I may not have been the very last American to learn of the attacks on 9/11, but it felt that way. I was in the middle of a trip to climb the Grand Teton, and learned the news at about 9pm that night, in the dark, at our campsite on a remote, windswept saddle below the Grand Teton, at 12,000 feet elevation. A full account of that experience can be read here, though it’s really more of a mountaineering story than a 9/11 story.
My climbing companions and I were among the lucky ones: our families and friends were alright. But a short while after I arrived back home in Saratoga, I learned that Don Kauth had been killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
Don and I had worked together for a couple years in the late ‘90s. We were both Vice Presidents for a local bank, though Don was by far the more experienced, seasoned professional. Don brought a breath of fresh air to the bank: he had the rare combination of a friendly personality you couldn’t help but immediately like, and professional experience and capability that you couldn’t help but respect.
As an Adirondack 46er, I was pleased to learn last year that Wilton’s Ray O’Conor would be dedicating his completion of the Adirondack 46 High Peaks to Don , as well as to his own cousin, Navy Commander Patrick Dunn, who died at the Pentagon in the 9/11 attacks. Ray’s final hike, up Basin Mountain, was on 9/11/2010. In Ray’s words, “There may not be a whole lot that any of us can do today to help those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, but at the very least we should remember and honor them."
O’Conor’s accomplishment in turn inspired Cecilia Kauth, Don’s daughter, to undertake a 12-week cross-country bicycle ride this summer in honor of her father and to raise money for World Bicycle Relief. Cecilia and her riding partners will arrive in New York City via bicycle on 9/11/2011 to attend the 10 year anniversary memorial service.
There are probably as many reasons to climb the 46 or to cycle across the country as there are individuals who have done so: personal challenge, beautiful views, experiencing nature, the thrill of movement, escape from life’s distractions. Cecelia and Ray have both used their pursuits to inspire others, to build awareness, to actively remember and honor loved ones and to make a difference in the world. That’s a wonderful tribute not only to Don, but to all Americans who lost their lives in the attacks 10 years ago today.
To learn more about Cecilia’s ride and contribute to World Bicycle Relief, visit Cecilia’s website: usaridetoremember.org.
Photos: Early morning light at the Lower Saddle, Grand Teton, Sept. 11, 2001. Riders dipping their wheels in the Pacific Ocean, June 2011, courtesy USA Ride to Remember