Whether on foot, by bicycle or by boat, Chris Murphy ’88 was always on the move.
“He had an inner clock telling him to do things quickly,” said his mother, Virginia Murphy. “It was as though he knew he didn’t have a lot of time.”
Chris was captain of the Yale sailing team and spent the year after graduation sailing from the Caribbean to the Azores. Even afterwards, when he settled down with his wife, Catherine Murphy, the couple never stopped moving. Virginia said she grew so used to her son’s constant travels that she started asking where Chris was whenever he called her.
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But Chris’s travels were cut short on Sept. 11, 2001. A senior research analyst at the investment firm Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, Chris, then 35, was on the 88th or 89th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center that day.
He called his wife to tell he was safe immediately after a plane struck, first hitting the north tower.
Catherine never heard from Chris again after that phone call, but she said his memory is well-preserved in the dozens of letters he left behind. He and Catherine were often separated by school, work or travel in the early years of their relationship, and communicated mostly by mail.
“I can see his handwriting and there’s something tangible about that,” she said. “I can feel a tangible connection to him.”
Chris’ two daughters, 10-year-old Hannah and 12-year-old Hope, have no memory of their father. But Catherine said she tries to tell them a great deal about him. In some sense, she said, she thinks they know more about Chris than most other children know about their fathers.
Chris’s older brother, David Murphy ’86, said that to him, Chris’s death was a murder, “albeit a mass, indiscriminate one.”
“I cannot discern God’s will in in his killing, or in the fact that his two little girls … have grown up not knowing the warm, witty and gifted man who was their father,” he said, adding that he believes Catherine has raised the girls well.
Catherine said she still remembers how friends, family and others reached out to her Sept. 12, the day after Chris died, and afterwards, showing “immense humanity.” Now, Catherine said, she and her daughters use that day to begin thinking about how to, as she calls it, “pay it forward” over the coming year.
The Murphy family created a foundation in Chris’s name, the Christopher William White Murphy Charitable Foundation, which donates money to numerous projects, including the construction of a school in Belize and the establishment of a scholarship at the Hopkins School, Chris’s high school. The Yale sailing team also renamed its annual alumni regatta in his honor.