As afternoon turned into evening on Halloween Tuesday, Jimmy Drake and his wife, Barbara, asked one another: What if their son, Darren, had been one of the eight people killed in that day’s terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan. Darren worked as a program manager at Moody’s Investors Services in the World Trade Center, just blocks away from where a bike path along the Hudson River became the scene of a tragedy.
“Five o’clock came along, no Darren,” the elder Drake told reporters outside his home Wednesday.
Darren Drake’s cellphone was dead. His office phone went to voice mail.
By 7 p.m., Jimmy and Barbara left the home they shared with Darren in New Milford, N.J., and drove toward Manhattan.
Steven Podhorzer, a friend of Darren’s since college, told The Washington Post that he had spent Tuesday evening wrestling with similarly uncomfortable questions: Why hadn’t Darren responded to a text message making sure he was okay? Why hadn’t Darren, who reliably posted on Facebook multiple times per day, told his 832 Facebook friends that he had made it home safely?
By Wednesday morning, with Darren’s Facebook still silent, Podhorzer started thinking, “should I start worrying now?”
Jimmy and Barbara Drake identified their son at the morgue later that day.
Jimmy Drake stepped outside his home on Wednesday, sharing stories of his only child with reporters. His wife stayed inside, and although Drake broke into sobs now and then, he managed to say what he knew about his son and his last bike ride.
“He was the most innocent, delicate kid in the world,” Jimmy Drake said, according to Northjersey.com.
Darren Drake was 32 when he died Tuesday. Five of the victims were longtime friends from Argentina, visiting the United States together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their high school graduation. Another was from Belgium, a mother of two young children. A young New Yorker, Nicholas Cleves, also was killed.
Drake, a New Jersey native, graduated from high school in New Milford in 2003 and went on to attend college at Rutgers. In 2011, he would graduate with a master’s in business administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University, which tweeted Wednesday that the community’s “hearts are heavy over the loss of alum Darren Drake.”
He was working on a second master’s degree at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken with only six or seven courses left to complete, his father told Northjersey.com.
Podhorzer said that back in college, he and his group of friends joked that Darren would often be the first person to say he couldn’t make it to an event or a party, just so that when he actually showed up, he’d be met with the adoring greetings of all who loved him. Podhorzer said he and his friends are still waiting for Darren to “pop up” so they can once again cheer, “Oh, Darren’s here!”
“We’re all kind of thinking it’s going to happen right now,” Podhorzer said, holding back tears. “I know it’s not going to happen.”
Darren Drake was philosophical and intellectual and always looking to learn something new, his friends told The Post. Podhorzer said that while they were at Rutgers, he and Darren would watch movies together and hit “pause” every 10 minutes to analyze the scenes, characters and plot. He’d recently been listening to audiobooks about history to understand “where we are as a human race nowadays, and how we got to this point,” Podhorzer said.
That craving for knowledge also turned Darren Drake into an avid trivia player, said Brittany Poveromo, who had been friends with Darren since high school. Poveromo told The Post that Darren would teasingly tell her that his trivia team was named “I want gluten,” a reference to Poveromo’s gluten-free health food business.
On Wednesday night, Darren Drake was supposed to be playing trivia with one of his best friends in New Milford. Instead, Poveromo organized his friends to come together, raise a glass and share stories.
“He was supposed to be there tonight,” Poveromo said.
Darren Drake served on the New Milford Board of Education from April 2009 until he resigned in June 2013, New Milford superintendent Michael Polizzi told Newsday. He served as the board’s vice president and then president in January 2013, according to nj.com.
Polizzi told Northjersey.com that Darren Drake was a good man — “with a soft touch and a huge heart.”
He lived at home his with his parents, eating dinner with them every night and debating whether the Jets or the Giants was the better football team. Each morning, Jimmy Drake drove his son to the Hoboken train station, where his son took a train to work.
On his last day, Darren Drake looked as healthy as could be, his father said.
“He just slept for 11 hours straight, and he felt great, and he looked great,” Jimmy Drake said. “Life was perfect for him.”
Darren Drake had once been quite heavy, his father told reporters. But he’d lost nearly 100 pounds after a lap-band surgery. Every day while on his break, he’d go for a bike ride while others smoked their cigarettes or drank their coffee.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jimmy Drake said, his son rented a bicycle and put on his audiobook — a history book about the Americas before Europeans came — and went for his ride along the Hudson.
And there, Darren Drake was found by a man in a rented truck, in the middle of a 20-block rampage.
ABC7 posted an interview with Jimmy Drake in which a reporter asked what he would say to his son’s killer.
The elder Drake said he harbored no anger. He was simply hurt.
“I’m absolutely hurt. Believe me. I’ve been a deer hunter for 40 years. I would never think of shooting this guy. Never,” Jimmy Drake said. “The amount of hurt I’m feeling, I can’t explain.”
Jimmy Drake said he would donate his son’s bike to charity.
Darren Drake’s Facebook showed a photo of his last Halloween costume — a Cheerios box studded with knives — to jokingly represent a “cereal killer.”
At around 4:30 Wednesday, the Facebook page no longer only displayed his name.
It now reads: Remembering Darren Drake.