I knew Bob Hayes. I didn't know him that well, although I worked on occasional projects with him over the past five years. But now, I realize I knew him better than I thought.
Bob, who was director of sales and marketing for data products at Netstal Machinery Inc., was killed on American Airlines Flight 11 on Sept. 11. He was traveling from Boston to Los Angeles on a routine business trip. He was 37.
Like everyone else in this country and around the world, I watched with horror as terrorists crashed two commercial jets into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. That night I prayed that I didn't know any family members, friends or acquaintances that were killed in this tragedy. Then I got the call Wednesday morning.
A friend from Netstal told me of Bob's death. The grief and shock at Netstal was unbearable, and they asked for my help in making an announcement. Over the next day, after getting information from Netstal, I wrote a press release, got a photo of Bob, and distributed it to the press. After an almost 20 year career in marketing and public relations, I can say nothing has ever been so difficult.
Bob and I had a lot in common. We both grew up in suburban Boston. We both married, had children and moved to the Newburyport, Mass., area. We both worked out of home offices. We both loved spending time with our families.
Bob most recently visited me at my office on a picture-perfect day in July. We worked together on a promotion for Netstal's Discjet molding machines. We talked business, but we spent more time talking about our families and our lives. He told me how happy he was with his life, how he had a great family — his wife Deb, son Robbie and newborn Ryan.
On Saturday night, Sept. 15, my wife and I attended Bob's memorial service. It was held outdoors at a public park along the Merrimack River in Amesbury, just a few blocks from Bob's house. The minister allowed anyone wanting to speak to come up to give their recollections of Bob. The stories I heard made me realize I knew Bob better than I thought.
His childhood friends spoke of growing up with Bob and the fun they had. A contingent of surfers spoke of Bob's passion for the sport. Co-workers spoke of Bob's endless enthusiasm, positive outlook, work ethic and, above all, honesty. Neighbors and relatives spoke of Bob's devotion to his family.
And as I listened, I thought to myself, I knew all that. I knew Bob Hayes better than I thought.
Netstal has set up a fund to help Bob's family. Please consider sending a donation to the fund: Debora L. Hayes, in trust for Robert J. Hayes, beneficiary; Netstal Memorial Trust. Sovereign Bank, 11 Park St., Leominster, MA 01453.
Donations may be sent either in care of the bank or to Netstal Machinery Inc. at 75 Lake George St., Devens, MA 01432.
Next Step Communications Inc.
West Newbury, Mass.