I never had the pain, heartbreak, or suffering of losing someone I knew on September 11, 2001. I won't pretend to understand how that feels.
I was just 4 years old on that fateful day. I don't remember much, but my parents remember it vividly. The pain, the heartbreak, and the crushing sadness. The frantic phone calls to our cousins in Eastern New Jersey. Staring at the TV; hoping this was all a sick prank, and not the disaster it was reported to be.
Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11. They were parents, friends, siblings, colleagues, executives, janitors, first responders, and everything in between. But many were simply heroes.
I went to the same college & started in the same exact role at the same company as one. So today, I'm thinking about Shawn Nassaney.
Simply put, everyone loved to be around Shawn. He was a Rhode Islander born-and-raised; a standout track star St. Raphael's Academy in Pawtucket, he earned a scholarship to run both track & cross country at Bryant, just a few miles from home. Nassaney graduated with honors, earned a Marketing degree, and was an excellent classmate to those around him.
Shawn Nassaney was a leader. The "Bulldog Award" is awarded each year to an athlete at Bryant who embodies the "Bulldog" spirit of ability and commitment; Nassaney won it twice.
Nassaney went on to start his career at American Power Conversion (APC), which was eventually acquired by Schneider Electric. He moved quickly through the ranks, earning a few promotions in his short three-year career. At the time, APC's Asian Pacific headquarters were in Sydney, Australia; Nassaney earned himself an assignment to work in Sydney and train global sales folks to become better employees. When he came back to APC's headquarters in Kingston, he became a team leader for the Enterprise Sales teams, where he was universally loved by his fellow managers & his reports alike.
Shawn was heading to Hawaii with his girlfriend & fellow Bryant alumnus, Lynn Goodchild. They were both on United Airlines Flight 175, heading from Boston to Los Angeles. It struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on board.
His colleagues at APC had feared the worst. "Maybe he was taking a later flight," they thought. But when they hadn't heard from him, their suspicions were confirmed.
As my partner, co-host, and friend, Will, mentioned on the most recent episode of the Normal Guy, Lazy Eye podcast, "how do you measure a life?" Do you measure it in money, cars, and material things? Or do you measure it in the lives you impacted, the things you built, and the experiences you had with the people around you?
For Shawn, it was the latter. No, he wasn't one of the brave firefighters that sprinted up the stairs of the WTC while everyone else scrambled to get out of the building. He wasn't performing CPR on the streets or giving oxygen to the elderly. But Shawn Nassaney was a hero in his own way.
As his father described in this video, he was a free spirit - always looking for the most out of life. If you ask his colleagues, he was the best motivator and team player you could've imagined. If you ask his teammates and classmates, they'll echo the sentiments. There's no question, Shawn Nassaney was a hero of life.
We say "Never Forget" after tragedies like this, but it certainly gets difficult to find your role in remembering those we lost. Heroes like Shawn Nassaney make it a bit easier.
Shawn Nassaney Foundation: http://www.shawnmnassaney.org