The pages of history will record the circumstances of the death of Bob Hayes, the Netstal Machinery Inc. sales executive who was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first plane to hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
But we can learn a lot from how he lived, and how he made time for his beloved family even with the demands of work. We tell his story in this week's Plastics News.
Hayes was like us — a businessman traveling to make sales calls. You or I could have been on that flight. And now, as we think about what catastrophe might lie ahead, we know that a brave young woman in Amesbury, Mass., has lived through the worst that can happen.
Bob's wife, Debbie, is now a role model, not just to her young sons Robbie and Ryan, but to all of us. Her quiet dignity is an inspiration.
You can imagine Hayes stretching out, maybe leafing through a surfing magazine, as he prepared to take off for yet another trip for his job at Netstal. He probably didn't notice Mohamed Atta and the four other terrorists seated nearby.
Hayes and more than 2,800 others are casualties of war.
If we're at war, then, where have all the American flags gone? On my street in Akron, Ohio — middle America — most of the stars and stripes have been put away, replaced by those decorative “banner” flags depicting rainbows or bunny rabbits.
I think it's simply too overwhelming for most people. In America, even after Sept. 11, we don't walk around every day thinking we're going to die. But awful as that day was, when you step closer and look at individual stories like Hayes', you can learn lessons for your life.
For example, one moving part of the Bob Hayes story is how he tried to balance the personal and professional sides of his life. The night before he boarded Flight 11 Hayes talked to his wife about how he was getting tired of spending so much time away from his family. It may have been some sort of a premonition, or just a regular conversation magnified through a post-Sept. 11 lens.
Still, this much is clear: Bob Hayes had his priorities straight. With Netstal's permission, he was working from a home office on Mondays and Fridays. His wife and oldest son, Robbie, often accompanied him on business trips. He even may have been contemplating leaving his well-paying job for something that would keep him closer to his family.
Another thing to admire — and emulate — is how Hayes took time for surfing on business trips, even lugging his board all the way to Europe. How many times have you crammed work into every spare minute of a business trip, and later wished you had actually seen something local, like a museum, or gone on a hike?
For many readers of Plastics News, this hits close to home. After seeing life snuffed out on such a massive scale, I'm sure many people who fly for business have thought about what they're doing, and why.
I am not saying go out and quit your job; that's unrealistic. At the same time, it's not realistic to declare that things can get “back to normal” — not at the Hayes house in Amesbury, and not for the rest of us, either.
That is why it's important to remember Bob Hayes.
Bregar is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter for Plastics News.