Her name was Leslie Whittington, later married to our mutual neighbor and friend Charles Faulkenberg. Our story, my story with her began as girls. We lay on our backs sucking a blade of grass. She was a brain but she preferred to be called a beauty. I would look over at her, long hair, long fingers, long pale legs. She wore glasses and she would mimic smoking a cigarette. To her thirteen year old mind that was the coolest. We used candy cigarettes and we practiced. Under the summer blue skies, with so many dreams in our young heads. Her parents lived a few blocks from mine. We rode bikes and sat up on statues in our area to define our social status. We were both a bit reckless and wild and too smart for our own good. I adored her. Our years went by in the normal childhood fashion. Parental angst…crushes on pop singers and poets. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Who, Joni Mitchell. In our 15th year of life, suddenly boys took on a whole new meaning. We wrote letters professing our love, shared them with each other (too scared to share with the intended) laughed and cried and by this time, rode bikes and lay on our backs smoking real cigarettes that she somehow managed to get. High school she Introduced me to my first love. Much later (her triple degreed economist, professor PhD self) said that one of her finest moments was “Hooking the two of us together. We were simply meant to be together” she drawled in her funny manner. “You two messed it up” she laughed, as we went on to remain friends and married other people. I continued to adore her. She married almost literally the “Boy next door.” Charlie Faulkenberg. Red haired and smart as they come, the two of them produced two amazing little girls Zoe and Dana. They were travelling for a few months for her to teach in Australia.
Leaving Dulles Airport, flight 77, all four of them. Their plane hit the Pentagon. They lived and loved and died together.
At their funeral there were no bodies. Just 4 candles lit in the sand box in the catholic church. Four beautiful lives lost but never forgotten.
Today is 16 years of the world turning. So many other people she and I loved as girls have passed on. Yet it is her death that day that changed all of us forever. Her death and all of the others. It was the understanding that nothing is certain. It was the understanding that life is precious and fleeting. Our last words were “I will see you, maybe next summer.”