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Marian Catholic grad Patrick Murphy’s family can’t get away from 9/11 loss

Marian Catholic High School teacher associate athletic director KevKelly hoists American flag up pole Spartan Stadium Chicago Heights while preparing

Marian Catholic High School teacher and associate athletic director Kevin Kelly hoists the American flag up the pole at Spartan Stadium in Chicago Heights while preparing for the day's athletic events Tuesday, September 6, 2011. The stadium's flagpole is dedicated in memory of 1981 graduate Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patrick J. Murphy, who was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon September 11, 2001. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 12, 2011 12:45PM

Whether on a clock or calendar, John Murphy sees the number at least once a week.

And he can’t help but notice. Even as America’s worst-ever terrorist attack reaches its 10-year anniversary, and its horror creeps deeper into our history, Sept. 11 will never be just another day. Not to families like his.

“It’s kind of a reminder every time the clock hits 9:11,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s brother, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Murphy, died with 183 others when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon. The 38-year-old Navy Reservist was on a brief assignment at the Navy Command Center.

Patrick Murphy grew up in Olympia Fields and Chicago Heights. He played offensive guard on Marian Catholic High School’s 11-1 varsity squad his senior year, head coach Dave Mattio said. He graduated in 1981.

Thirty years later, Mattio can still recall the teen’s “wry smile.” Patrick Murphy was highly competitive, he said, and extremely disciplined.

“He was the epitome of an overachiever,” Mattio said.

A memorial flagpole stands in his honor at Marian Catholic’s football complex. Patrick Murphy went on to earn a chemical engineering degree in 1986 at the University of Mississippi. He was soon commissioned to work in the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, and he married Masako Nagasawa of Japan. The couple, married 15 years at the time of Murphy’s death, lived in New Jersey and had two children, Casey and Mitchell.

Patrick Murphy’s life and sacrifice have been honored many times in the decade since he died.

The military awarded him posthumously the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. The grammar school he graduated from in 1977, Infant Jesus of Prague in Flossmoor, honored him with its Distinguished Graduate award. And his family attended the dedication of the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon in 2008.

He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va.

This year, John Murphy said he’ll remember his brother quietly. He lowers an American flag at his home in East Hazel Crest every year on Sept. 11. He’ll do so again this weekend, he said, and maybe keep it down a little longer.

Patrick Murphy wouldn’t have wanted his family to dwell too long on his loss, John Murphy said. He believes his brother would have told them to go on with their lives. But John said Patrick would leave them with one small request:

“Keep me in your memory every now and then.”

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