In case you missed this, Bre Payton died today after a sudden illness.
I had never heard of Bre. I’d certainly never met Bre. But, based upon what I’ve read this afternoon, she is not someone whose work I’d have cared for. Bre, it seems, was one of a growing number of young conservative pundits who parroted the Trump lines, mocked the mainstream media, repeated information that was, at best, borderline in its substance.
Again, I’d have not been a fan.
That said—I don’t care. Bre Payton was someone’s daughter, granddaughter, friend, colleague. Just 26, she was a 2015 graduate of Patrick Henry College who rose quickly up the ladder at the Federalist. Her Linkedin profile tells the story of someone with a bright future in right-leaning media.
Anyhow, the reaction on Twitter from some on the left reminds me of something that happened 17 years ago, on September 11, 2001.
That was a weird day from the very beginning. I’m not a golfer. In fact, I hate golf. However, the lovely Jack McCallum—Sports Illustrated writer—hosted an annual golf tournament for SI staffers near his home in Pennsylvania. I decided to attend, mostly so I could hang with co-workers and shoot the shit. Hence, early that morning I found myself driving through Manhattan with three colleagues from the magazine. As we headed toward the Holland Tunnel, we spotted people standing on the street corners, looking up. When we reached a clearing, we could see a fire burning along one of the World Trade Center towers. Someone flipped on the radio, and news was of a plane crash. We assumed, I believe, that it was some sort of prop incident. Horrible, of course, but minor.
Once we crossed through the tunnel and reached New Jersey, the news became clear. Another plane had hit. This wasn’t just a bad accident. This was an attack.
Because there was no returning to New York, we proceeded to Pennsylvania. It was a sad, weird, awful, confusing ride. Silence in the car, the radio telling us what we needed to know. Upon reaching Jack’s house, everyone gathered around the television. Again, there was little chatter, mostly quiet.
Then, something happened that I’ll never forget. A reporter stated that one of the passengers on American Airlines flight 77 was Barbara Olson, an attorney and conservative television commentator. Olson, it turns out, had called her husband from the hijacked plane to tell her what was happening and she …
“Serves the bitch right.”
The words—four in total—were uttered by one of my Sports Illustrated colleagues. I have never forgotten them, and never will forget them. At the time, nobody responded. Maybe we should have, maybe we shouldn’t have. The awkwardness hung there, like a damp blanket. Eventually, people got up, used the bathroom, watched some more TV, tried returning home.
I, however, have never fully moved on.
On those rare occasions when I see the person, I shake his hand and smile and make small chatter. “Serves the bitch right,” though, is permanently tattooed to his head.
As it should be.
People die. We don’t always like them or agree with them. However, it doesn’t change the fact that their existence has ceased, and they will never think, talk, breathe again. I find that horribly sad, leanings be damned.
So RIP, Bre Payton.
This is tragic.