Saturday, September 7, 2002

For father, inspiration transcends from grief

Staff Writer

Once again, the father of a lost friend has become a true source of inspiration.

I've asked myself, if I were a father, how I would react if terrorists stole my child?

The answer haunts me, and I know it would not be the same reaction expressed by my friend David S. Suarez's father, Ted.

David died on Sept. 11. He was a fraternity brother and friend to me, a devoted son and dispenser of charity to others.

I first met Ted Suarez at David's memorial service. He spoke with eloquence, strength and determination. He inspired and let each one of us walk away with a better understanding of grief, acceptance and maturity.

Months after David's death, his father began the task of sorting through 24 years of acquired possessions - photographs, books and countless essays and poems.

One poem caught Ted's attention immediately - a piece that illustrated how Dave longed to help bring people together.

"That sparked the idea to have the poem translated into all the languages of the world," his father told me. "I believe that the poem addresses concepts and values that transcend cultures, nations and time - ideas that are universal in humans and that help people overcome adversity."

Ted Suarez does not share his son's attackers' hatred for other religions and cultures. Despite his grief, he embraces the innocents of every society.

On a mission of tribute and love, David's father hopes to translate the poem into 130-150 languages.

"I now have about 85 different languages - including the language of the people of Easter Island," he said. "We've also translated it into two of the original languages believed to be of the Mayas, the original, still spoken language of the Incas, and the Aztecs, plus languages from Papua New Guinea and the Aborigines of central Australia."

The Language Institute of Boston, Mass., has helped to find volunteer translators all over the world. He has also interpreted the heartfelt piece into at least 25 African languages, several from India and most European dialects.

"I have many from Asia and I am working on the native American and Canadian tribal languages," Ted explained. "I hope to publish the collection for the world and to present them to the United Nations and the memorial that may eventually be at the World Trade Center site."

He hopes to have the essay published in the media so that it can be read by as many people as possible across the nation.

"I believe it would provide encouragement to those who value freedom and recognize how important it is for us all," Ted said.

Several months ago, David's body was discovered amid the twisted metal and crumbled concrete.

I wrote a column posing a single question: Did the discovery of David's remains help to heal or merely shatter all remaining hope?

David's father supplied the answer.

"In the back of my mind, no matter how irrational it was, I also had that infinitesimal glimmer of hope that perhaps he had lost his memory and was some place still OK," Ted recalled. "But, as you say, now we know. That is very hard. It is also a miracle that he was found ... and that they were able to identify his finger prints and dental records.

"We wish he was alive, but we thank God that we have been able to lay David to rest."

The Suarez family plans to spend Sept. 11 together at home. They will also probably visit David's grave.

As for me - I've yet to decide. I'll definitely be driven to remember all the aspects of life that were taken from us a year ago.

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