It’s been 10 years since that day which diverted so many people’s lives from their expected paths. I was afraid I wouldn’t remember the details having waited so long to write them down, but as soon as I unlocked that place in mind, they all came spilling out with painful clarity. I’ve wanted to write something about my friendship with Ryan for a long time, but never really knew what it was I wanted to say. Now I find myself wanting to write about everything. Of course “everything” would take far too long, so lucky for me; I will hold onto the untold pieces where they have been safely stored from the beginning. The next couple of pages will share some of the pieces that has made the friendship such a hard one to let go.
It was a sunny morning, and I drove into work listening to the radio as I normally did while battling Boston traffic. The DJ had mentioned that a fire had broken out at a rock concert the night before. It sounded pretty bad. Not too many details, other than that it was during a Great White show somewhere in Rhode Island. Great White was a band I had listened to while growing up as a teenager in California, and as I drove I remember thinking about how I had drifted away from the heavy stuff and now listened to anything catchy. A few of my friends still listened to those bands popular so long ago, but not many would actually want to see them play live.Well except maybe Ryan, he had an affinity for the hair bands of the 80’s and 90’s. Since I had listened to most of his favorites, we would laughingly talk about how silly they were and sometimes he’d even talk me into going to see one with him…
My friendship with Ryan Morin started during college where we took a class together along with my best friend Scott Novak. Scott and Ryan had sat near one another during that class and soon the 3 of us began talking about college life, music and girls after, and sometimes during classes. It was easy to like Ryan; he was honest, funny and genuine. If I could sum him up in a few words, “Happy go lucky” would fit best.
It was junior year and spring break was coming. Scott and I had never gone, and that year we made a mutual decision to pick somewhere to cut loose. We saved and planned. Cancun was the latest hot spot and package trips were being marketed on campus. We asked our friends from Stratford and Jon Zdru said he was in for sure. Bubba, a teammate of mine from the rugby team also wanted in (We could have said we were going to Riker’s Island and he would've been in). Scott mentioned asking Ryan and since he seemed like a guy that would mesh with all of us, we agreed;“the more the merrier!” Even though he lived up in the boonies, we would fly out together and go on to have an amazing time. We met loads of people and proceeded to get kicked out of our hotel, only to end up in a nicer one thank to Ryan’s dad’s credit card. We partied like rock-stars and bonded with wild stories that we would all “Tell our Grandkids” someday. Ryan became one of us.
Towards the end of college Scott, I and another friend spent a summer in the Virgin Islands. Ryan came down for a week and stayed with us. He and I spent most of the time exploring the islands in a rented Jeep while blasting Van Halen. We went from St. Thomas to St. John beach-hoping and watching Rastafarian hitch-hikers fly off our back seat when we sped up for speed bumps. “No Mon!” they would yell when they landed back on the seat. We laughed and laughed, and in the process, had a blast in paradise.
When college was over, Ryan moved back home as most of us did. We stayed in contact and would get together on occasion. When I decided to go traveling, Ryan was thoroughly intrigued as to where I was going and how traveling the world would be. Before a trip to Australia, he even drove 2 hours to a party with a six pack of Foster’s to see me off. We split the beer, caught up on our lives and toasted to safe travels. That was him, a good friend and genuinely happy for those around him.
2 years later, I moved up to Boston. Ryan had been home working at the Town Sheriff’s office. Armed only with a keyboard and mouse (thankfully), he created a new database that tracked the movement of criminals and was to be rolled out to neighboring police stations. Ryan got the itch to move to a more urban area and applied for a position up in Boston. When he got an offer, he was ecstatic. Not because he would be leaving home, but because he had essentially taught himself a new technology and forced open a new chapter in his life... He was coming into his own and becoming a man. I remember thinking of Ryan as a little brother who had grown a little more every time we got together.
Years passed and many memories were made. Shortly after his move to Beantown, Ryan ran into another guy from his hometown; Demitri. The 3 of us found ourselves hanging out, going to ball games and chasing girls all over Boston.…and sometimes even through the “Friendly Skies” (The stewardess story is for another time;-).
Ryan played the guitar, drove a jeep and loved the life he had built for himself. He lived in what we coined the “Real World” house with 6 other people. It was a constant source of entertainment so we usually started at his place before heading out on the town.
He and I shared a love for the outdoors.
We went white water rafting in Maine on class 5 rapids where he “fell” out of the raft. Which coincidently enough, was captured on film by a nearby kayaking photographer at just the right time…? To this day, investigators are still trying to determine whether he jumped out on purpose or really did fall out. I heard the pic made the cover of the Germany’s famous Outdoor Magazine (“Magzine imFreiem”)!
He and I hiked Mt Washington and camped halfway down at the lean-tos. Ryan did it in 15 year old hunting boots with no sole. His refusal to bring a flash light had him hobbling behind me in the dark with blister-ridden feet all while posting a toothy smile on his face. I will always remember how good the baked beans tasted while we dined under that starry bluenight’s sky.
One summer we kayaked off Old Orchard Beach in Maine where Ryan had spent summers often as a child. Ryan introduced me to ocean kayaking and we ventured out to Bluff Island with food, camera and sunscreen for the day. Once we landed, we explored the island while taking goofy pictures of one another. Somehow the hulk-a-mania photo of him sporting man-boobs would disappear while the one of me looking as if I was posing forthe front page of the Provincetown Banner would find its way imaged onto a cake he presented years later during my 30th birthday party!
During a day when we had the best surfing conditions of the summer, Ryan had to take me to the hospital near Scituate Beach. A dislocated shoulder had my arm stuck in an upwards position and luckily the top was off on Ryan’s Jeep. Unluckily for me though, Ryan repaid my unwanted session interruption with a St. John Hitch-hiker reenactment. It was a surprise that my arm didn’t relocate with all those potholes he purposefully hit on the way to the ER…
Ryan would go on to get his passport and head overseas…His first destination? Australia Mate!! It was a pivotal time in his life. When he returned, he shared what seemed like every minute of his trip with me. He had gained the confidence and independence that I’m sure his parents were proud of. Big Brother was proud too.
Ryan had eventually met the girl he planned on settling down with. She let him be who he wanted to be and didn’t expect him to be someone hewasn’t. Ryan and Jodi Zides ended up spending a lot of time together after they had met. Demitri and I were happy for him and also a bit jealous. Whenever one of us would get a girlfriend, the other two would end up hanging out more until the relationship ended and we were all back together. This time seemed a little different. He spoke of how Jodi and he were getting more serious and discussed purchasing a home of their own. Ryan was talking about moving out of “Real World” and into The Real World!
…That day all clocks seemed to be working on aging batteries. The seconds took longer and longer to go by. I first noticed it after I left message #1 at Guardent on Ryan’s voicemail. He had transferred down to their Providence location and had been commuting from Boston because of the great opportunity and people he was able to work with. First voicemail went something like, “Hey dude, did you hear about the fire last night? Call me back to let me know you weren’t there. I’m sure you weren’t but call me anyway. Late! ” Seconds dragged on for 20 to 30 minutes. I made call #2. ”Yo Do… This ain’t no joke.. Give me a call back”. I really didn’t worry before this, but now the lack of response made me start thinking, “The Fire was in some town called West Warwick, and Rhode Island is a tiny state. What if he did go and something happened to him?” I called the main number of Guardent and asked for the front desk. The woman on the line said that she had not seen Ryan today but, “something happened to a few of the employees last night…” I asked her “what happened?” Her response was slow and uneasy “I’m not sure I can give you that information”. I tried to keep my cool and asked, “Did anyone go to that concert last night?” Her silence confirmed my inquiry.
I checked my e-mail account and found the company Jodi had worked for. When we got on the phone it was worse than I thought. Jodi had said that he did go to the concert last night and she hasn’t heard from him. She sounded hopeful and I knew that whatever my response was, could affect her optimism. I did my best to come up with other possibilities of why he didn’t call. “Maybe he stayed at a friend’s house and his phone died or got hurt and was taken to a hospital”… When we hung up, I had a further sinking feeling and immediately thought of Sue. from what I recalled, she didn’t have a lot of family in the area and lived by herself in Putnam. Ryan had stayed at her home every other Thursday since he had started working in RI. It was 10:45am. I grabbed my keys and walked straight to my car.
If Sue heard about this, I wanted it to be from someone she knew as opposed to a random phone call from a reporter or policeman. Sue and I had met a couple times. One summer Ryan and I helped paint her house. She and Ryan had a great relationship and I thought it was such a rarity to find a mother and son so close. I really envied the two of them. And knew that the bond they had, contributed to the person Ryan was.
The seconds continued slowing. I met Sue at her house as her sister was dropping her off. Apparently, someone from Ryan’s work had contacted her with news that 5 people from Guardent went to the concert the night before, 2 were accounted for and 3 were not. Ryan was one of the unaccounted for. Sue got the call while driving through Hartford. She tried to make it home herself but had to pull over as she couldn’t focus on the road as her thoughts raced wild.
The 2 of us stayed at the house until Paul (Ryan's Dad) came by. The 3 of us then went together to the emergency response center set up at a nearby Rhode Island hotel. The following 8 hours were tortuous. Hundreds of family and friends huddling together in a huge hotel lobby holding hope whenever an announcement was made; “Attention, a John Doe has now been reported in an auxiliary hospital on the Cape” or “Will the relatives of such and such please see the missing persons booth.” We sat there waiting… and waiting. No news. Sue and Paul were so distraught that they had me submit the missing persons report because they couldn’t recall basics details…eye color, height, weight…. It was that difficult and blinding. I felt for both of them. Each handling it their own way, with little hope in sight.
1 month before the funeral, Ryan had enlisted a number of coworkers to dial in for a radio station’s giveaway contest. Up for stakes was an all-inclusive action packed trip for 2 to New York City. After providing the winning Van Halen trivia answers, Ryan called me up and the two of us spent 3 days having an incredible time in NYC. We shared a hotel room in Times Square and attended an exclusive Penthouse party along with a private concert at BB Kings. It was the first time the two of us hung out together for that long in years. We talked about the future, the past and caught up on everything that had happened during his relationship with Jodi. I will always cherish that time we spent together. It gave me the opportunity to say goodbye before I knew the time to say goodbye was coming.
Now 10 years later, I am happily married and have a young son. I think about what kind of boy he will be. How will he treat those around him? Will he value his personal disposition? And what will his feelings be towards the life ahead of him? Ryan’s parents did something most parents dream about. They raised a son whose heart outsized his body, whose innocence was to be admired and who attained self-confidence without a whisper of arrogance. As a friend and now a parent, I look back on Ryan from multiple perspectives and continue to find new ways to appreciate the little brother I was privileged to share life with.