is probably not a name you've ever heard of. I hadn't either until a few weeks ago, when he was assigned to me as part of the 2996 Project, where bloggers around the world and the country are acknowledging each of the victims of September 11th.
So how do you capture the essence of a man you've never met? How can you possibly pay tribute to a total stranger? What on earth makes a guy like me, with no immediate losses on that terrible day, qualified to memorialize an innocent murder victim. Nothing does, and yet I still have to try.
There is one thing I think he and I have in common, aside from being New Yorkers living in the suburbs around New York City. We are both ordinary people - regular guys leading regular lives. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure Mr. McHugh was an extraordinary man to those who knew him - but there was nothing out of the everyday that you can't find all across America. He went to work, did his job, spent time with his family, got active in local politics - the picture of a decent ordinary citizen pursuing the totality of his life's work to the best of his ability.
And yet. And yet.
He was extraordinary in every way to the people who knew him and loved him. Brilliant or not, handsome or not, generous or not, he was the one and the only him, and no one could have been a better Michael Edward McHugh Jr. than he was. So who was Michael Edward McHugh, Jr? I couldn't tell you the first thing about the inner person, but here are some things I've gathered over the internet:
He was a husband to Maria Cermele McHugh;
He was a father to Michael III, Christian, and Connor McHugh
He was a son to Eileen and Michael McHugh
He was a brother to Darby McHugh and John McHugh
He was an energy trader for Trade Spark, a Division of Cantor Fitzgerald
He was a Village Trustee in Tuckahoe, NY
He was campaigning for a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators
So there you have the bare facts. But what of the depth? What of the life the man led? How to capture such things? Did he like football or baseball? Pepperoni on his pizza or peppers and onions? By the tributes on his Legacy. com page, I get the sense that he was the kind of guy all of us know in one way or another. A decent, hardworking guy who roughhoused with his kids and did what he could to make his corner of the universe a better place to be. A real man's man - not the overhyped blowhard type - but the guy who takes his responsibilities seriously and does what he needs to get the job done.
And what of Michael Edward McHugh, Jr.? What happened to that man's man? His life was cut short by the lowest scum of humanity. Evil, twisted subhumans who considered violent death for themselves and others to be a blessed event. Who decided that others had no right to live based on their faith, their nationality, or some other meaningless, invented designation. Michael McHugh had a right to live. He had a right to pursue his own dreams and success without the murderous bastards cutting those dreams short. He had a right to grow old with his wife. He had a right to see his boys grow up and become men. He had a right to see future generations born and grow. And all that lost because some nutcase had a deathwish.
Let us grieve for Michael. Let us remember his passing with sorrow, for all that he was and all that might have been. Let us recall his life and the joy he gave the world, and the benefit his existence was to the rest of us whether we knew him or not. We have arrived, as we did on that terrible day five years ago, on the cusp of the High Holy Days of the Jewish calendar. Rosh Hashana of 5762 arrived exactly a week after 9/11, and I can recall praying extremely hard that year for God to have mercy on us all. These days, even five years past, remain an opportunity to beg God for mercy for ourselves and the world around us.
We pray for life and health, and the Unesaneh Tokef prayer explains that on Rosh Hashana God decides who will live and who will die in the upcoming year. We none of us knew the previous year that so many would perish so close to the Days of Awe that followed. Michael McHugh did not know, and we must trust that God had a need for Michael greater than ours. That sounds terribly trite, but it is our responsibility to try and make sense of God's decisions, and take what lessons and solace from them we can.
There is no possible way my pointless blog can bring comfort to his family and friends that knew him. Trying is almost meaningless, but I had to give it my best shot. If any of his family happens to read this, I have done the best I could, and I hope you accept it in the spirit in which it is meant. I would comfort you if I could, and I grieve for your loss.
Michael, I wish you Godspeed wherever you have gone. May God bless you and yours, keep them safe from harm and grant them peace. Your sacrifice and martyrdom have not been forgotten, and your legacy will live on in the lives you touched all to briefly on this earth. May your memory be a blessing to all.
ca. 1966-September 11th, 2001