SARATOGA SPRINGS – Patrick Kauth stood atop the lawn at High Rock Park Wednesday morning, trying to encapsulate the thoughts and emotions of the past 18 years into a few poignant words.
“It’s a changed world,” said Kauth, whose childhood years were spent in the classrooms of St. Clement’s and Saratoga Springs High. He grew up in a hockey family, one of four siblings. His dad, Don Kauth, was killed in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.
“A loss is a loss and you can’t change time,” said Kauth, who teaches history at the Albany Academy.
It was early in September 2001, when Don Kauth drove his son to Merrimack College in Massachusetts, where Patrick was entering his freshman year.
“He bought me own of those huge Dell desktop computers,” he remembered. “Afterwards we ate dinner and exchanged pleasantries and insults, the way that best friends do, because he was my best friend,” he said. “Then he was off to New York the next morning.” Don Kauth worked as a bank analyst for Keefe, Bruyette & Wood at the World Trade Center.
It was a week or so later when Patrick Kauth joined his new college roommates watching the events of 9/11 take form on the TV.
“I remember thinking that this couldn’t be real. At first, I joined along with them, just sat there, and then after about sixty seconds it clicked: wait a minute. He works there. So, I phoned home. And I heard it in my mom’s voice. She hadn’t heard from him. The communication was very difficult that day, but still, he would have found a way. So, I knew pretty immediately that he was gone. “
Kauth was the keynote speaker at the city’s 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony Wednesday morning at High Rock Park. It is a historic park that has been known to Native Americans for over 5,000 years. In the summer of 2012, it became home to the 25-foot-tall sculpture, titled "Tempered by Memory," which was created out of five twisted pieces of World Trade Center steel. Four of the pieces came from the North Tower - distinguished by the antenna on its roof - and one steel beam came from the South Tower.
The ceremony, held on the 18th anniversary of the attacks, began with a welcome from Raymond F. O’Conor, author and CEO of Saratoga National Bank, and the observance included members of the city police and fire departments and the U.S. Navy. Keri Alonzo sang The National Anthem, Rick and Sharon Bolton provided additional music. Chaplain Sid Gordon, Disabled American Veterans, delivered the Invocation and Benediction.
“The attacks caused the deaths of 2,996 people and the injuries of more than 6,000 others,” said city Mayor Meg Kelly, who recited a series of the numbers that reflected the tragic losses of that day at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon, on each of the four planes, and the firefighters, paramedics, police officers and others who were killed responding to the attacks and trying to help others.
“Number of people who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks: 1,609; Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051; Estimated number of New Yorkers suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder as a result of 9/11: immeasurable,” Mayor Kelly said. “It is with these numbers that we will always mark this horrific day.”
Kauth says the collective stories of the tragic day’s events, as well as visits to The National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York have become as fundamental to him as the battlefields of Saratoga, and Gettysburg, and the museums and the monuments in Washington.
“In particular, it is overwhelmingly emotional listening to our first responders The Day Of - from their own radio correspondence, describing in detail their quickly deteriorating situation and the victims who could not make it out of the stairwell,” Kauth said. “It becomes apparent, pretty quickly, that these heroes knew that they were not making out. That they were going to save as many people before the inevitable collapse.
“I cannot help but think, in awe and with tears streaming down my face, about the bravery and resolve displayed by these firefighters and policemen who wanted nothing else but to just have a chance at saving people like my father,” Kauth said.
“Time does help. I have a family of my own that we’re growing now, and that helps immensely. I love my son more and more each day,” he said, gesturing a few yards away across the park to his wife Shauna, and their 22-month-old son, Oliver.
Asked what he will teach his own son about his father, Kauth said it will be about his dad’s caring for others. “He was a unique guy. A really thoughtful guy who did a lot for the community and for anybody that needed something. So, what I’ll tell my son is that we have to continue to try and live his legacy,” Kauth said. “But you’re never going to have that hole filled up completely.”