I guess I should write this.
As I write it, it's not November 11th. It's December now. A lot has happened since, and a lot happened leading up to November 11th.
Where to start.
Let's start in my childhood.
When I was a wee Custo, I was an Older Brother(tm). I was an Older Brother to my own younger bro, and to his best friend. His best friend, whom he met in kindergarten, was approximately his build, had a similar face, and was of similar height. They found out that they had both been born in New York City on the same day. As they were fond of saying, though, '...in different hospitals. We checked.'
So I had two younger brothers.
They were inseparable all the way through senior year of high school, because our school system went from pre-K to 12th grade. They stayed thick as thieves. They were both at our family holiday parties; they both crashed my and my friends' high school parties to steal drinks, and they both generally raised hell. I was proud as fuck to be their slightly older bro. Once, when they were both new drivers, the three of us were tasked with picking up a car from my uncle that we were borrowing for the holidays. I dropped them off at my Uncle's place to get the keys, and then drove back to our cousin's place where we were staying with them in convoy.
But they didn't show. For hours.
I freaked out.
The cousins (really, second cousins once removed, my parents' age) laughed uproariously at my worry and assured me that 'now you know what it's like.' Sure enough, a couple of hours later, they showed up, charged up and buzzing. They had decided that since they were driving a #!*%!?@! Jaguar, they should go cruise Burger King and see if they could 'pick up chicks.' Then they decided they should hit as many local Burger Kings as they could before coming home, having a Coke at each.
Fast forward. My bro's bestie went to a different college from either of us, and made his way in the world, in a meteoric sense. He got into clinical research on the advice of our mom, looking for how to get into science and medicine without being a medical student - and while working in his first lab job, had the idea that made him. He started a company, in those nascent days of the World Wide Web, that automated the clinical trials process using web technology- the first to not require paper.
That company made him a gazillionaire.
We stayed in touch. While he ascended into a different life, filled with the rich and famous, he always hung out with us. Less frequently, but when he did, it was just like it had been. I eventually worked for his company for a few years. My family invested in his company. We made a bit of money - because I was an angel investor, I got screwed out of the BIG big money by later investor rounds (see 'reverse split') but I didn't lose any and made some on top, so I have no regrets.
He continued to ascend.
He nerded out with me about flying. A few years ago, he told me he was pursuing his pilot's license, and I of course supported him, being a huge fan of flying myself. I was very slightly jealous, because up until that point, being a pilot was the one thing I had that he didn't, in his elevated life, but it was an unworthy and small voice in my head, and I squashed it happily as he started flying, and I gained a close friend who was a pilot to 'pilot talk' with.
He completed his instrument rating during the pandemic, and he bought an airplane. A few months ago, he and I flew it down to Cape May, NJ, and flying with him was amazing - a good pal who also flies. Also, his plane rocked (as one might expect). He had been smart, and bought a 'first plane' - a Diamond DA40-XLT, a very gentle single-engine trainer platform, but one with a luxe interior and all the possible options with an IFR glass cockpit.
Flying wasn't a new passion for aerospace. When he was a kid, he was obsessed with rockets. We built Estes models and launched them. He never stopped dreaming.
With his adult wealth, he pursued space as hard as he could.
A few months ago, he invited me and some other friends of ours in common on the trip of a lifetime - he chartered the Zero-G Experience, also known as the Vomit Comet - a Boeing 727 converted into a zero-g Romper Room. We took helicopters from New York City up to Poughkeepsie and boarded the 727 before flying out over the Atlantic Ocean and doing 20+ parabolas, with 30 seconds of zero gee per parabola. It was epic.
Then, some time after at a suite at a Yankees game, he said 'Hey. HEY! Have you signed the NDA?'
"READ YOUR EMAIL RIGHT NOW."
So I pulled out my phone, right there with him bouncing up and down on his toes, and did.
The first thing I saw was the header of an unread email. It was from an email address at Blue Origin.
"You're fucking kidding me."
I read it. It said that I had to sign the NDA and accept the terms in order to be able to attend the launch of the Blue Origin New Shepherd mission NS-18, in which my friend was going to travel to space, parabolic, above the Karman Line. I looked at him, open-mouthed. He was grinning like a loon. "GUESS WHAT ELSE! And you can't tell ANYONE! Guess who else is on the flight!"
I thought. The first passenger New Shepherd flight had had a famous person on board - Wally Funk, a woman pilot who had famously been cheated out of a chance to be an astronaut. Jeff Bezos is famous for his publicity hunger. Who else...? "William Shatner?"
"How the fuck did you know???"
"HAHAHAHAHA I guessed!"
A couple of months after that I went to Van Horn, Texas to watch my friend launch into space.
He came back glowing and ecstatic.
Never mind that our chartered jet lost an engine on the way there. (He was already in Texas and had been for a week, training; we - his entourage - were coming down day-before on a Bombardier Challenger 350 out of Teterboro, NJ.) We made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh and immediately asked if we could stay on the plane so that we could eat all the catering and drink them dry of booze, since the airport FBO didn't have any booze in it. While the airport firefighters walked around the plane in full gear with IR thermometers, making sure our failed engine wasn't going to set us on fire as it deluged oil all over the nacelle and thence the tarmac, we drank champagne and then with the cabin attendant's urging, tumbler-sized pours of Johnny Walker Blue. We sent him a pic of all of us holding champagne in the jet, giving the camera the thumbs-up (since we'd texted ahead that we were making an emergency landing). He sent back a pic of him and Shatner leaning in to the camera to give us thumbs-up back.
Eventually, they got us a replacement identical jet, with more catering and more booze, and we made it to Texas.
He launched. They launched. I met William Shatner and we partied there. At the bar at the Blue Origin astronaut village, I drank yet more Johnny Walker Blue - which, the staff assured me, was special because they had sent a case of it on a test launch of New Shepherd, so in fact all the Walker Blue in that bar had been to space. I christened it 'The Spacewalker' and set out to drink a lot of it. When my friend launched, while he was up, I lit a Cohiba and drank from my Solo cup of Spacewalker that I had carried up the hill to the viewing stand.
He came back. We came home. I hugged him at Teterboro, and we promised to get together soon.
On November eleventh, I was out drinking with a colleague, and my phone rang. It was a mutual friend. I let it go to voicemail. It rang again, immediately. I picked up.
He told me that our friend, my brother's friend, had been flying with his flight instructor over New Jersey, and their plane had gone down into a wooded area. He was dead.
I spent thirty minutes in denial as I frantically tried to find a cab home. I called other mutual friends to tell them, ruining their evening, sobbing.
He was. He was dead. He still is.
So now, that is what November 11th is to me. The day I lost one of my oldest friends; my second little brother.
But he was at the top of his game; the apex of his story. His trajectory so far had been unabashedly upwards. As my wife told me: "I know, that if he saw it coming in the last seconds, his last words would have been: Bring it on. Let's see what's fucking next."
It doesn't make it hurt any less.
But it reminds me that the hurt is all ours. It's not his. He's beyond that. He has gone on ahead, as he always did, and he's waiting for us to catch up.
Ad Astra per Aspera, Glen.