that is what the National September 11 Memorial and Museum issued on Wednesday: a clear, navigable computerized guide to the location of every name inscribed on the bronze parapets that are being installed along the perimeters of the pools where the World Trade Center towers once stood.

My cousin Tommy Ashton was murdered on 9/11 in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He worked as an electrician’s apprentice at Marsh & McLennan. It was his second day on the job. He was 21 years old.

Thanks to their computerized map, I found Tommy at the 9/11 Memorial.

Here’s Tommy:

Here’s where his name will live on (in addition to the Tommy Ashton Basketball Tournament that his sisters have so diligently nurtured):

For the past ten years I’ve been thankful to the Times for their 2001 Portraits of Grief remembrance of Tommy:

Thomas Ashton: Sharing Old Memories

It was home movies night on Monday, Sept. 10, at the Ashton household in Woodside, Queens. No one is quite sure why the family decided to break out the old videotapes after so many years. But there they sat, glued to the screen: Thomas; his sisters, Colleen and Mary; and their parents, John and Kathy Ashton.

There were a lot of laughs, especially at the scenes of Thomas, barely out of a diaper, whipping the Frisbee at his father with the precision of someone 10 times his age. Monday was also Thomas’s first day at electrician’s school, part of his apprenticeship with Local 3 in Manhattan. The second day on the job, Thomas, 21, was sent to the 95th floor of the north tower.

”We hope that wherever he is, he is able to have those memories from the home movies in his mind,” Colleen Ashton said. ”It was special that we were able to share that time together.”

Now, with the 9/11 Memorial, I have something else to be thankful for.

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5 Responses to Finding Tommy Ashton At the 9/11 Memorial

  1. arafat kazi says:

    There are no words for these situations. But I will say a prayer for Tommy tonight.

  2. Branka Kristic says:

    It was an honor and privilege to have known Tommy. He, Colleen and Mary swam on my daughter’s swim team, Flushing Flyers. Sweet young man, fast swimmer, leader, captain of his team. I just published my remembrance of him:

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      Thank you for your note, Branka. My fondest memory of Tommy was him splashing around my parents’ swimming pool when he was still in his tadpole years. What a terrible, terrible loss.

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