The shy kid was not very popular. He was somewhat of a loner. Didn’t have many friends. So, it wasn’t all that surprising that when he mailed out the invitations to his bar mitzvah, his classmates reacted with apathy. Most didn’t even bother to respond. Jeremy Glick, who just so happened to be the most popular kid at Saddle River (New Jersey) Day School, felt badly for his unpopular peer, and decided to do something about it. Jeremy wound up attending the bar mitzvah. He was the only classmate to do so. The kid who invited him was touched. He never forgot that act of kindness.
Years later, after Jeremy died tragically and courageously on 9/11, the one-time unpopular kid took pen to paper and wrote a heart-felt letter to Glick’s widow, Lyzbeth. He described, in loving detail, the story of how Jeremy became a personal hero long before he became an American hero.
“I think that anecdote speaks to the essence of who Jeremy was,’’ his father, Lloyd Glick, said recently over the phone from his home in New Jersey. “He didn’t care what other people thought about the kid. He just felt like that was the right thing to do, the compassionate thing to do. It meant the world to him that Jeremy didn’t want him to feel isolated and alone.”
On June 2, Jeremy’s legacy of compassion, empathy and bravery will be celebrated when he is inducted posthumously into the Rochester Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. That he is being remembered in the Flower City is fitting because the place had a huge impact on his life. It’s where he received a degree in English and philosophy from the University of Rochester in 1993, honed his skills to become a national collegiate judo champion and developed friendships that endure long after his death
“He loved his time in Rochester, and would often return even after graduating,’’ said Lloyd, who will accept the honor in memory of his son. “He visited a bunch of colleges, but once he visited Rochester something just clicked and he immediately knew that was the place he was meant to be. He thought the curriculum was right for him. He liked the people he met. And he wasn’t daunted at all by the snow because he was a highly skilled skier—so good, in fact, that he became a certified ski instructor.”
Jeremy was a natural at just about everything he tried. He took up the violin in elementary school, and although he wasn’t a prodigy, he created a song that wound up being played by the local symphony orchestra. A bright student with an insatiable curiosity, Jeremy lived life zestfully and had a mischievous side, too. For the longest time, he sported an enormous Afro. He attended Grateful Dead concerts, and once accompanied teenaged peers across the river to Manhattan, where they attempted to finagle their way into popular discos despite being underage. He loved animals, something undoubtedly ingrained in him while growing up in a household featuring two German shepherds, four cats and a rabbit.
Jeremy was passionate about sports. In addition to judo and skiing, he excelled at soccer and lacrosse, and collaborated with his older brother to start a wrestling program from scratch while in high school. At UR, he captained the rugby team, and he continued to practice judo on the side even though the college didn’t have a team and there wasn’t a coach to train him. A ruggedly built, 6-foot-1, 220-pounder, Jeremy headed off to the national judo championships his senior year and won the title in his weight class as an independent.
Jeremy also was a natural with people, attracting friends like metal to a magnet wherever he went. He and Lyzbeth—the high school sweetheart who became his wife—were voted king and queen of their senior ball. And during Jeremy’s final year at UR, he was unanimously elected president of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity house.
“He was the kind of person who would walk into a roomful of strangers and walk out with a handful of new friends,’’ Lloyd said. “There was just a goodness about him that made people gravitate to him. He had charisma.”
The third of six children, Jeremy dreamed of having a large, close-knit family like the one in which he was reared. Lyzbeth gave birth to their first child in the summer of 2001; they named her Emerson, after their favorite poet and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson. At that time, Jeremy was working as a sales and marketing rep for Vividence, an internet company based in New York City. On Sept. 10 of that year, he was scheduled to fly to San Francisco for a business meeting, but a small fire at Newark international Airport forced his flight to be canceled. Rather than wait for a later flight that day, he opted to come back the following morning.
The next day, he boarded United Airlines Flight 93. Not long after takeoff, a commotion broke out, and two men with guns dragged the pilot, co-pilot and flight attendants to the back of the plane. Jeremy and others phoned loved ones to tell them about the hijacking. During those conversations, they learned about the airliners that had crashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. Glick and the other passengers quickly realized that Flight 93 also was on a suicide mission. As an FBI investigation later revealed, the terrorists intended to the fly the plane, kamikaze-style, into the U.S. Capitol building, where a joint session of Congress was being held on a day when Supreme Court Justices and members of the cabinet were in attendance.
During his 20-minute conversation with Lyzbeth, Jeremy repeatedly told her how much he loved her. He also mentioned how he and three other former collegiate rugby players he had met on the flight were plotting to rush the cockpit in an attempt to regain control of the plane.
“But you don’t have any weapons, and they do,’’ Lyzbeth told him. He joked that he still had his plastic breakfast knife.
Shortly after that humorous response, Jeremy told her to take care of Emmy and to “have a good life.” Soon, he, Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham and Tom Burnett began charging down the aisle. The plane wound up crashing in a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pa., killing all 33 passengers and seven crew members.
“They knew their chances of surviving were very, very low,’’ Lloyd said. “But they were determined not to allow that plane to reach its destination. Imagine what would have ensued had those terrorists succeeded? They essentially would have wiped out our government and thrown our country into chaos.”
In the Alpha Delta Phi house on the University of Rochester campus, you’ll find a photograph of Glick along with a plaque recounting his bravery. His fraternity brothers established a scholarship in his memory. You’ll also find his name engraved at the 9/11 memorials in the rural Pennsylvania field where Flight 93 crashed and in lower Manhattan, where two 110-story skyscrapers once stood. Following his death, Glick’s family established a program called Jeremy’s Heroes, a nonprofit that funds sports programs in impoverished metropolitan New York school districts, and teaches young people the importance of education, citizenship and community service.
Jeremy also lives on in his daughter, Emmy, a high school senior and aspiring actress, who has spent time touring with a professional theater group and will attend Syracuse University’s nationally renowned College of Visual and Performing Arts this fall.
“She has the same thick, curly hair that her dad had, and the same, caring, winning personality,’’ Lloyd said. “I see a lot of Jeremy in her.”
The father is grateful for functions like the upcoming one in Rochester. It gives him an opportunity to tell others about his son’s legacy. That Jeremy would give his life in order to save the lives of so many others, and maybe even save our country from total chaos, obviously is a huge part of his story. But there’s much more that Lloyd would like people to know about the young man who would have turned 49 on Sept. 3.
“What I would most like to impart is that Jeremy was a person of character, and essential to that character was a deep regard for others,’’ he said. “He was very empathetic, and the best way for people to honor Jeremy is to do something good for someone every day. We all have the capacity to help people every day of our lives, just like Jeremy did.”
Best-selling author and nationally honored journalist Scott Pitoniak is the Rochester Business Journal sports columnist.