They were both in school that Tuesday morning in September, Alex Trant in sixth-grade English, his older brother Dan, a seventh-grader, in gym class. And when the announcement came of the attack, Alex’s teacher asked her students if anyone knew someone at the World Trade Center.
He raised his hand.
Chaos and confusion followed — a principal’s office full of people scrambling for facts and understanding, their mother, Kathy, picking them up from the New York school, hysterical, friends and family gathering at the house.
“It’s still very vivid in my memory,” said Dan, who was 12 years old then, while his brother Alex was 10. “I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Their father had called that morning about five minutes after the first plane hit, telling his wife about the smoke and flames. He said he would try to get out. He said he loved her and their kids more than life itself.
At their home on Long Island’s north shore, they stayed glued to the TV, Alex, Dan, the whole family, and they watched people emerge from the ash and rubble, the survivors, hopeful that they’d recognize their father’s face among them.
“We just tried to keep the faith at that point,” Alex said.
Their father, Dan Trant, a draft pick of the Boston Celtics in 1984, 30 years ago this month, didn’t make it. The family visited Ground Zero on the anniversary that following year, just a scarred pit where the towers stood and fell. They laid flowers and listened as the names of the 2,983 lost were read aloud. They did that for a few years, and then they stopped going.
“For me, it just became too emotional,” said Alex, who’s living in Tampa. Added his brother, Dan, who lives in Dorchester, “It’s still tough to go and be in the area where it all happened.”
So they chose to watch the ceremony from home, where they saw their father’s name scroll across the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
But on Wednesday, they’re going back as part of an NBA Cares event, where top prospects gathered for Thursday’s NBA draft will visit the new National September 11 Memorial Museum to remember and honor victims and their families. They’ll tour the site with guests from Tuesday’s Children, an organization that promotes healing in all those directly affected by 9/11.
“I definitely love the fact that I get to go back with my brother, and that I get to do it at such a special event,” said Dan, now 25. “It just seems like the right timing to go.”
It’s been an emotional month for them, highlighted by a recent NBA TV documentary on the 1984 draft, which looked three decades back on arguably the finest class in NBA history, featuring future Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton.
But a large and emotional portion of the documentary focused on Trant, a Westfield native whom the Celtics selected with the draft’s 228th and final pick.
The skinny, 6-foot-2-inch guard had been a star at Clark University in Worcester, where he scored 1,665 career points, finishing as the school’s second all-time leading scorer. He twice earned All-America honors and led his team to four consecutive NCAA Division 3 Tournaments, including the final in 1984.
Trant played a dazzling, fearless game, producing highlights akin to those authored by Pistol “Pete” Maravich. Never afraid to launch from deep or dish a no-look, behind-the-back pass in traffic, Trant put on a show.
“I know if I was his coach, I’d be pulling the hair out of my head, but it was so fun to see him play,” Dan said. “He was just so crafty with the way he’d do spin moves and in-and-out dribbles, hesitation moves, and then he’d pull up from 30 feet. He’d do some crazy stuff.”
Trant never played in the NBA, but he did play professionally in Ireland and then in the United States Basketball League. Later, he worked in the victim-witness program of the Hampden County (Mass.) district attorney’s office, and later as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, a brokerage firm whose employees occupied several top floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Knowing how stacked the 1984 draft was, neither of Trant’s sons thought their father would be mentioned much in the documentary, but it told his life story with rich basketball highlights and several interviews of those who knew him.
“I was kind of blown away by how well it was made and how they made a point to focus on my dad so much,” said Alex, now 23. “A lot of the clips they showed in it, I had never seen before. It was kind of a great experience seeing my dad play basketball. It was very exciting and also very sentimental for me.”
Son Dan, whose interview was part of the program, watched with friends, calling it an emotional experience. “I definitely teared up a bit,” he said.
Their father, who wore No. 12 at Westfield High, at Clark, and when he played in Ireland, was no doubt beloved.
And when the United States began its invasion of Afghanistan, the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier docked in the Arabian Sea, launched a missile with a special message painted on the side, a tribute to Trant.
From: Dan The Man, #12
Trant also coached youth teams on Long Island, including his son Dan’s team. “I remember him as the guy who would be there for every person on the team,” Dan said. “He didn’t give me any special treatment because I was his son. He taught me a lot about how to be a good leader and to do things the right way.”
They also remember their father bringing them to the West 4th Street Courts in Greenwich Village, one of New York City’s most famous basketball hot spots famously known as “The Cage.” Time had passed, but Trant proved that he still had game — so much so that other players there nicknamed him “Money.”
“It was always a bunch of young kids, and he would go there with his friend Lance, who was about 6-foot-6, and Lance would always get picked pretty close to first and my dad would always get picked last,” Alex said. “And then my dad would go off and show everybody up and they’d all go crazy over him.”
Said Dan. “He was the one guy out there who was just absolutely [dominating] everyone. It was so cool just being able to watch him absolutely dominate a game.”
His two sons played basketball growing up, and the younger Dan still plays regularly around Boston — at a YMCA in Chinatown, at Basketball City near TD Garden, and elsewhere. And whenever possible, he’ll bust out moves that keep his father’s legacy alive on the place where many remember it most — the court.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.