Chris Newton making heaven a better place
I can’t stop thinking about Chris Newton.
Chris was my father’s godson. He was my godparents’ son. He was on the plane that hit the Pentagon last Sept. 11.
I’ve thought about him a lot this past year – a lot more than I had before he died.
We spent our early childhoods together in Long Beach, Calif. Our families lived about a block away from each other in a pretty idyllic little neighborhood.
Our families were tight. There was lots of barbecuing, partying, playing, swimming, laughing.
When my family moved to Colorado when I was 12, we kept in touch with the Newtons. They came up for a couple ski trips. Dad and I went to Chris’ Eagle Scout inauguration – or whatever it’s called. My parents attended the wedding of Chris’ sister, Ann-Elizabeth. But after awhile it just became communication via Christmas cards. We weren’t in touch that often.
When my father retired to California about 10 years ago, the Newtons became a part of his life again. Dad would drop in to see Barbara and Mike, Chris’ parents. Chris’ younger brother Steve would meet up with my dad and the family on ski trips to Mammoth. Chris would come by and see Dad and they’d talk construction. My father was a builder, proficient in every phase of construction. Chris wanted to know all that my dad knew. They’d talk shop.
Through Dad, we’d hear about Chris. Chris is graduating from college. Chris is getting his MBA. Chris is getting married. Chris and his wife, Amy, are having a baby, then two.
At 38, Chris had become the head of his own company, a health care firm that coordinated benefit packages for corporations. He was traveling between Paris and Los Angeles. That was a long haul. They decided to move to Virginia to make the puddle-jumping easier.
Chris and Amy built their dream house and had just finished it last summer. They were getting ready to move the whole family from California to Virginia.
Last summer, we lost my dad. He died last June. In retrospect, I think it’s a good thing that Dad didn’t have to experience Chris being killed on that plane. I think it would’ve broken Dad’s heart.
Last September, Chris was back east on business and caught a plane back to L.A. He was often running late, and had missed flights more than once. But he caught this one – this plane that hit the Pentagon.
I heard that Chris was dead – his mother says he was “murdered,” and she’s right – the day after Sept. 11. My mother called me and she couldn’t stop crying. All she could say was, “Chris, Chris.”
Mom and I went to Chris’ memorial service last October. We got on a plane and flew to LAX. They were passing out free Bloody Marys on the plane. I had one.
At the church in Long Beach, there were 500 people inside, and another 500 outside. We got there a half-hour before the service and it was already packed. We stood throughout the two-hour memorial. The tears came in waves. It was about the saddest thing in the whole wide world.
I keep in touch with the Newtons a lot more now. This winter, Ann-Elizabeth, her husband and two little girls came to Snowmass Village for a ski trip. Ann-Elizabeth and I would ride the lift, laughing and crying in the span of a few seconds. We held hands and talked.
And just a few weeks ago, Barbara and Mike came to visit. Barbara gave my husband, Erik, and me a hand-sewn pillow of the American flag. Her eyes brimmed with tears. Erik has refused to put that pillow on the couch. He’s building a frame for it, to go on the wall.
It’s still impossibly hard for Barbara and Mike, but they are doing their best. Barbara has a philosophy.
“You know what they’re doing, your dad and Chris,” she said smiling, the tears rolling down. “They’re remodeling heaven.”
Carrie Click is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column appears on Tuesdays.
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I wrote this column to share my story through my cultural assets: Aspirational, linguistic, familial, navigational, social, and resistant. I know we all have an open wound in our lives and I want to share…