Peter Morgan Goodrich’s name shines in the sunlight on Panel S-3 at the South Pool of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. Gregory Nespole photo

When the reading names of the dead begins to flow like a deluge of tears in New York City on Wednesday, those painful remembrances will trigger that haunting sorrow and my fond memories of Peter Goodrich.

This bright, young man, who was heading to the West Coast for a business trip, was killed after terrorists commandeered United Airlines Flight 175 and steered the hurtling plane into the Word Trade Center’s South Tower at 9:37 a.m. on that warm-and-sunny Tuesday on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tony Blasi

But it was an email from last year that made me realize that nearly two decades have passed since that awful Tuesday morning, where close to 3,000 people lost their lives in the attacks on the towers.

Goodrich was a five-time Bates College All-American in track and field. He excelled in throwing events, including the hammer and discus, and also shined in academics. According to a Sun Journal article in 2008, Goodrich “won more awards than any other Bates track athlete and won the Frederick Tootel Award three times and claimed six NESCAC championships.” 

I had the privilege of covering his athletic pursuits for a couple of seasons and got know him well. His determination in the classroom was equally impressive. He brushed aside his dyslexia like he was tossing a discus to earn a double major in physics and mathematics.

During the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division III men’s track championship at Bates one year, Goodrich heaved the 35-pound weight an eye-opening distance of 60 feet, 2.75 inches. His lob erased the old meet record of 54-8 and broke Bates’ 21-year-old record in the event.

Coaches had no problem going on the record about the Bobcat All-American, while the hellish debris from the towers burned for months.

“The runners nicknamed Peter ‘Bear’ because he was the biggest and most powerful guy on the team, but he was the friendliest,” said Peter Slovenski, who was an assistant coach at Bates and is now head track coach at Bowdoin. “He was an inspiration to the team.

“Peter was elected team captain because of the tremendous affection and admiration of his teammates had for him. He was a marvelous team leader and teacher. He spent many hours of his practice teaching younger throwers.”

Bates throwing coach Joe Woodhead, who died in 2010, offered his kind words about Peter, who was posthumously inducted into Auburn-Lewiston Hall of Fame in 2008.

“He and I came in at Bates at the same time,” Woodhead said. “He was really my first big gun in track.

“He was very natural, very coordinated. He wasn’t a big kid. He was all technique. He was a technician; he was a perfectionist. He had a shining personality. He attracted people to him. He was intelligent and a leader. People gravitated to him.”

I did a feature story on Peter in 1989, and during the course of the interview, you can hear his humility come shining through during the conversation.

“I wasn’t very big, so I was picked on a lot,” Goodrich said at the time. “So in high school, I did track to do my own thing. I liked doing things by myself. I hated running, and as a result, to escape running workouts, I would slide over to the throwing events. When I came here (to Bates), I decided to be just a weight man.”

I have written three stories about Goodrich’s death — all were aspiring accounts about an athlete who possessed gravitas, curiosity and intelligence without the bravado.

Every September, when the anniversary of 9/11 rolls around, I think about him and his devoted parents, Sally and Donald, and his brother Fos and widow Rachel. 

Sally Goodrich died in December 2010, but before her death, she and her husband established the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation, which “works primarily in the Pashtun provinces of Afghanistan supporting education and addressing the fundamental needs of fragile populations. In the United States, the foundation works with private and public secondary schools and colleges to identify educational opportunities for student exchange.”

She called me a year after Peter’s death and asked if she could reprint a column that I had written about him in 2001, for the memorial’s web page. 

“There’s been a lot written about my son, but I read your column everyday because you used his quotes from your other stories,” Sally said.

I was flattered. I got permission from the paper.

EMAIL FROM A FRIEND

Last year, I received an email at my Sun Journal account on Tuesday, Sept.11, 2018, that nearly knocked me out of my kitchen chair.

I was working at my home as my plumber repaired a faucet. We spoke about 9/11 and how that day’s weather was a carbon copy of that fateful day in New York City. I discussed Peter’s death and went on and on about his athletic and academic achievements at Bates before I decided to check my email at work.

Right at the top of my inbox was a message that read, “I miss Peter G. very much.”

I was startled that message arrived just we were just talking about Peter. The plumber gave me that “what’s wrong” look. I read him the email and we were both taken aback.

The quick note was from attorney Gregory Nespole, who graduated with Peter in 1989. I told Nespole about the conversation I had with my plumber. 

He replied: “Your column was touching. Peace!”

But Nespole doesn’t need an anniversary to remind him of the grief of losing a good friend.

“My office is near Wall Street and the Memorial,” Nespole said. “I often walk by.” 

Peter Morgan Goodrich’s name can be viewed at the South Pool, Panel S-3 of the memorial. He was 33 years old when he was killed on a day forged in hate and rage.

Nespole described Peter as an All-American and strong as bear.

Peter’s proud father, Donald Goodrich, enjoyed watching his gentle son compete for the Bobcats.

“Athletics is a chance for parents to be involved,” Donald Goodrich said. “We loved being around him doing what he liked to do. He was a real competitor. He definitely enjoyed competition.”

Donald was also proud of his son’s altruism and strong moral compass. He told me back in 2001 that he will miss his son’s hugs.

“He really could see no evil,” Donald Goodrich said from his home in Vermont in 2001. “He expected the same from everybody else.”

While time does heal all wounds, despair and melancholy will make an appearance today for many of us.

“Peter was a kind, thoughtful man who was modest, though highly exceptional as a student and athlete — a gentleman,” Nespole said. “I lost many friends. It is still a painful day.”


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