Richard A. Dunstan

dunstan.richardHis name was Richard and he was married to Janet for over 25 years.

They met in England while she was on vacation.  Six months after meeting him, Janet moved to England to be with him.

After he died, Janet talked about how he brought her flowers on ordinary days that had nothing to do with Valentines or anniversaries.

He was 54 when he died.  He was living in New Jersey and was a Vice President with the Aon insurance corporation.

He died on September 11, 2001 when Tower 2 of the World Trade Center collapsed.

And now, each year, on the 11th of September, people who didn’t know him in life will try to remember him – to grieve for him – because of when and how he died.

It’s an interesting thing to try to piece together pieces of a stranger’s life 8 years after they’ve died, using nothing more than the internet and Google.

It’s impossible to walk away feeling like you knew this stranger.  But here you are, pulling out bullet points of their lives in an attempt to prove to the world that they existed.

  • He was, from what I can tell, a British national merely living in the United States.
  • He loved to golf, and was – according to his friends – very good at it.
  • He had a son named Chris.

And that’s it.  That’s all I found.  I could tell you that his love of golf was somehow familiar to me, or that his commitment to bringing his wife flowers was proof of chivalry or devotion.  Except that I don’t know that, at all, and to pretend to would be an insult to those who do.

I signed up for Project 2996 because it seemed like the right way for me to remember September 11th this year.  But what I realized in participating had absolutely nothing to do with patriotism or terrorism or heroism.

I was reminded, instead, that we are all so much more than bullet points.  We are more than our age or birthplace.  We are more than a list of those who survived or proceeded us.  We are more than the name at the top of our paychecks, or the dates on our tombstones.

And we are, infinitely, more than where or how we die.

We are, I think, how we live.

And when we’re gone, no one else in the world except those closest to us will know the intimate details of how we lived.  Neither the strangers we worry about judging us or the neighbors we worry about impressing will have their lives altered by how we live.  Or die.

So, I won’t pretend to tell you about the life of Richard A. Dunstan.  Only Richard A. Dunstan could tell you the truths of his life.

But I’ll stop for a minute today and think of a stranger, and hope that his truths served him well in life.

Because everyone deserves that.

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