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So young, and now he's gone

Staff Writer

Hope faded, so we gathered to remember.

Muscles relaxed, eyes closed, a chill ran like an electric charge from my neck to my toes. I took a deep breath - because that helps - and looked out over the more than 700 people crammed into the Church of St. David the King, Princeton Junction, N.J.

Our hearts were breaking, but the chill was one of the many signs that Dave was still with us.

David Scott Suarez was born into this world on Oct. 30, 1976.

He was taken from it when, at 8:48 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center north tower, just a few floors from the 99th, where he was conducting an audit.

He was 24 years old, and grew up in New Jersey.

I knew Dave well, but always expected to get to know him better.

He was a brother and a friend - rush chairman when I pledged my college fraternity, the Kappa Alpha Order, at Penn State.

Originally, I was reluctant to join a fraternity, considering it would be given up part of my individuality.

As only the third representative of KA with whom I spoke as a freshman, I was assured that retaining one's individuality was the first priority of becoming a KA.

Dave had long hair. So did I. We were in the minority at the time, two of only three who dared to let our locks drop past our neckline.

As one of my brothers, Dave's very close friend and former roommate Brian Beabout, said at Saturday's memorial service, "David embraced opposites."

About four years ago, he had long hair that he let hang over the collar of his polo shirt, which was tucked into a pair of khaki pants. He liked the looks inspired by that sort of simple fashion contradiction.

Dave always smiled.

Of course there was no casket at the service; there was no body. What is left of Dave's physical self remains buried amidst the rubble and the chaos.

It's needless to say the week of Sept. 11 was extremely difficult for every American. I watched in horror from The REPUBLICAN & Herald newsroom as American Flight 77 hit the south tower a few minutes later.

The career I've chosen for myself - or which I often say has chosen me - has forced me to defy the desire to look away. I - like many others - have been unable to "get my mind off it" or "think of other things."

Instead, I've been submersed in all the pain which, in a strange way, probably made me stronger.

It took several days before I heard Dave was missing.

My cousin worked on the 25th floor, but she was in Philadelphia on business, so I was relieved.

I knew Dave was in New York, but not sure where. I didn't feel rushed to find out, because it never occurred to me there would not be plenty of time to catch up on the news.

As I said before, I knew Dave well, but as happens with many college friends, we lost touch after graduation.

And also as I said before, I always assumed there was plenty of time.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Dave, an analyst for Deloitte & Touche, one of the world's leading consulting and accounting firms, out of its Chadds Ford office near Philadelphia, but was on temporary duty at Marsh & McLennan's, on the 99th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower.

He was with the firm for two years and regarded as among its best and brightest.

Dave also volunteered in soup kitchens with the charity group New York Cares.

At the time of his death, he was applying to graduate schools in pursuit of his MBA.

When I read and watched reports of the devastation in New York, it all seemed like a nightmare - like a faceless horror committed by faceless demons.

And when I found out one of those screaming for help was a friend, something crumbled inside of me at that moment, like so much steel and concrete strewn across Battery Park.

Almost everyone in the nation knew someone who could have been killed that day. That's one of the reasons it has spawned such resolve among Americans, as well as the world.

It all seemed so hopeless, until I heard Dave's father speak on Saturday.

He told an unbelievable story that made me believe people die, but they live on in other ways.

As Dave's father was walking down the street toward the Trade Center - he works on Wall Street a few blocks away - he looked down and picked up a piece of paper amidst thousands of scraps blowing down the streets, the contents of tens of thousands of offices.

Later that night, after he had received no word from his son, he remembered the paper he had put in his briefcase and decided to take a look.

It was the billing report for the project Dave was working on for Marsh & McLennan, something that was probably in his possession Tuesday morning.

He knew it was a sign, that everything would be OK, and he knew Dave's spirit would survive, even if his body wasn't given that chance.

It's been a rough two weeks, but a challenge to all of our faith has and will continue to make us stronger. At very least, we've become more sensitive, and now know what in life is truly important.

The trivial things no longer bother me.

(Schuler, a Schuylkill Haven native, is a reporter.)

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