"No worries." I can't tell you how many times my young friend-- 21 years my junior to be exact-- said that to me over the past three-and- a- half years as we worked together. And I know if he saw me now, he'd say it to me again, calming me down and lifting me up at the same time, were he still here among us. But sadly, terribly, Terry Nguyen lost his life to the fury of an ocean at the still tender age of 27 less than a week ago, on the afternooon of June 1st. Now it's up to me to breathe life again into that line for him and above all to tell you a little something about the wonderful guy who had served so terrifically as the FleetOwner web editor since early in 2004. I only hope I can do his memory justice.
When Terry joined our merry band at FleetOwner, I didn't know what to expect. He was our second web editor ever and back then, in February '04, some of us ink-stained types (me, anyway) still weren't all that comfortable with the online world we were being asked to embrace alongside our familiar print environment.
I was charged in part with showing Terry, who was just a few years and jobs out of college, the editorial ropes. I pretty much had to cover everything from what cost-per-mile is to what a private fleet is with sidetrips to such arcane stopovers as journalistic style and, of course, why male FleetOwner editors are almost always clean-shaven.
Terry took me all in his calm stride-- the bad-mood mornings, the better afternoons, the insane way I can only write well under withering pressure or late at night. Very soon, and faster than anyone I have met before or since, Terry grasped what our readers are about and what kind of information they need as well as how to get it for them. And that he did like a terrier. A very well-mannered terrier but a terrier none the less. I can't tell you how many Washington big shots and trucking kingpins he interviewed or at least got a meaningful comment out of, often getting what he needed from them to meet a deadline before many of us had had our second cup of coffee.
Yes, I may be a veteran journalist but I learned so much from watching him, getting a refresher course in journalistic gung ho that I now treasure. Indeed, before long I found he was as much mentoring me as I him.
In fact, I would not be writing this blog entry-- even have this blog to write in-- were it not for Terry's low-key encouragment that I could make it happen with, yes, "No worries." And low key is key. Terry was not one to yell, let alone raise his voice above a conversational level. Yet we all heard him, even the several members (me included) of the staff who are more than a little hard of hearing. Maybe that's because he always spoke quietly yet confidently, sure of himself without ever being cocksure.
That, I think, is one of the main reasons-- along with his gentlemanly kindness-- that he was so well liked and will be remembered fondly long after many blowhards yet to be born have come and gone.
Here you see Terry in a shot cropped from a photo of he and a friend posing (I'm pretty sure) outside the White House on a vacation trip he made to D.C. Terry loved to travel and his travel always meant visiting friends and family. When he got back from a trip, I was always astonished not by what he saw, but how many people he managed to see! By the way, that's his trademark cap he's wearing-- the one he wore (but only outdoors) nearly every day.
He was on such a trip when his life was cut far too short. Terry was in Florida for a few days of vacation with a couple of college buddies after the Memorial Day weekend. The details are sketchy but after lunch on Friday of that week the fateful decision to go swimming was made. Churning beneath the Atlantic surf off Delray Beach were rip currents, which can challenge even the most experienced swimmers. I don't know who went in first or who knew what about the rips running that day, but my understanding from local news reports is that all three went in and all three came out only with the help of lifeguards. His two friend survived the ordeal, thank God, but Terry could not be revived.
This is the point in the story where Terry would join in and say, "No worries" then somehow add a few words to the effect that everything will turn out as it should. And it always seemed to. Till that day.
If you knew Terry, or even if you just liked hearing about him, please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as they struggle through tough days ahead.
As for my colleague and dearly missed friend, to paraphrase the old Irish blessing, I believe Terry is now safely resting in the palm of God's hand. And there he indeed has no worries.