I remember September 11, 2001, very well. I was finally the high school English teacher I had always dreamed of being. We were barely into the school year; the sophomores were taking ISTEP, Indiana’s version of standardized testing and gateway exam. The rest of the student body did various activities outside of the school during the three days the sophomores tested.
On that particular day my freshman PRIDE class, or homeroom class, boarded a yellow school bus within a half hour of arriving at school to head for our small town’s recycling center as a community service project. Another freshman PRIDE teacher and her class joined my class on the bus. She made a comment to me about hearing on the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, Wow, how could that be?
When we arrived at the recycling center just down the street, the men in charge were listening to the radio. One of them told me about the second plane that had crashed into the second tower. It was then that I knew something terrible was happening. I just didn’t know how bad it really was.
For the next three hours we listened to the radio and helped fellow citizens put their recycling items into the correct bins. The only thing I thought about was Marni Pont O’Doherty, who worked in one of those towers, but at that moment I couldn’t remember which one until I could get home and find her address.
Marni and I had met through a Rick Springfield emailing list; we were both huge Rick fans. She used to write the most humorous posts to the list. I could have the worst day of my life, but if Marni had posted to the list, I could always count on being able to laugh and feel better – even if it was just for a few minutes. She and I had even shared a few private emails. Her husband had an Indiana connection, which is where I live. One of the things we joked about was having a Rickfest, our Rick Springfield version of Woodstock. My then husband and I owned 58 acres in rural Indiana so Marni and I thought about how much fun it would be to have thousands of Rick fans come to my property and have nothing but Rick fun for a few days.
Marni wrote video ideas about Rick’s songs. I remember she wrote one video idea for his song called “Prayer” and sent it to the list. I mentioned how I would be meeting Rick for the first time within a week, and she emailed me privately and asked if I would please pass along her video idea to Rick. Of course, I would. I printed off the idea, put it in an envelope, sealed it and addressed it to Rick. On Saturday, July 24, 1999, after a short concert at Circlefest in downtown Indianapolis, I met Rick backstage after the show and gave him that video idea. Marni thanked me not only for doing that, but for posting a picture in which Rick changed his clothes onstage behind a very small towel. I now have that picture blown up and autographed thanks to another Rick fan in Colorado. Every time I look at that picture hanging on my wall I think of Marni’s comments about how she needed a cold shower after reading my email and seeing the picture.
The best thing Marni did for me was done indirectly. In January 2000 I was a stay-at-home mom with my baby son and my preschooler daughter, and my then husband wasn’t working very much. Rick’s live CD was released that month, and I had emailed the list saying I wouldn’t be able to buy it until later because of a lack of money. Another fan from Missouri emailed me saying she wanted to send me a copy of Rick’s new CD. She told me she and Marni had had a bet, and she had lost the bet. She said she had to send Marni a copy of Rick’s CD, but instead Marni wanted the other fan to send it to me. Wow. I was shocked by Marni’s generosity. I had never even met her before and yet she was willing to send this CD to me. I, in turn, sent her a packet of note cards that sported a picture of Rick as a thank you even though Marni had told me not to send her anything. It was the least I could do for her.
When my PRIDE class returned back to school just in time for third block and lunch, my junior English class gathered for class. I tried to present the lesson I had prepared, but all they wanted to do was turn on the television and watch what was happening. I couldn’t blame them. I, too, wanted to know what was happening since all I had heard was on the radio. I wanted to see pictures that I knew I could see on TV. The students won out; I knew I wouldn’t get much done if their minds weren’t on listening to me. We turned on the TV and watched in horror as we saw replays of the two towers collapsing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I shared with the class that I knew someone from a list I belonged to online that worked in the World Trade Center. None of them said anything; they probably didn’t know what to say to me. At that moment I once again wished I could remember which tower Marni was in. I tried hard to remember the address to which I had sent those note cards. She had had me send her the package at her job because she sometimes didn’t get her mail at home. I kept thinking it was the second tower, but I wasn’t sure. Gees, why couldn’t I think straight?
When I got home that day, I headed to my computer and hopped online as soon as the kids were situated. My Rick list had tons of emails asking about Marni. She had emailed the list at 8:25 a.m. that morning, the last time we had heard from her. At that point we didn’t know anything about her, but the emails kept pouring in. We all waited anxiously wondering if Marni was alive.
Within a few days, though, things looked grim. She had been on the 89th floor of the second tower that morning. I just kept hoping she would suddenly show up, but I knew that probably wasn’t possible. How could something like this happen to such a great gal as her? How was I going to laugh after a bad day at work and at home? We had had so much fun imagining the Rickfest on my property. Marni just had a certain spunk about her that made her the unique person that she was. Most people didn’t even know she was a senior vice president for Keefe, Bruyette, and Woods because she kept that side of herself private, and she was doing her job when she was taken from us that horrible day in our history, a day most of us will never forget.
Nine years later, I still think of Marni with tears in my eyes. I think of the husband, family and friends she left behind. I think of the numerous Rick fans that she touched because of her wit, humor and imagination; she even touched Rick after her death. He dedicated songs and talked about her at his concerts. Marni was one of a kind, and I miss her.