A Memory Never Too Late
Even though September 11th was five years ago, my memory of Dr. Carl Max Hammond has never faded. I've always wanted to write something for him, but for some reason, the words have until now failed to come out. One reason is because I'm afraid my English is too inadequate to properly express my feelings. Yet moreover, another reason is that I have too many memories of him that I simply didn't know where or how to start. But as the years go by, I know that I must release myself of this weight and share my thoughts of Max with all those who cherish his memory.
I met Max when we were both graduate students at UCLA from 1998 to 1993. After graduation, I only saw him once in 1995, when he worked at SRI in Bay Area.
While at UCLA, Max was a good friend to all the foreign students at the IGPP (Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics), especially to Chinese students like me. He often expressed his interest in Chinese culture and history, including a fascination with Chairman Mao. He also told me that he one day wanted to go climb the Great Wall. I especially remember Max's love for children. Every holiday, he always bought gifts for all the children of his classmates and colleagues. The kids loved Max, and also looked forward to playing with him. My daughter, even though she is already in college now, still remembers him most fondly. Max was also a great event organizer. He selflessly devoted much time and spirit in organizing many student events at the IGPP, such as parties, games, picnics, etc. Also among Max's talents was his skill with cars. And he was always generous will his skill. He helped us shop for our first used cars once, and offered to fix it whenever I had problems with it. Together, we spent five wonderful years at UCLA. He was always optimistic, personable, laughing, and happy as if nothing worried him at all.
A couple days after September 11th, when I first found out that Max was on Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, I was in complete shock. I could not believe that this could have happened to one of my good friends. He was so young, had just gotten his Ph. D a few years ago, and was just beginning to make his contribution to the world. Even today, I am still in some disbelief. I would like to think that in many ways, he is still alive and that I just haven't seen him in a long time.
However, now and then, thoughts of Max and his passing inevitably creep up. A few years ago, I bought a house in Los Angeles, which happened to be very close to the place Max once lived at when he was student at UCLA. Now every time I pass that place, I always think about him and how he once was there. Also, last summer when my daughter came back from vacationing in China bringing back Chairman Mao souvenirs, I instantly thought of Max and how he would have liked them.
Yet, whenever these thoughts come, I comfort myself by thinking of a saying in China: No one can avoid death. However, the significance of death is very different. Some one can be heavier than Tai Mountain, while some one else can be lighter than a feather.
I see the life of Max as heavier than Tai Mountain, for I know his spirit will never disappear.
He is in heaven now, watching over us.
Photo caption 1: Best of times at UCLA. Eight great, freshly minted Ph.D's at graduation in1993. Max is second from right, while I am the one far left and Greg Crawford is one wearing the sunglass.
Young we were, schoolmates, at life's full flowering