Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Remembering Harry Blanding Junior - 9/11 Project 2,996

As part of Project 2,996 I agreed to post a memorial in my blog on 9/11 for one of the 2,996 people that lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

My apologies to Mr. Blanding and his family for any inaccuracies in this memorial. I have done my best to get things right and properly honor this man.

Harry Blanding, Jr.
Harry's biography is, I'm sure, similar to that of many of the other people that died on 9/11. It is remarkable precisely because of how ordinary and American it is. He's the guy that graduated high school (Middletown South Class of 1981), went on to college (William Paterson College in New Jersey), married his sweetheart (Debbie) and started a family (Hayley, Jeremy and Benjamin). On 9/11, he went to his job at a claims analyst for Aon on the 92nd floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. He had made plans that day to have lunch with Tamika, a former coworker he hadn't seen in years. After the first plane hit, he called his wife and described what was happening. Then he told her had to go and he hung up. He was one of 176 Aon employees that didn't come home that day.

Harry left behind his wife Debbie and their three kids (ages 4, 2 and 1 at the time) and both of his parents Harry Sr. and Dorothy at least one sibling (Alex, his brother), a cat named Hugo and a dog named BJ. Although they knew he worked on the 92nd floor, his family initially held out hope that he would come home. His secretary reported that he and another co-worker had been helping other people get out of the building - the last time she saw him was as he ran back into the building after helping her get safely out.

On September 12, 2001 at 8:20pm, Debbie posted the following message on the Red Cross disaster site, "Harry Blanding!!!!!! We're looking for you!" Because Harry's car was also stolen on September 11th, his family had a hard time believing he was truly gone.  Every time a car slowed in front of the house, they hoped it was Harry - that he had recovered from an injury-related amnesia and had returned home. His family never gave up on him and didn't accept his death until much later when his DNA was identified.

In all the comments I searched about Harry, the thing that almost everyone mentioned was his friendly smile. Some even referred to it as "that famous Harry smile". He was well known as an easy-going, fun guy. Friends and family talked of Harry helping them out of tough situations and being there for them when he was needed. He coached a little league football team even though his children were not old enough to play. He loved being a part of his community, helping children and working out. Little league seemed to satisfy all of that. He was also active in his church (Pleasant Valley Presbyterian). Many of his friends spoke of his faith and his commitment to his family and his values.

Staying fit was a large part of his life. He was 5'9" and a muscular 205lbs. He would wake up at 4:30am to head into Manhattan early so he could work out at the gym before work. He'd work out at home after work as well. Debbie said she would often joke around with her husband about working out so much. Harry always said, "When I'm 90 years old, I'm still going to be running 5 miles. I've got to stay in shape for the grandkids!".

On one site, I found posts from his daughter Hayley on a 9/11 memorial site . It looks like she posted them in 2005 and throughout 2006. She speaks of missing her father. Of celebrating another Christmas without him. One post mentions that people at school were being mean to her and that she wished he were there. Another speaks of a family taco night where she ate the first taco whole and then broke the second one into taco salad "just like you!!!". From Hayley I learned that her father was a fan of the New York Yankees and the New York Giants. She also talks of her brothers and upcoming birthday parties - evidence that life goes on, but never quite the same.

Family, friends, and others whose lives have been touched by Harry have been remembering him today on  If you read through the posts there, you can see how greatly loved and missed this man is even 12 years later.

Perhaps most heart-breaking of all is the message from his daughter Hayley which reads (in part):

"Tears come in my eyes as I think how I won't have anybody to walk me down the aisle at my wedding or have the special father-daughter dance. You won't be at my high school graduation or be there when I achieve my dream of being on the stage. My children will never know their grandfather and when I come home for the holidays, the only parent I will be greeting is my mother. People who receive the luck of having a father don't get it and I understand."
Harry's children are now 17, 15 and 14.

This year Harry and Debbie would have celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

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