On Sept. 11, 2001, the Upper Dublin family lost one of its own.
Bobby McIlvaine, an Oreland native and 1993 graduate of Upper Dublin High School, perished at age 26 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was at a conference on the 106th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when the first airplane crashed.
With the 10th anniversary of the attacks just two days away, the Upper Dublin school community came together Friday to remember the tragedy and honor the member of the Cardinal family whose life ended that day.
The entire Upper Dublin High School student body and faculty, along with district administrators, school board members and members of the McIlvaine family, gathered in the gymnasium.
Dan Ortiz, a social studies teacher and Upper Dublin Class of 2002 graduate, spoke first, speaking about the sacrifices so many made in the wake of 9/11.
"At a time when Americans were more shaken up, more vulnerable than ever before, we came together as one nation and became stronger than ever before," he said. "We must never forget what great power unity can have, and we must never forget the sacrifices that were made by so many for us."
Those in attendance then watched a video paying tribute to those who died on 9/11, featuring audio clips and news footage from that morning.
Principal Charles Rittenhouse spoke about McIlvaine during his time at Upper Dublin High School, describing him as "one of the top students in the Class of 1993."
McIlvaine also played basketball and soccer for the high school and was involved in the debate society, the math team, the National Honor Society and the student government association.
"While he was no doubt a very intelligent young man here at UD, he was known more as a caring individual with a very strong work ethic both inside and outside of the classroom," Rittenhouse said.
McIlvaine then attended Princeton University, graduating in 1997. He moved to New York City and worked in public relations and publishing before becoming assistant vice president of media relations with Merrill Lynch.
Rittenhouse read quotes from McIlvaine's college friends and coworkers, who described him as a friend you were better off having met and a person with a "warm personality and down-to-earth demeanor."
"My goal in speaking about him is to celebrate a life lived and not a life lost," Rittenhouse said.
To honor McIlvaine's memory, a plaque will be installed in the lobby of the school's academic complex. The black plaque features pictures of McIlvaine, along with the words "Friend, Teammate, Hero."
Additionally, the school's Scholar Athlete Award will now bear McIlvaine's name. The award is given each year to a graduating senior who displays both academic and athletic excellence, and McIlvaine himself won the award in 1993.
McIlavine's mother, Helen — who attended along with his father, Bob, and younger brother, Jeff — spoke about the impact the past decade has had on her.
"It's really quite hard to believe that it's been almost 10 years since those horrible attacks on the World Trade Center," she said. "I still have difficulty watching footage of the planes going into the towers, and I still mistakenly feel that my son Bobby will call or walk into the room and give me a hug. And I think I'll just feel that way as long as I live, but I think it's a mother's prerogative to daydream about her children, even when they're not right here."
"Sometimes it's just a little too easy to forget," said Hanan Fishman, McIlvaine's high school classmate and friend who organized the effort to have the memorial plaque installed. "That's really why I'm standing here in front of all of you this morning. My mission is to remind you all of what happened that day and to share with all of you the memory of my good friend Bobby McIlvaine, who died in the World Trade Center 10 years ago."
Fishman said while the high school students may not have known McIlvaine or even have been old enough to comprehend the enormity of 9/11 when it happened, he hoped the plaque would keep McIlvaine's memory alive in each of them.
"It's my hope that this memorial can serve as an inspiration to each and every one of you," he said.
Superintendent Michael Pladus closed the ceremony, saying while America is a place of difference, events like 9/11 push those differences aside.
"There are special moments, special spots along the way, however, when we're reminded not of how different we all are but rather just how similar we are," he said. "I didn't know Bobby McIlvaine, but Bobby McIlvaine is a part of me and he's a part of you. He's part of us. We are Upper Dublin."