, Newburyport, MA

September 21, 2013

Remembering another Tommy on my birthday

By Tom O'Rourke
Special to The Daily News

---- — Editor’s Note: The following column written by a Newburyport resident in honor of one of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Born on Sept. 11, 1967, I was known almost exclusively as Tommy throughout my first 13 years. Somewhere around freshman year in high school, I started referring to myself as Tom and pretty much completed the transition to my shorter name by the time I finished college. Shortly after that, I made my first move to Newburyport, where I was introduced to a guy named Tommy Pecorelli. My work brought me to New Hampshire, where I lived for several years before returning to Newburyport with my wife and two young daughters in the summer of 2001.

The day I turned 34 was the same day Tommy Pecorelli lost his life — along with nearly 3,000 other Americans — in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was 30. I only met him a few times many years ago, but it is still clear to me how big an impact he made on this small community. His smile literally lit up the cable TV office and studio where he worked and volunteered so much of his time while in high school. My former co-workers flocked to him, anxious to hear his latest stories, when he came in to visit during college breaks.

I remember the time he instructed me on the finer points of floor-directing at the Lend-A-Hand Auction to benefit Opportunity Works, which is shown live on cable television stations throughout the area, and his willingness to fill in on short notice to cover the filming of a Board of Selectmen meeting or Yankee Homecoming concert, or help man the phones for a big pay-per-view event.

Like me, Tommy studied communications at UMass Amherst, and began his career in television production. Unlike me, he never got the chance to experience the many joys of fatherhood. His only son was born six months after his death. As my two daughters inch ever closer to college age, I find myself thinking more about the increasing cost of higher education, the importance of contributing to this community, and the incredible example Tommy set for his classmates, colleagues, and everyone who knew him.

And since my visit to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City this spring, I have been thinking even more about the many victims and their families.

So, this year on my birthday, I took a break from complaining about getting older and focused instead on doing something positive.

I made a gift to the Thomas N. Pecorelli Memorial Fund, which awards scholarships to Newburyport High School seniors who have made outstanding contributions in video production. It felt great. If you would also like to contribute to the fund, and amplify the benefits it provides to deserving local students, you can send a donation to the memorial fund c/o The Newburyport Bank, 63 State St., Newburyport.

I’m sure Tommy’s family and friends would appreciate your help in preserving his memory and extending even further the positive impact he made on this city.

Tom O’Rourke and his wife Sue Tabb worked briefly with Tommy Pecorelli at Continental Cablevision in the early 1990s. They live in Newburyport with their daughters Katie and Emma.