We last spoke on 9/11, my friend Tom Wales and I.
I was at my office in Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe. Tom was at his desk in the Federal Building in Seattle.
After a brief conversation, Tom was able to track down one of our college roommates who worked in the World Trade Center.
“I got him. He’s fine,” Tommy called back to report. “Thank God, Frick, I just confirmed he was out of town. He wasn’t in his office today.”
We chatted briefly.
Thinking back, I take solace from our words that morning.
The events unfolding had numbed us both.
Given our emotions, I should not have been surprised when my friend Tom ended our call with the words “Love you, Fricker,” when he signed off to attend to our nation’s business. My last words to him were “Love you too, Tommy.”
How lucky am I?
October 11, 2012 will mark the 11th anniversary of the brazen murder of my friend of 30 years, Tom Wales. A proud father of two and a hero to countless others, Tom was a one-of-a-kind roommate and friend to me at Harvard. An eternal optimist with an infectious cackle that never failed to make me smile, his wise counsel played a pivotal role in my life on more than one occasion.
Years before, prior to our attending college together in Cambridge, Tom was assigned to live with Robert Kennedy’s eldest son, Joe, at Milton Academy. This was in the aftermath of a tragic assassination during the 1968 Presidential primary campaign.
I was a high school sophomore in Detroit when Senator Kennedy was murdered with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, two and a half years before I first met my friend Tommy.
From an ordinary son of the Motor City to a proud son of a renowned Boston clan, Tom Wales made friends for life. That hit home with me on the night he insisted he introduce me to one of Joe’s cousins, who was most gracious, kind and generous with her time at the wedding of one of our other roommates. “Come on, Frick. Let’s go say hello to Caroline.”
At first, I resisted. “Please. No need to bother her.”
“It’s not about you meeting her, Frick. She should meet you. Come on, now.”
Typical Tommy. God love him.
During a distinguished 18-year career with the U.S. Department of Justice, Tom was devoted to his country, his family, his job, and to a rich assortment of civic endeavors. He loved his family and his children, Amy and Tom, Jr., completely and unconditionally.
Today, I stand with all of our Harvard roommates, and others, to honor their courage as well.
In addition to his duties as a Federal Prosecutor, Tom Wales was a passionate advocate in protecting the lives of at-risk children in the homes of America, where it is 12 times more likely a child will die from accidental handgun violence than in Western Europe, according to a recent statement by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As President of Washington Ceasefire, a non-profit dedicated to reducing gun violence through public awareness and common-sense legislation, Tom sought to mandate trigger locks on handguns to protect the innocent, young and old.
Irony of ironies.
On October 11, 2001, Tom was murdered by a handgun.
According to the FBI, he was shot multiple times with a Makarov 9mm semi-automatic equipped with an aftermarket barrel threaded for a silencer. The shots were fired through a window of his basement home office in Queen Anne.
Many believe him to be the only Federal Prosecutor in U.S. history to be killed in the line of duty. Seattle’s former police chief, Gil Kerlikowske, who now works in the White House, called his murder an assassination. Then U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft established a $1 million reward for information to solve the case. It has gone unclaimed.
Now, 11 years later, the murder of Tom Wales remains a mystery and his friends are still seeking justice and closure for the family of a champion of law enforcement.
I write to share the sentiments of all of our college roommates on this day. This brutal execution cannot be allowed to stand. If you are reading this and you know something, anything, you can remain anonymous. If you have information, for the sake of a beautiful family, get off the couch. Give it up. Rise and save your soul.
The FBI and law enforcement need assistance to close the case. Any information would help. Use a disposable cell or a payphone to contact 1-800-CALLFBI, or find a public computer to send an anonymous tip (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). God bless you.
To learn more about the life and work of Tom Wales, please visit: The Thomas C. Wales Foundation.
Michael Jay is the author of “Dog Water Free,” a coming-of-age memoir about an improbable journey to find emotional truth (Publisher: BookBaby, Fall 2012).