Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's 9/11, and I remember

It’s 9/11 and, more than anything, I remember two friends – Dennis Mulligan and Mike Lynch.

Dennis and Mike were two firefighters among the 343 who died this day six years ago.
They were two among the 2,974 who died as a result of the attacks. They were two friends.

It feels strange now to call them friends, especially when so many knew them so much more than I did and since they’ve been profiled on CNN, in the New York Times and beyond. I Googled them one year on the anniversary and some random guy with a blog carries around a scrap of paper with Dennis Mulligan’s name on it. He never knew him, never met him. But Dennis personifies the brave firefighters and cops who ran into the buildings when everyone else was running out. Pretty amazing.

But to me, Dennis and Mike were pals, guys I played soccer with in high school, had a few too many beers with beyond and who I saw too infrequently – like so many others – once I moved to Boston and left the Bronx behind.

Dennis was 32 that day, assigned to Ladder 2. He had the day off but he jumped on the ladder truck anyway. Mike Lynch was 30 that day, assigned to a rotation on Engine 40. He was due to marry his longtime girlfriend two months later.

So many of my friends are cops and firefighters in New York that I had a nagging feeling one or more of them might have died on 9/11. It took a few days for me to get word about Mike and Dennis. And I’ve thought of them and their families many, many days since.

Today is their day. It’s a cliché but, as so often, clichés are clichés because they are truisms repeated too many times. 9/11 is about remembering them and the thousands of others like them.

It’s 9/11 and I remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Good luck, Sully

Good luck.

It was always what I remember Paul Sullivan saying at the end of a conversation - light or heavy or in between: “Good luck.”

It’s what he said after we first met him for what I later figured out was a job interview back in 1998. It’s what he said when he finally hired me. It’s what he said when he offered up any of thousands of news tips when he was political editor and I was State House Bureau Chief of The Sun (“Lowell’s great newspaper, 15 Kearney Square.”)

It always seemed a strange way to end a conversation. Luck? How much of this dance we call life is really about luck, anyway? But for Paul Sullivan, you had to believe in luck.

He would hide behind luck as one of his many masks. It wasn’t hard work and good reporting that got him this great news tip, it was luck. It couldn’t have been hard work and performance that landed him his dream job at WBZ radio, it was luck. It couldn’t have been his magnetic personality, quick wit or charm that gave him a great family and friends, it was luck.

I always liked to be in the room when someone “important” met Sully for the first time. It was kind of a blast watching them try to figure this guy out. He wasn’t your typical pol and he wasn’t your typical media blowhard. As he said in a clip I heard replayed today, when he hit, he tried to hit with a pillow, not a nail. That’s rare, in media and in politics.

I met Paul Cellucci with him, met John McCain with him, even George W. Bush with Sully. All were immediately wooed by Paul’s sense of Everyman. They felt like they had an ally in Paul, even if they didn’t (and would soon learn in print). For Sully, sort of like luck, charm usually won out.

We shared many meals, typically breakfast up in Lowell or on the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Sometimes dinner, once even with wives – of course, the wives loved him more than even we did (he and Heidi had some bizarre connection over Three Stooges episodes).

As when anyone dies who you know and love, I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days of the last time I saw Paul Sullivan. It was in July, on Charles Street in Boston. He had a scar from the top of his head to his neck and a smile still plastered on his face. He was full of cheer, eager to hear what was up at the State House and in Massachusetts politics – probably looking for a story.

He told me what he told everyone. He was doing great, he had the easy part compared to doctors and family. He said it wasn’t fatal but couldn’t be cured. I think he, and we, all knew better. But this was Sully, after all, anything was possible. And he was lucky.

“Good luck,” he said, walking down Charles Street toward MGH as I walked up toward the State House.

Sully, it was good knowing you and I’m lucky to have had the friendship, the mentorship and, more than anything, the laughs.

You are on your own path now, entertaining those in the great beyond and, finally, feeling no more pain. Thank God for that.

Those of us whose lives you touched are thankful, and will eternally be thankful. I’m certain I speak for his friends, family, listeners and admirers when I say, good luck, Paul Sullivan.

Good luck.