20 Years Later: Remembering Rob McLaughlin ’93
Creator: Justin Lafleur, Lehigh Sports Communications
Those two words evoke so many thoughts, emotions, and memories of former Lehigh lacrosse midfielder Rob McLaughlin ’93, who was one of 2,977 people tragically killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States .
When I think back to McLaughlin’s time at Lehigh … “Eagle” was a shout the coaches used when calling for a substitution. However, there were often times when Rob – more of a defensive midfielder – didn’t get away.
“He was just dog tired and everyone was yelling Eagle McLaughlin,” said Mark Wilson in ’94. “He either consciously dismissed everyone or literally not heard it. It became a team joke to pull Rob off. When you say his name, every single player of our generation will laugh and say Eagle McLaughlin.”
Wilson even went so far as to say it was his legacy.
“Rob’s legacy is endless effort and energy to the point where he didn’t want to get off the field. Endless heart and hustle and bustle.”
An important aspect of McLaughlin’s identity was a lacrosse player, but he was much more than that (he even ended his Lehigh career on the rugby team).
“He was very focused,” said Kevin McCaffrey ’93, who was also McLaughlin’s big brother in her brotherhood, Sigma Phi Epsilon. “We grew up together in college and started in New York [after college], things were kind of fun and games for me, to be honest. I took a few steps, but I didn’t take it too seriously. He also had a way of not taking it seriously, so I wouldn’t have guessed that he was so focused on the things he achieved. “
Incredibly concentrated, McLaughlin lived with McCaffrey in three different environments (both during and after Lehigh), including for a time in New York City on the Upper West Side on 89th Street.
“He took the smallest room,” said McCaffrey. “It was all that was available; it was a glorified closet, but he was up at 3am making calls to Czechoslovakia. He started the emerging markets practice at Cantor Fitzgerald. To my knowledge, he was a huge role. ” at the time when I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than renting an apartment, he was exploring buying an apartment with his then girlfriend Liz, whom he married and with whom he had his son Nicholas. “
Rob was taken away from his son far too early (only 29 years old). On September 11, 2001, McLaughlin was Vice President of Emerging Markets for Cantor Fitzgerald (a financial services company) and was based in the company’s corporate headquarters – the north tower of the World Trade Center. The plane that hit the north tower crashed between floors 93 and 99.
Cantor Fitzgerald’s offices were between the 101st and 105th floors.
Every Cantor Fitzgerald employee who reported for work that morning was killed, including McLaughlin.
“I was living and working in Red Bank, New Jersey at the time, and was busy moving my construction and landscaping teams around,” said McCaffrey. “I was told about an attack and managed to get some coverage in my office. I was concerned about a number of my friends, including Rob. When I found out it was Cantor Fitzgerald, I hate it to say.” To be precise, where the plane hit the north tower, it was an immediate reaction from Rob is not where he works? “
These worst fears came true.
“It all seemed so surreal to me at the time,” said Wilson. “You wouldn’t associate it with someone you knew was a young, alive person who would be lost forever. And in the days that followed, when the names became known on the news, I remember first that he was one of the Then, later that he was gone.
“That was hard.”
Former teammate Michael Metzger ’95 was an intern at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia on that tragic day.
“I heard in the days and weeks after that Rob was one of the victims,” said Metzger. “It was heartbreaking and sobering what brings it all home. It was really an emotional hit. I certainly still get emotional when I talk about it or think about it.”
What Metzger likes to think about is a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial.
“I only made it to the 9/11 Memorial a few years ago,” he said. “I was really looking forward to it, and of course it was on my mind. I went there, got off the subway and went to the memorial. I went to the reflection pool where the actual towers were, but looked up at the new Freedom Tower … just record everything. “
The reflection pools are the actual foundations of the two towers.
“They are dug up and filled with [very dark] Water, “said Butcher.” In the borders of each of the buildings the names of each victim are engraved. I swear to god I approached the pools and looked up at the tower, I had no idea where I was. But when I looked down, I was right in front of Rob’s name. The likelihood of this is ridiculous – one in more than 2,900.
“It gives me goosebumps every time I share this story.”
Ironically, Wilson had a similar story from another memorial.
“My wife is from West Orange and we happened to be at the 9/11 Memorial in West Orange,” said Wilson. “It was my son or daughter who walked to the memorial and said ‘look at the names’ and pointed to a name.
“There were a couple of names away from Robs,” he continued. “These things didn’t really get through until years later.”
Now, 20 years after that tragic day, McLaughlin’s memory lives on.
“I always remember Rob being a positive, great guy who always had a smile on his face and an infectious laugh,” said Jeff Jenkins ’94.
“Rob was just a thoughtful person and a really nice kid,” said former Lehigh head coach John McCloskey. “[On the field], he was a good size and a good speed … an all-round athlete. “
McCaffrey has been with McLaughlin a lot, on and off the field, and regrets not spending more time together.
“September 11th was a terrible moment in our history, but it puts a smile on my face,” said McCaffrey. “I was a year ahead of him, but we graduated that same year because he was starting accelerated studies. About a year later he lived with me in New York for a short time when he started at Cantor Fitzgerald. “He was always a fun guy.
“You notice how important this time is and you don’t get it back.”
According to Metzger, McLaughlin was always a good guide.
“He was a good mentor behind the scenes for me, an upper-class person,” said Metzger. “Little pep talk here and there. Not a big Team Ra-Ra guy, but directly behind the scenes with a pat on the back or tips on how to deal with everything that happens on and off the field.
“My other memories of him as a player are just endless energy. He embodied what midfielders do. Good midfielders don’t always make the score but do the right things with groundballs and team defense and are just a great hustler.” . “
As McCaffrey said, McLaughlin was just “one of the boys”.
“He was the youngest guy in the house we stayed in (off campus) so he had a maturity and an ability to adapt that most younger people didn’t have,” McCaffrey said.
“I miss him and I hope his story will lead many people through these difficult times. He is an inspiring character. I hope his son appreciates what a funny guy he was and what he stood for. “
What McLaughlin stood for was energy and passion for everything he did, on and off the lacrosse field.
“Rob has definitely lived life to the fullest and seen many things,” said Wilson. “[September 11 reinforced that] nothing is promised and everything is finite. You have to enjoy every day.
“Rob is the type of person who did just that.”