Posted Sep 27 2011 7:47AM
OAKLAND -- Now, sitting in an empty office in the Warriors' downtown headquarters, nearly 10 years removed from the uprising inside a hijacked 757, some 2,000 miles from where United Airlines Flight 93 slammed into a southwestern Pennsylvania field with such ferocity that the pieces of debris found after impact were smaller than a phone book, details have been lost to time. Or maybe John Beaven just doesn't want to remember.
Beaven does not immediately recall how many times he has been to the crash site that claimed his father and 43 others on Sept. 11, 2001. He figures, after some conversation, there were two visits. He didn't even remember one of the trips until his mother reminded him a few weeks ago. Beaven went then while on his way to Pittsburgh for hip surgery. He cannot say for sure, in the surreal aftermath of that day, whether he met President George W. Bush at the White House first and then went to Shanksville, Penn., or whether it was the other way around.
Beaven lost his father that day. But he makes clear in a morning break from his duties as the Warriors' executive director of ticket sales that he did not lose his identity. He does not remember details others might have seared into their souls because he has decided that 9/11 will not define him. Some colleagues on Golden State's business side do not even know his connection to that day. He was originally planning to skip ceremonies in Pennsylvania this weekend to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks before deciding to attend to support his 15-year-old step-sister.
He will not be framed by United 93, just as those who knew his father, Alan Beaven, say the gifted environmental lawyer would not want to be defined by whatever role he had in the passengers and crew storming four hijackers and bringing the plane down before it could reach either the U.S. Capitol or the White House, believed to be the terrorists' intended target.
"I think in large part, it sounds funny, but I never wanted to make a big deal out of it," John Beaven said. "At some point, I would like to take my wife there. She's never been there. But I'm not big on pomp-and-circumstance. I'm busy here and there's a lot going on leading into what we're hoping is going to be a season. I understand why it's a big deal. I understand why a lot of people have attached so much to the significance of the event, especially what happened on Flight 93. But I've never been that person and I feel like my dad, he was very much someone that wouldn't have wanted us to make a big deal of it."
Here's the thing, though. He is working for the Warriors because of 9/11. It can't help, strangely, but at least be part of the foundation of a successful professional life.
John Beaven, 21 years old and about to begin his senior year at the University of California-San Diego, was in Australia, visiting his girlfriend that September. They were watching TV when the news broke: A plane flew into one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York. About 45 minutes later, another cut-in and another plane. Details emerged and images were broadcast live, and the two American students sat transfixed in front of the screen. John didn't know his father was flying from Newark to San Francisco to take a deposition.
His mom called. She wasn't sure, but Alan may have been on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. It was 3 or 4 a.m. in Australia when John got word that, yes, his father was on United 93. He was heading to the Bay Area, after briefly relocating to the New York area, before he planned to take a year sabbatical in India with his second wife and 5-year-old daughter to work in an ashram.
John scoured the Internet and the TV, but mostly found details on the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
With air travel in the United States shut down and a large distance to cover, getting home took four days. He finally reached Los Angeles and met up with his 18-year-old brother, Chris, who was about to begin his freshman year at Loyola Marymount, and their mother, living in the Sacramento, Calif., suburb of Carmichael. They flew to the East Coast -- maybe Washington, maybe New York, John doesn't recall -- and joined half-sister Sonali and her mother, Kimi.
Weeks later, the Warriors donated $25,000 to the Alan Beaven Family Fund, with forward Antawn Jamison putting up another $10,000, and hosted the Beavens with floor seats at the regular-season home opener against the Suns.
John finished his senior season with the UC San Diego baseball team. Before every game he pitched -- as the ball was going around the infield following his final warmup throws -- he drew the initials "AB" into the down slope of the mound. He graduated in 2002 with a degree in biology and was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays out of a tryout camp and pitched one season with their Rookie League team in Hudson Valley, N.Y. He kept in touch with a few people in the Warriors' front office he first met through the team's 9/11 tribute.
When his baseball career ended, all John knew was that he wanted to stay in sports. He had no idea doing what. When he called a Warriors' executive, Travis Stanley, to ask if anyone there had a contact with the Padres, the response was to invite Beaven to Oakland to talk about a job selling tickets.
That was nearly nine years ago.
"It seems strange that I got this opportunity that is now a big part of who I am because of what I went through," he said.
Beaven has risen from season ticket account executive to group sales manager to director of group sales to the current role as executive director of ticket sales. He is 31 and married. Chris is 28. Sonali is 15 and living with Kimi in Santa Barbara, Calif., after previously making their home about two miles from Warriors headquarters.
All are scheduled to be in Pennsylvania this weekend for ceremonies and the unveiling of a new memorial at the crash site. John is going for his family, but also knowing he may be unexpectedly struck by the emotions of the moment. The events of 9/11, he said, are not a constant in his mind.
"It's going to be a long two days and an emotional two days," Beaven said. "But I also understand it's the 10-year anniversary. It's going to mean a lot to a lot of people. And I'm sure it'll mean a lot to me, too. As the date approaches and we actually get to it, I'm sure there'll be some things that come up."
John will be there -- for his family more than anything -- and then he will return to the Bay Area to continue to get ready for the season he hopes will come. He wants moving forward to define him.
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