This tribute is a part of the 2996 project, designed to honor those whose lives were lost on September 11, 2001. For more tributes, visit the 2996 website.
Oftentimes, the presence or weight of a thing can be measured by what is left in its absence. The indentations in a carpet that can't be vacuumed out after the armoire is relocated to the back bedroom. A scarred acre of land after the trees have been burned to the ground. Over time, while the indentations may slowly resolve themselves and the land may begin to once again show life, the impression of what once occupied that space, of that force, never really goes away.
And so are the hearts of the friends and family of Chris Mello.
Christopher D Mello was born on June 22, 1976 to Doug and Ellen Mello. He died on September 11, 2001.
We went to college together, he was one of my husband's college roommates junior year. I didn't know him well, but what I remember of him, at first passing, was this smile... a smile that was so disarming, it could make you blush.
Chris possessed an enviable combination of quick wit and intelligence, athletic ability and good looks that drew people in, made them feel at ease, and won them over. He was in so many ways, larger than life. And yet incredibly humble and kind. Above all other things, loyal.
He graduated from Rye High School in 1994 -- member of the varsity football, baseball and basketball teams, National Honor Society, and vice president of his senior class, etc.
But, behind that smile and easy going demeanor, the guy was tough as nails. He played rugby in college. Although, I am not sure that played is really the right way to describe Chris in a game... he lived it, he became it. He was a force, determined and of single purpose, capable of moving opponents much larger. He fought to the end and relished every bloody nose, every gash and every bruise.
Peel back yet another layer, and you would find something else surprising. The tough as nails rugby player wrote poetry and loved to draw...
He graduated from Princeton in 1998. He majored in Psychology, was vice president of the University Cottage Club, a member of the men's Rugby Club, Kappa Alpha Order, and the 21 Club.
When they get together and reminisce, the stories overwhelming revolve around the quality of the friendship that Chris offered to those around him. I have heard them speak of him being the kind of person that would always have your back, someone on whom you could depend without question, in good times and in bad. He was kind in unexpected ways, and bold in his defense of those for whom he cared.
His sense of humor, while not always appropriate for mixed company, could lift a room and he was always ready to celebrate any occasion. He brought his lust for life to everything he did... and it showed. You just got that sense being around him. This was a guy who was bound and determined to suck the marrow out of life.
He went on to work as a financial analyst at BT Alex Brown in Baltimore, MD, before moving to Boston, MA, where he worked as an analyst for Alta Communications. He is survived by his parents, Doug and Ellen Mello, and his brother John Douglas (J.D.) Mello.
Two years after September 11, 2001, we gathered on a balmy spring weekend in Southern N.J. to celebrate my husband's fifth reunion. Reunions is a big deal -- three days of trying hard to pretend that we are still 21 and capable of the wild abandonment of youth. One of the highlights of the weekend is the P-rade, in which each class beginning with the "Old Guard" marches through campus as a way to welcome the graduating class into alumni ranks. On the 5s (5th, 10th, 15th, etc), classes come up with themes and elaborate costumes...As they gathered on the lawn waiting for their turn to march amid the sea of togas (Goin' Bacchus, was the theme...), Mello's friends stood out in gray t-shirts bearing his name in bold letters across their backs.
And when it came time to walk, a couple hundred people marched in memory of a great person, a great friend, a great life. And people cheered.
The space that Chris has left is enormous. The 2000 plus people who attended his memorial could not even begin to fill the space. But with time, the joy of the memories is not so wrapped in the pain. When my husband's friends gather at weddings, on Vegas trips, and at reunions, talk always comes back around the absence at the table. They work to fill the space with the stories and he is remembered fondly, warmly, in living color. In a moment's pause, the pain of missing him is acknowledged and then a drink is raised to him. Because, as one friend put it on the Legacy.com tribute page, "I think if Chris had written instructions on what he wanted us to do to remember him on those occasions it would read, 'have a drink together, tell stories and laugh.' "
God Bless and Keep you, Chris.
Obituary information courtesy of Legacy.com. Those interested in hearing more about Chris in the words of those who knew him best are encouraged to click here...