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By Amy Phillips Penn

The Hampton Jitney was packed. It was a Friday in the summer, and I had just flown in from Florida to spend time with friends.

I had grown up summering in East Hampton, and had watched the Hampton Jitney grow from one tiny van into an industry, and a prestigious and competitive one at that.

I boarded the bus at the airport connection, so of course the bus was tightly packed with passengers who had settled down with copies of Hamptons magazine and bottled water, since boarding in Manhattan.

Since there weren’t many choices, I didn’t even bother to look for any familiar faces that would be fun to catch up with. I squished in next to a man in his twenties, who was sprawled over the seat. He acknowledged my presence, by curling up to the window, and going back to sleep.

He dozed on and off, and when he was more alert, we began to talk. We covered a variety of subjects, but the odd part was that we never exchanged names, not even first names. This was so not the Hamptons way.

I liked him immediately. He seemed so content with his life, and that’s so contagious to be around. He told me that he was looking forward to a dinner party that his parents were giving that night. He was going to park cars, which he announced with the same degree of pride as if he were the guest of honor. He moved on to his job. He was working for a brokerage house. This time names were named, he told me the title of the firm. Since it meant nothing to me at the time, I’ve forgotten it. I only remember that he was proud to be there. He had the wonderful sense of peace and gratitude in his life that rarely goes with someone his age, especially in his milieu which is so competitive that it often leads to malcontent. I thought that if I had a daughter, he would be exactly the kind of man I would hope she would bring home. I have never had this thought before or since.

He didn’t have a ride to his home, and a taxi is next to impossible to find on a Friday. When we got off of the bus I ran into a friend, and she offered him a ride, which he thanked her for, but didn’t accept. Someone was there to pick him up.

Later my friend said that she thought that his name was Kenny, and she didn’t have a clue of his last name.

On September 11th, I watched in horror along with the rest of the World, as the Twin Towers exploded into sky writing of smoke rings and fire that snarled that safety didn’t exist; it never had, and our world would never, ever be the same.

I thought of Kenny (if that was his name) and his look of pride when he talked about his job. I remembered the address of his firm: 2 Twin Towers, then wished I hadn’t.

There are some things I wish I didn’t remember. This is one of them. I will probably never know if he survived. In the aftermath of the nightmare, I remember a mother desperately seeking a son named Kenny. How many generations before his had worked and sacrificed so that his generation could excel and taste the America Dream drizzling.

Perhaps he is alive and well. Maybe he took the day off to play golf, park cars for a dinner party, or simply escaped from the building in time.

Wherever he is, I wish him well.

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