For Bob Harrington of West Springfield, today’s remembrance ceremonies are also a comforting reminder that his daughter will never be forgotten.
In 2001, West Springfield native Melissa Harrington-Hughes was living in San Francisco.
On the morning of September 11th, she was in Manhattan, in the north tower of the World Trade Center, trying to close a business deal. It was supposed to be a one day trip.
“She called and asked me what to do,” says her father Bob. “I happened to be making the bed at the time, I turned the TV on and I saw the fire — not so much the fire but a lot of smoke — and I said to her, I said, ‘Honey, How much fire?’ She said, ‘Not that much, Dad, but it’s hard to see, there’s a lot of smoke.’”
Bob adds, “I asked her if she could see an exit sign and she said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘Under that exit sign are the stair wells.’ I said, ‘Get out.’
But Melissa was on the 101st floor — several stories above where the first plane crashed. Her father says there were no survivors above the point of impact.
“I was able to tell her I loved her,” says Bob. He calls that moment, “The most important thing in my life.”
On days like today, when the country stops to remember the 3,000 who died on September 11th, Bob is reminded of just how special his daughter was.
“I think it’s important for the families to know that we remember,” says West Springfield Fire Dept. Chaplain Robert Smith. “There’s events like this taking place all around the country.”
“There’s three babies in the world, at least three that I know of, that are named after her,” says Bob, reflecting on his daughter’s lasting impact.
Bob adds, “I get texts, emails, telegrams from people all over the world telling me how brave she was and what a beautiful young lady she was, and I concur with them.”
Several years ago, a monument was erected in the West Springfield Town Common in honor of Melissa Harrington-Hughes. Atop that monument is an eternal flame that burns for all those who were killed in the September 11th attacks.