Ten years ago today my cousin Tommy Ashton was murdered in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
From the New York Times inspired (and inspirational) Portraits of Grief series:
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.”
Also special is the many ways Tommy’s memory has been honored in the years since:
• His late grandfather Lew Worth’s fierce love of Tommy, which led him to visit Tommy’s grave (along with Tommy’s father John) every day for years
• The wonderful Thomas Ashton Foundation established by his sisters Colleen and Mary, which runs the annual Tommy Ashton 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in Queens. This year it raised $27,000, donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and St. Sebastian School
• Lovely tributes such as this one from Branka Kristic on the Hofstra Parents, Hofstra Pride website:
We RememberPeace and early morning sunshine have descended on a usually very busy Calkins Hall green at Hofstra. For the past week, students and staff have have been planting hundreds of American flags in remembrance of the heroes of 9/11, in the shape of our great country. We all know where we were on that day, on that moment.We remember the loved ones lost and the heroes who helped in recovery.
I planted a flag to honor Tommy Ashton who died under the debris of the Twin Towers on 9/11/01. My daughter’s friend, this 21-year-old came to his second day on the job in the World Trade Center. I will always remember his youth, exuberance and the pride in his parents’ eyes when they watched him compete in swimming. It is an honor and pleasure to have known you, Tommy.
In a note to me, Branka said this:
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 remember Tommy when he was just a tadpole, splashing around my parents’ swimming pool.
What a terrible terrible loss.