Then he did it again, again and again to remember those who died during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He first played at 7:45 a.m. for those who died when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.
At 8:03 a.m., Lahey played for United Airlines Flight 175 and the people killed when it hit the south tower.
An 8:45 a.m., the solemn sound of taps honored the passengers on American Flight 77 and the Pentagon occupants who died in that crash.
Lahey played twice more for the people who died when the south tower collapsed at 9 a.m. CDT and when the north tower followed 30 minutes later.
He played again for United Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back against the hijackers.
Lahey blew taps a final time for those who have fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq since 9-11.
“My brothers in arms deserve the little discomfort I go through standing at attention for a couple of hours in full-dress blues,” Lahey said.
This is the second year Lahey has performed his one-man homage to fallen Americans. Last year, it was at Collin College in Plano, where he prepared himself academically for a larger challenge as a music education major at TCU.
At both campuses, his performance surprised many, because he doesn’t announce his intentions.
An emotional morning
Alyson Barber, 34, stopped to listen on her way to her job in university advancement and became so emotional that she “cried off my makeup.”
Her friend and fellow fundraiser, Harmonie Farrow, 30, appreciated Lahey’s effort to mark the day with something so poignant that it can affect even those who don’t remember the event.
“The youngest kids on our campus were 5 or 6 when it happened,” Farrow said. “I remember exactly were I was, but I was 18.”
A pair of 20-year-old political science/economics students, Kathleen D’Urso and Jennifer Tomany, weren’t so young that they didn’t know what was going on in 2001.
But it almost took their breath away when they happened upon Lahey while walking to class. They and a dozen of their friends had just placed 2,977 tiny American flags on the grassy commons at the student union. It was the second year the TCU Young Americans for Freedom had planted flags to memorialize those who died on 9-11.
To walk past the school’s Veterans Plaza “and hear taps was really an inspiring thing,” Tomany said. “That’s going on across the nation as people remember what happened that day.”
Seeing Lahey and hearing him play inflamed the emotions surrounding D’Urso’s memories of 9-11, and she found it encouraging.
“It needs to be happening on all college campuses and schools where young people are,” D’Urso said.
A 9-11 ritual
Lahey said piquing the emotions of everyone old enough to remember the attack is a large part of his motivation. He doesn’t do it in memory of anyone in particular.
“No one I’ve known has died in Iraq or Afghanistan, and I have no connection to anyone who died on 9-11,” Lahey said.
But the memory of that day is like a movie that plays in Lahey’s mind.
“I was in Mr. Larson’s seventh-grade social studies class when the first plane hit,” he said. “They announced it over the school’s intercom and turned on the cable TVs in the classrooms. I was sitting in my desk 3 feet from the front, third row from the left.”
Lahey’s feelings from that experience played a role in his decision to join the Marines in 2007. The esprit de corps instilled in him by the service pushed him into another decision that ultimately led to his Sept. 11 ritual.
While stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, on Oahu, playing tuba for the Marine Corps Forces Pacific Band, Lahey joined Bugles Across America. The organization, founded near his hometown of Sycamore, Ill., is devoted to sounding taps at veterans’ burials.
Lahey said his independent 9-11 devotionals evolved from that.
“It’s just something to give back to those who died that day and the people who have died since then,” Lahey said.