Sunday, September 10, 2006

John Brett Cahill ... in the Web of Trust

It is not just the unseen heroes. It is the unseen, anonymous people that make this whole thing work ... armies of people, millions of people, get up and go to work every day to make sure that all of the transparent, unnoticed and unsung strands in this Web of Trust function.

...AN AMERICAN CIVILIZATION, Chapter One: The Web of Trust by Bill Whittle

John Brett Cahill was both supported by, and an integral part of, the Web of Trust that is our civilization.

I am sure that your own life has been touched indirectly by the fruits of his labor ... every time you have made a copy. For many years, John was a part of the company whose very name is synonymous with copying ... Xerox. Starting in the sales-training department way back in 1967, he rose to become a vice-president in Xerox's systems group ... and for good reason, as one of his colleagues, Robert Raithby, reported:

I knew John as my boss at Xerox Engineering Systems when he was General Manager of the European Operation during the mid-nineties. He was a great man, charming and caring as well as having the ability to manage such a diverse operation so well. He invited his first line managers into his Marlow home for the first Christmas he was with us in the U.K.. He and his dear wife, two boys and even the dogs made us so welcome.

A man with a passion for travel to begin with, John's career took him and his family beyond America's shores ... moving them, at different points in that career, to both the UK and Brazil, before returning to their native Massachusetts in 1999. John spoke three languages -- Spanish, Portuguese, and English -- and, in the words of his wife, Sharon, "realized the world was smaller than it seems".

He passed along his respect for others in this world to his children; in particular, his eldest son, Brett, who has taken on the study of French, Spanish, and German.

By all available accounts, John Brett Cahill was in no way the stereotypical "ugly American" that is often the target of envy, disdain ... or the kind of hate that leads one to kill.

However, from what I see, he was as American as you can get when it came to the pursuit of happiness.

At an age when many senior executives are well into planning their retirement to a life of leisure, John was instead planning his retirement from Xerox ... to run a new business he was starting, a consulting firm that (of course) was international in its reach, called MDI.

His family knew what the initials stood for ... "Mad Dog Industries".

"Mad Dog" was John's nickname, from his days as a student at Boston College, where he was described as a "good-time guy" ... and while he may have calmed down from those days as a result of the responsibilities of work and family, it is apparent that he still carried with him a zest for living that this writer can relate to. As Sharon describes it:

He just really had a passion. He had a sparkle in his eye and just could see the world as a glass that was half full.

John Brett Cahill was living the American dream ... not just the wife-two kids-house in the 'burbs one, but the dream of men long departed who, not too far from that house, came to believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were the birthright of ALL men.

For John, though, professional success was only one part of his passionate pursuit of happiness.

He was involved in his community ... part of a committee set up to deal with the problems of drug and alcohol abuse that work against the exercise of the birthright described above.

He loved his alma mater, keeping up with his fellow alums, tailgating at all the football games (as well as going to the hockey games), and also annually supporting BC athletes through donations to the Flynn Foundation.

His love for sports extended beyond the Eagles of Boston College ... it extended to his community, and especially to his two sons, Brett and Sean. From one-on-one basketball in the driveway ... to ski trips ... to membership in the Gridiron Club of their high school in Wellesley ...

... to something that both John and my own father had in common; making a point of attending their sons' sporting events.

Like the JV football game Brett was in, the evening of 10 September 2001, before having to rise very early, to travel across the country for his new business, the next morning.


John Brett Cahill was an integral strand in the Web of Trust ... his endeavors provided essential support to all around him, be they family, friend, or colleague. They all benefited greatly from that support.

Keep in mind though, that he also benefited from that kind of support ... for without the many other strands in that Web of Trust, he would never have been able to achieve the good things he did.

From the support of his wife -- and sons -- who went wherever John did in the pursuit of happiness ... to his colleagues and shareholders at Xerox, a fertile field that John cultivated for not only his own personal and professional growth, but that of many others ... to the personal friend on the West Coast he was visiting as part of that business trip that next morning ... to the business and government institutions that made sure the air travel John depended upon for his business, and enjoyed as he fed his passion for travel, was predictable, safe, and secure ... he was supported by many, many strands in that Web of Trust.

All this support, though, depended upon an old, simple principle ... do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

The integrity of that entire Web of Trust ... our entire civilization ... depends upon both keeping men free to spin sections of that Web for the benefit of all, as John had been able to do ... while making sure no one with the determination to tear holes in that Web is left alone long enough to do so.

All of this intricate Web had worked well to support John, for well over five decades and tens of thousands of miles of travel ...

.. until that next morning.


That next morning, at 9:03 AM EDT, we watched as the Web of Trust was torn from under John Cahill ...

... as United flight 175 destructively merged, with lethal effect, with the South Tower.

At that moment, we saw that our civilization, despite all its advances, is still vulnerable to the machinations of thugs and fanatics, if they are left alone ... and that if we were going to keep that civilization and its Web of Trust, we were going to have to change our ways of protecting it, without destroying it in the process.

We might disagree upon how that protection can be achieved ... but only the most naive among us would say that acting to protect it is neither necessary, nor just.

All his life, John Brett Cahill worked ... and "played" ... in ways that brought advancement, enhanced enjoyment, and just made life better for all those around him, while he was part of our Web of Trust.

We need to be wise ... repair, reinforce, and expand that Web of Trust ... and make sure that it continues to support the ideas -- and people -- that John Brett Cahill nourished when he was part of it.


I wrote the above with a sense of trepidation, knowing full well that John's family may read this. I pray that I have lived up to the last paragraph, and that it is a source of support, comfort, and pride for them.

Below are links to source material used in the creation of the above post:


From The Heights (Boston College)

From the Dallas Morning News -- AP Sports Editors

From the Boston Globe


Finally, John Brett Cahill was one of 2996 to lose their lives that tragic day ... visit
the 2996 Project to read and honor the rest.

May John Brett Cahill rest in peace. A lovely tribute to an accomplished man. Project 2996 has been a blessing to thousands.

Today I remember Thomas Foley.
What a wonderful man! It strikes me in reading these tributes that so many of these people who were taken from us that day are the very sort of people who would have befriended their hijackers in other situations.

My tribute to Ruth McCourt, who shared flight 175 with Mr. Cahill, is posted as well. I invite your comments.
Wonderful Tribute!
Thank you.
These are sad and hard to read....
I am honored to be a part of this project.
Mine is posted also...

The 2996 link is down. I have a new link on my site to view the participants.

Bless you...
Oh my goodness. Your presentation of John Brett Cahill brought tears to my eyes. I feel like I've met him now, that I would have enjoyed meeting him had he lived.

God bless his family.

We must never forget.

I remember Laura Gilly.
Another well written tribute about a life taken too soon. Thank you! John Cahill sounded like a man of integrity. He is missed.
Where and when did you serve? You speak with authority.
I have to say, wow. Wow to you for composing only the best of both worlds, my style of creativity and imagination with your exquisite composition skills :)
It is really been a delightful experience to observe your work for a minute. Whether you're here just promoting your stuff or not, I still feel as thought you should most definitely mass produce this and really give the world a chance in really indulging their minds with the taste of your writings!
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