Penn Charter to honor 9/11 victims with a day for peace

Friends, classmates and family members of Penn Charter graduates Peter Ortale and Kenny Caldwell will come together this Saturday at the school campus to celebrate two men whose lives were cut short ten years ago. Both were killed in the 9/11 attacks while working at the World Trade Center in New York City.

Saturday’s events will feature the 5th annual Run for Peace which kicks off at 9 a.m. That night at Penn Charter’s Timmons House there will be a memorial and a concert featuring the Greaseband. 

The life of Peter Ortale holds special significance for me because Peter was a friend and classmate of mine at Penn Charter. We were both local working class, Catholic, Philly kids who graduated together in 1983. Peter was a good friend who was featured in my first book, Beautiful Monsters, back in 2001.

I can honestly say Peter was a guy whose smile would light up a room. As a testimony to the positive impact he had on so many lives, the days leading up to the recent 10th anniversary of the attacks were full of Peter’s friends, co-workers and teachers sharing stories and memories of a man whose life was ended far too soon.

After Penn Charter, Peter Ortale went on to attend and graduate from Duke University. His political science professor Michael Gillespie recently shared his memories of Peter

“I remember writing a letter of recommendation for Peter in 1987. I don’t remember all of the details and the letter itself is long since lost. However, I do remember remarking that if I ever had a son, I would want him to be like Peter. My son Tom was born in the fall after Peter graduated and is actually somewhat like Peter. I don’t know that a father could ask for anything more. I only hope that he becomes as good a human being as Peter and has as positive an impact on those around him.”

Another classmate of Peter’s from Penn Charter is local musician and media expert John King. John emailed our fellow classmates this week and shared this memory.

“To me Peter’s eyes are still full of love, fire, and passion, because each of those conquers space and time. I will never forget talking about life with him during our time at PC, nor will I forget his tears mirroring mine at our final Friends Meeting, when I sat on the front bench (facing the upper school) and shared the philosophy that we should always follow our heart and act with spirit, because the light inside each of us is what matters…”

Many wonderful people were taken from us ten years ago and there are 3,000 stories similar to Peter’s. I didn’t know Kenny Caldwell who is also being celebrated this Saturday, but I know his classmates, family and teachers are still moved by his life and legacy as well.

Peter and Kenny each live on through the love and happiness they brought to so many others and no amount of hate could ever change that.

The Concert for Peace in their honor this Saturday brings to mind the words of Shakespeare who once said, “if music be the food of love then play on.”

All proceeds go to the Kenny Caldwell and Peter Ortale Scholarship Funds at Penn Charter.

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