Doug Lidle and his close friend Bobby Compton played a round of golf Wednesday morning near their Southern California homes. Afterward, they went into the snack bar and watched as the television news broke in with an urgent flash: A small plane had crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper.
"We were watching it on TV," Compton told ESPN.com, "not even thinking it could be Cory, because Doug thought Cory had already left."
Lisa Lidle, Doug's wife, had just spoken to their son, Cory. "See you Saturday," he'd told her. Lidle's parents were sure he was on his way home. He'd planned to fly back to California later this week, making a few stops along the way.
Not worried, the men parted ways. Compton, who is also Doug Lidle's supervisor at Century 21 Colonial in Covina, Calif., went back to the office. Soon, the news began to spread through the building: Cory Lidle, who had been a customer of the real estate group as well as a friend, might have owned the plane that crashed.
Compton called his friend.
"Hey, Doug," he remembers asking. "Is it Cory's plane or not?"
"I don't know," Lidle told him. "I'm watching it."
Just then, a television report had confirmed the plane was registered to Cory Lidle, and that his passport had been found.
"Doug, call Cory," Compton said. "And call me back."
A few minutes went by. Then a few minutes more. The truth began to set in around the office.
"He didn't call me back," Compton said. "I waited a little bit and he didn't call me back. I called and called; and then I said, 'Screw it.' I drove over to see him."
He found Lidle's parents struggling to accept the loss of their son, a young man who loved flying his new airplane and playing poker.
"Doug's holding on," Compton said Wednesday evening. "He's totally devastated. But that can be expected."
Compton said Lidle's wife, Melanie, and their 6-year-old son, Christopher, had left New York for Los Angeles before the accident, and likely had no way of learning of the news. According to Compton, a priest planned to meet the flight at Los Angeles International Airport and break the news to Melanie Lidle that her life is forever changed.
"She doesn't know," Compton said. "She's on a plane heading home. She has no clue."
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.