Thursday, February 11, 2010

school shooting

The talk at church tonight, as it has been all throughout Knoxville today, was yesterday's shooting of the principal and assistant principal of Inskip Elementary School. The members of All Saints Church were especially concerned since assistant principal Amy Brace is the daughter of fellow parishioners Jim and Connie Brace. Dr. Jim Brace is the associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee.

One of the choir members prepared special "prayer blankets" for the two victims. The blanket is a symbol of the prayers being offered by church members. The people on the prayer chain at All Saints had heard some possible details of the attack. Assuming their information is accurate, it sounds like Amy Brace is lucky to be alive. They report that she has a through-and-through gunshot wound on her forearm and that a bullet grazed her scalp without penetrating her skull. One parishioner wondered if Amy's arm slowed or deflected the bullet enough to keep it out of her brain.

Principal Elisa Luna's injuries are more serious. Countless prayers are being offered for her recovery too.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

fight to life

Father Michael Woods commented on the influence of social media during his homily at today's 11:45 Mass at All Saints Church. He had just returned from visiting Ashley Reisser and her family at UT Medical Center. The Maryville High School senior was critically injured in a wreck on an icy Pellissippi Parkway last night.

The story in the Knoxville News Sentinel spells out some of the horrific details. Ashley and her friends got out of her car after a fender bender, as did the driver of the other vehicle. Two other cars, a Mitsubishi and a Honda, also slid on the ice and collided with each other. The cars in the second crash hit Ashley and her friends and then hit the other driver from the first crash as he tried to help the girls. The red Mitsubishi drove away. The men in the Honda got out and ran. Knoxville Police are looking for a red Mitsubishi Eclipse with Tennessee license plate 825-SQP. It should have a broken left rear taillight and damage to the passenger side.

I first heard about the wreck from Ashley's brother-in-law, who is a good friend of mine. I was his RCIA sponsor last Easter. He is a parishioner at Sacred Heart Cathedral and needed to know how to contact a priest at All Saints, where the Reissers go. I texted Fr. Michael Woods, who was able to visit the hospital after the 8:15 Mass.

I told Fr. Michael about a Facebook page that had sprung up overnight. By 10:30 a.m., 1,578 members had joined the group "Pray for Ashley Reisser and everyone involved in the wreck." As of this writing, the membership has climbed to 3,881. Fr. Michael mentioned the group in his homily and told how the family was touched by the outpouring of prayers online.

Some reporters from WATE saw my prayer requests on Twitter and Facebook and asked me to put them in touch with the family. The story just aired on tonight's 11:00 p.m. news. A reporter from The Daily Times in Maryville posted her phone number on the Facebook wall, inviting family members to call her for a story to be in Monday's paper.

I was impressed by the "retweets" of the prayer requests. Some were by a morning deejay at a Christian radio station and one was by an outfit called Prayer Network. At least two others helped spread the word too.

The family members have posted some encouraging news on Facebook. Her sister wrote that Ashley probably should not have survived the crash but instead is showing some improvement. Although Ashley has a fractured skull and several other broken bones, doctors are optimistic for her recovery. The power of prayer is strong.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

disaster relief

The best thing to donate after a tragedy is money. Respected agencies like the American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services and The Salvation Army can buy more with each dollar than we could at retail prices. However sometimes we feel more helpful by giving items instead of cash.

One Knoxville retailer is collecting now-worthless Lane Kiffin t-shirts for victims of the Haiti earthquake. Disgruntled fans of the Tennessee Vols were more than happy to be shed of reminders of the coach who jilted them.

Another organization I respect is accepting items. Remote Area Medical will fly their transport plane from Knoxville to Haiti on Friday. Here is the list of needs I received via email today:
Aspirin – as much as you can provide

Ibuprofen/ Tylenol – liquid for infants
Tablets for adults

Anti-diarrhea medication (like Imodium) tablets or capsules (not liquid or liqui-gels) – as much as you can provide

Anti-itch cream (Benadryl)

Vaseline (we can use up to 20 pounds)

Antibiotic cream (Neosporin) as much as you can provide

Ace bandages – as much as you can provide

Ziploc bags – all sizes

Fine tip sharpies - 20

Alcohol in plastic bottles up to 50 bottles

Wash cloths – will be lower priority so will be one of the last things packed

Dish towels (flour sack cotton, not washcloth type – basically those that would leave less lint) these are for use by doctors when treating patients

Empty bottles with multi-hole pop up caps various sizes (these can be filled with water to flush debris) you can find smaller ones in travel item section at Walmart

Crutches – If stoppers, handgrips and arm pads are in good shape.

Eye drops – non-medicated (saline, liquid tears) as much as you can provide.

Gauze pads – 2x2 and 4x4 sizes

Band-Aids – 20 to 30 boxes


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Friday, September 11, 2009

bravest of the brave

Instead of going to Ground Zero each year, my aunt and uncle have preferred to attend smaller memorial services on Long Island. Their son, FDNY Captain Terry Hatton, lost his life in the service of others on September 11, 2001.

Last night, one of Terry's high school classmates found my blog entry from two years ago. He posted a comment that I'm sure my family members will appreciate. You may also want to read my posts from 2008 and 2006.

A website called Wear RED on 9/11 has a tool for you to update your Twitter icon and a link for a Facebook fan page. As the name implies, they want us to wear red clothes today. How do you plan to commemorate the anniversary?

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

no accident

Some interesting stories have emerged from the recent plane crashes in New York. Two Blount County women have now met because they were both on the plane that crash landed in the Hudson River. The News Sentinel featured them on Sunday.

I was even more interested in the Florida family who avoided the fatal crash near Buffalo. A gate agent at Palm Beach International Airport rerouted them off Flight 3407 for two reasons. They missed the boarding call for their flight to Newark, where they would have gotten on the doomed plane. Rather than rush to catch their scheduled flight, the gate agent advised them to switch to a different airline. Turbulence and delays in Newark also factored into the decision.

My father used to say that he missed a deadly crash due to the Immaculate Reception. He regularly flew to Miami on business for Bacardi Rum. In 1972, he had plans to see the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game near the end of their undefeated season. Back then, the rules for which team hosted playoff games were different than today. Even with their record, the Dolphins were not guaranteed home field advantage. When Franco Harris made his improbable catch and helped the Steelers defeat the Raiders, it meant the Dolphins would have to travel to Pittsburgh the next week. The flight my father probably would have taken from New York to Miami, had the Dolphins hosted the Raiders, crashed into the Everglades on Friday, December 29, 1972.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

of the faithful departed

The tragic story of Thomas Vander Woude's death brought my daughter to tears as I told her about it yesterday. Not because he drowned in a septic tank but because of the reason why.

If I had realized that Mr. Vander Woude lived in Prince William County, Virginia, I might have been quicker to read the details of his life. My wife and I lived there too when we bought a townhouse in Dale City. Like countless other deejays, I first read the news when I saw the following paragraph on Perry Simon's showprep page last week:
No, you may not laugh about this poor guy drowning in a septic tank, not after he died saving his son, who had fallen in before him. He was being heroic.
At the time, I didn't click on the link to read the full story. I wish I had. When the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia picked it up, I saw the limitless scope of a father's love for his child. The blog quoted heavily from a very good Washington Post profile of the man.

An earlier piece in the Post described how the retired Mr. Vander Woude attended daily Mass at Holy Trinity Catholic Church and spent his days working around his property with his son Joseph, who has Down syndrome. When the cover to the septic tank collapsed under Joseph, Thomas jumped in and got under his son, pushing him up until rescuers could pull Joseph out. By the time they pulled Thomas out of the sewage, the father of seven was unconscious and could not be revived.

As Bishop Paul Loverde pointed out at the funeral, Mr. Vander Woude's sacrifice was "saintly." Rocco Palmo, the writer of Whispers in the Loggia, picked up on the fact that not only are people praying for the Vander Woude family but that an emailer to National Review found themselves praying to Thomas. Parents everywhere should be inspired by Mr. Vander Woude's example of selflessness.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

touching the lives of others

On the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks, both presidential candidates visited Ground Zero in New York. Earlier this year, the Pope prayed at the site.

In case you missed it six months ago, let me point you to a blog entry about a 9/11 memorial at the Garland Fire Department in Texas. Also, an article from the Christian Science Monitor turned up in my email inbox. It describes some people who have dedicated their lives to good deeds since the attacks.

Another email came from a listener who wanted to express his feelings about my cousin, FDNY Captain Terry Hatton, who gave his life at the World Trade Center. He chose to run into a building that was already on fire and told one of his firefighting brothers that they may never see each other again. Here is the message from listener Michael:
I have listened to your morning show ever since I moved here from Los Angeles in 2004. Every morning as I drive to work, I tune in. I have never called in, and I more than likely never will. However, I heard you mention this morning that your cousin was a firefighter who lost his life on 9/11. First off, I must say I am sorry for your loss. With that being said, your cousin is truly an American hero. For someone to give their life helping people -- not only people, but people he didn't know -- is amazing. His family should be very, very proud. He was truly an unselfish man. So many people have him to thank. They may not know his name, or what he looked like, or his family but they had to have known his character, heart and his unwillingness to give up in adversity. Again, he is the true American hero. Not the celebrities that give donations, but never lift a finger to help. Or politicians that promise to make the world a better place, then back off when it becomes too hard to make a difference. But your cousin. I am not one to call in with my opinion but I wanted to let you know that even though I was not a victim of 9/11, nor was any of my family, I am still very grateful. Thank you to your cousin.
My wife and I turned on the radio tonight and happened across some music that was appropriate for today. It was a performance of the Berlioz "Requiem" by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and the Knoxville Choral Society, recorded at the Tennessee Theatre during one of the concerts I wrote about last April.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

winz, losses and ties

Nicole Sandler and I know a lot of the same people. We were competitors when I was at KROQ and she was at KLOS. A couple of years later, I got Nicole's old job with Mark & Brian. Despite our common acquaintances, we had never met or spoken until today. Nicole emailed to see if she could call me on her Miami radio show to talk briefly about the tragic church shooting in Knoxville. A podcast of the show is available. I'm on at the end of hour 3.

The accused killer had books by Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity in his home. I said that I had heard Catherine Howell on WNOX wondering if the suspect was one of their listeners. Nicole supports a return to the Fairness Doctrine so that people like the shooter might be exposed to other points of view. I countered by telling how we talked about tolerance and freedom of religion on Monday morning on Star 102.1. I told the Miami listeners that East Tennessee is not all gun racks and confederate flags. We have many different houses of worship along Kingston Pike and plenty of well-educated people at UT and ORNL.

It was nice of Nicole to call. I'm not sure why she thought of me but my best guess would be that she saw one of the links I submitted to Perry Simon's Talk Topics column at All Access. When I find a local story that might interest Perry (like this one), I send it along. I've been doing that since he and I worked in neighboring trailers at the Comedy World Radio Network.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

dear diary

The type of tragedy that always seems to happen someplace else happened here in Knoxville yesterday. A hate-filled shooter opened fire in a one of the many churches along Kingston Pike. The shooting alone was enough to make today one of the more memorable days in my personal broadcast history.

I don't usually write about work but in this case I must make an exception so that I can look back on this post years from now. Due to vacation schedules and the departure of another deejay, the boss asked me to do the midday show instead of the morning show both this week and last. Before we knew about the shooting on Sunday, I got a call from Kim Hansard. She said that Marc Anthony was ill and would miss work the next day. We came up with a plan to air rerun segments during the morning show on Monday. I drove over to the station to load the audio files into the "Google box," which is my name for our broadcast computer system. When I finally exited the soundproof studio, I learned of the shooting in an email from my friend Bean.

I felt that there was no way we could run repeats on a day when Knoxvillians would need to talk about the tragic event. We worked out a new plan that involved a double shift. I would still do the midday show from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and also come in early to do the morning show with Kim from 5:30 to 10:00 a.m. We took lots of calls and talked about heroes, hatred, tolerance, freedom of religion and the effect of violence on children. I commented that the Unitarian Universalist beliefs reminded me of the rights guaranteed by our founding fathers. The most powerful moment came when an eyewitness to the shooting called us. Here's the audio of the call:

To top it all off, we finally had a winner in the station's flyaway contest. For the past few weeks, listeners have been trying to guess an airplane seat number to win a trip to a John Mayer concert in Dallas. An hour later we started the contest for the second flyaway to see Linkin Park in St. Louis. Kim and I were stunned when our first contestant guessed the correct seat. It was even more shocking than my 10-9 victory in the daily Her vs. Him contest. I can't remember the last time the guys won on a day I was filling in for Marc.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

fragility of life

A tragic car crash claimed the life of a woman whose son goes to school with my son. My wife and I accompanied our son to the funeral at Holy Ghost Parish on Saturday. Even though we didn't know Mary Lynn Hurley, we wanted to show support for her children, Jacob and Caitlin. Years later, I still remember which of my friends came to my father's funeral even though they didn't know him.

The News Sentinel's website has two versions of their article about the crash. The early version of the story was updated to be the same as the article in Friday's paper. As the story developed it was revealed that the other driver had a suspended license and a medical condition which may explain why he was seen slumped behind the wheel before the crash. What now differentiates the two postings are the comments that were left on Thursday vs. those left on Friday.

Thursday's comments include several responses to a deleted comment that suggested the other driver should have died instead. Another reader felt it necessary to post the office hours of the deceased woman, which drew an angry reaction a few hours later.

On Friday morning someone posted a comment that will affect your emotions. It appears to have been written by Jacob Hurley about his late mother. It serves as a powerful reminder that the reader comments posted on local news sites will be seen by the families of the people involved in the corresponding article.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

a life cut short

A news story from last week is still weighing on my mind. On Thursday, a complete loser was convicted of killing Christina Eubanks. At the time of the murder, I was shocked and saddened by the crime. Christina would often come to watch Einstein Simplified perform. I remember meeting her, as does my wife.

Reading about the trial, I was saddened again by the way the defendant besmirched the victim's reputation. I was especially galled by the murderer's claim that he used his stun gun in an effort to revive Christina after he smashed her head with a toilet tank lid. His story about a consensual affair didn't ring true with me either. The jurors didn't believe him either and sent him to prison presumably for the rest of his life.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

six years six months

For the first five years after 9/11, firefighter Aron Safell marked the anniversary by erecting 343 crosses on the lawn outside his firehouse in Garland, Texas. He displayed the crosses for the final time in 2006 and sent me several photos which I posted on my blog. Each cross had the name of a firefighter, including my cousin Terry Hatton, who died at the World Trade Center. Aron has kindly offered to send nameplate photos to the families of any of the firefighters lost in the line of duty that day.

In November, the Garland Fire Department opened a new administration and training facility. Let me have Aron continue the story by quoting his email:
The chief asked for any memorabilia to go into the display area. I wanted the "Cross for a Brother" memorial to somehow fit into this. I removed all the nameplates from the crosses and pitched a few ideas to the chiefs. An office Captain and I came up with an idea and sent it off to a trophy company. What a memorial! They used all the original nameplates and created the Twin Towers memorial for the front area of the FD administration offices.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

most wanted

An arrest has finally been made in the Johnia Berry case. Johnia was murdered and her roommate was injured almost three years ago in a senseless crime. Her family has tirelessly campaigned to keep the case in the news. Blogger Les Jones helped by creating a website and bringing it to the attention of other bloggers and members of the mainstream media.

I found it reassuring that the man they arrested does bear a resemblance to the face in the composite sketch of the suspect. As he did the perp walk, the TV reporters asked him some leading questions:
"Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I never meant for this to happen. I'm sorry."
"Did you mean to kill her?"
"Why did you do it, was it an accident?"
"It was an accident."
Most of the first half of today's "Oprah Winfrey Show" on bipolar disorder was preempted locally by the sheriff's congratulatory press conference. The sheriff congratulated the TBI and other agencies. Representatives of the other agencies congratulated the sheriff and the detectives. The representatives from Food City received some well deserved praise for putting wanted posters in their store windows and on their trucks. When Johnia's mother spoke, it was truly emotional.

After the local affiliate returned to Oprah, they posted a graphic urging viewers to stay tuned for the 5 o'clock news. Unfortunately, it was the same time as the Oprah crew flashed a graphic promoting tomorrow's show. The local graphic wasn't big enough to completely obliterate Oprah's graphic, resulting in the unfortunate combination pictured below.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

leader of men

The camera phone photo below made the email rounds in our family earlier this year. My mother sent it to me. She had gotten it from her sister, who in turn had gotten it from a neighbor. The neighbor's son saw the inspirational quote on the wall of a fire training academy in Maryland. The name under the quote is that of FDNY Captain Terry Hatton, a hero who died six years ago today. My mother's sister is Terry Hatton's mother.

My cousin was known for saying "It's either outstanding or it's unacceptable." Former FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen used the quote in his remarks in 2005 when a portion of West 43rd Street was renamed Captain Terence S. Hatton Way. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might recall that I wrote about Terry last year on this date.

There is something else this time of year that helps me remember Terry. During the years that I worked at KROQ, we would travel to New York every September for the MTV Video Music Awards. Terry would find time in his schedule to meet me at a restaurant near my hotel. I wanted to hear about his latest heroics but he would steer the conversation away from himself. Of course, his actions spoke louder than any words.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

caught up in the Internet

This morning at 3:00 a.m Central Time, several people from Wisconsin ended up at my site after searching for information about a Frank Murphy who beat somebody up in the third grade. Of course I never delivered a smackdown in the third or any other grade. My son tells me that there is a scene in the movie "I, Robot" that may have prompted the flurry of web activity. I should watch it one of these days.

A list of predictions from 1900 has been making the rounds on the Internet this past week. Some of the items seem too accurate to be true. I expected to find a debunking of the list at but did not.

Another site making the news is It tracks leatherback sea turtles as they swim to the Galapagos Islands to lay their eggs.

As I read more about the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I stumbled across a cartoon that moved me. It shows the mascots of other Virginia universities consoling the Virginia Tech Hokie. A larger version of the drawing can be found at When seen side by side with the other mascots, it is apparent that my alma mater needs to update theirs.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

freedom and security

Universities all over the country are expressing condolences to Virginia Tech. At my daughter's school they are planning a vigil in their "designated free speech area." It got me wondering if speech can be both designated and free. My daughter and some friends have already made arrangements with student housing to be roommates next fall. She told me today that one of her future roommates lost a good friend (and former high school classmate) in the massacre.

On "The View" this morning, the co-hosts wished that a more extensive background check could have kept the VT killer from buying his guns. On previous episodes, Rosie O'Donnell has made it clear that she is vehemently opposed to that same sort of thing when it is known as the Patriot Act. Rich Hailey makes a good point that the profiling which might have stopped the murderer would have also ensnared lots of other lonely, insecure students.

People everywhere are invited to wear orange and maroon on Friday to show support for Virginia Tech.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

peace on earth, goodwill toward men

Merry Christmas! This past December I saw a guy on the National Geographic Channel who said that Jesus was born on April 17 in the year 6 BC. He used astronomical calculations to determine that the Star of Bethlehem (a/k/a Jupiter) would have been visible 2,012 years ago today. After yesterday's events we could use some of that Christmas spirit.

Earlier today, my wife spoke with her sister who went to Virginia Tech. Through her we heard about a friend of a friend of a friend who survived the shootings by falling down and playing dead. Meanwhile we learned that the shooter grew up in Centreville, near where another of my wife's sisters used to live.

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Monday, April 16, 2007


The news from Virginia Tech is horrifying. Several of the blogs I try to read daily have featured links to news about the shootings. Check out Collegiate Times, The Roanoke Times and Newschannel10. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are grieving the loss of a friend or family member.

My wife and I know some Virginia Tech alumni, including one of her brothers, one of her sisters and a few of my cousins. Our daughter has a friend from pre-school who is now a student there. She was able to find out that her friend was okay via IM. Several news stories are reporting how news spread over the Internet through instant messages, email and Facebook. Virginia Tech is one of the first schools our son has visited as he begins his college search. He seems to be handling the news of the tragedy but I am concerned about how it might affect him in the future.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

if you build it they will come

Monday's post about the September 11th anniversary prompted my sister's husband to send me an article from The Washington Post about an unusual 9/11 tribute. You might recall reading about my visit to Foamhenge last month. The guy who built Foamhenge has now put up a temporary replica of the twin towers in Buena Vista, Virginia. The Roanoke Times has an article with a map. My wife wants to visit some family members in Northern Virginia at the end of October. I'm thinking about going with her so we can stop off in Buena Vista to see it. I wouldn't mind making a return visit to Foamhenge too. Another Washington Post article has got me reconsidering my decision to skip Natural Bridge on that last trip.

Aron Saffell, the firefighter in Texas, sent me a bunch of photos from his 9/11 tribute. I thought the pictures were great even though Aron wrote:
Please keep in mind, I'm not a photographer, woodworker or painter. I'll also send you a couple of overhead shots we took today. I have not taken these types of pics since the 1st anniversary because we kept the same dimensions until this year. Thanks again for allowing me to do this for y'all. If you are ever in contact with any other FDNY family members, let them know that I spent all day today taking a picture of every cross. I can email them any they want.

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Monday, September 11, 2006


The tragic events of 9/11/01 affected people in all parts of the world. In almost every community there is somebody who knows somebody who died that day. Terry Hatton was one of the brave few who actually run into burning buildings. As captain of FDNY's Rescue 1, he was killed, along with ten of his men, in the line of duty on 9/11. He was also my cousin.

As kids, we would spend summers together at our grandparents' cottage on Long Island. Later in life, I would see Terry when I traveled to New York on business and when he visited Los Angeles. One time he came to my 9th floor office at KROQ and told me that he didn't like the way the building's fire exits were designed.

In the months after the attacks, a Burbank firefighter made metal bracelets that were each engraved with the name of a deceased New York firefighter. They were similar to the POW bracelets that were distributed in the 1970s. I bought a bracelet from him with Terry's name on it.

Last week I was contacted by Aron Saffell, a firefighter in Garland, Texas. Each year, on the anniversary of the attacks, he erects 343 crosses in memory of his fallen brethren. The Dallas Morning News covered it on their website today. Aron sent me a photo of the cross with Terry Hatton's nameplate.

Here in Knoxville we have a permanent memorial to the victims of 9/11. It's a black obelisk engraved with the names of those who died. There was a photo of it alongside a story in yesterday's News Sentinel.

Terry Hatton made an impact on all those he met. A woman who used to date his uncle wrote about Terry in Saturday's Austin American-Statesman. (Just for clarification, my mother and Terry's mother are sisters. The uncle mentioned in the column is the brother of Terry's father.) Two weeks after 9/11, another journalist wrote about the time she spent on jury duty with Terry.

Rest in peace, cousin.

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