When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the Greater New York Councils lost one of its most tireless and dedicated volunteers, Shawn E. Bowman Jr. Bowman was an Eagle Scout and veteran leader who had been active in Scouting for more than two-thirds of his life.
Just five days shy of his 29th birthday at the time of his death, Bowman had recently taken a job as a human resources specialist with Cantor Fitzgerald. He was at work on an upper floor when the hijacked planes struck the WTC.
“We were shocked and stunned when it was confirmed several days later that Shawn was among the dead,” said Kevin Glander, a friend who worked closely with Bowman for a number of years. “He was one of the most diligent, hardworking volunteers I’ve ever known, and his death was a terrible blow.”
But in the days following the tragedy, Glander and other fellow Scouters found a way to honor Bowman’s memory and keep his name alive for generations to come. Over several months, they raised $30,000 — mostly in small donations — and devoted more than 1,600 hours of volunteer labor to build the Shawn E. Bowman Jr. Amphitheater at the councils’ Camp Aquehonga near Narrowsburg, N.Y.
DOING SOMETHING SPECIAL
“Shortly after Shawn’s death, we held a memorial service, and several of us talked about doing something special in Shawn’s memory,” said Glander, who served as one of two vice chairmen of the memorial fund campaign. “A few days later, I organized a lunch for about 25 volunteers to discuss the idea. At first, we were thinking in terms of something in the $5,000 to $15,000 range — maybe doing some refurbishing or renaming a campfire area. But because of the tremendous support we got from Shawn’s friends and other BSA volunteers, we were able to build a $150,000 facility that will benefit countless present and future Scouts.”
“Every single piece of labor was done by Scouts and Scouting volunteers — and it was no easy task,” added Rich Benini, the other campaign vice chairman and a professional engineer who supervised construction of the amphitheater. “More than 65 tons of concrete retaining-wall material went into the project, and it all had to be carried by hand. We had about 75 people who pitched in and helped.”
The facility was dedicated July 20, 2002, during the height of the camping season at Aquehonga, where Bowman had served on the staff for five years as an aquatics instructor and office manager. In 1992, when he held the key position of services director, with responsibility for the physical setup and maintenance of the entire camp, Bowman was honored as “Super Staffman of the Year” by his camp staff coworkers.
AN INSPIRING EXPERIENCE
“In over 40 years in Scouting, I’ve never seen a clearer example of the Scouting community coming together to remember one of their own,” said Scout Executive Daniel R. Gasparo. “Along with Shawn’s family, including his wife and two sons — one of whom was just born this past January — we were joined at the dedication by the Scouts and Scouters of Shawn’s Troop 43, representatives from five different eras of the camp staff, the entire current staff and many more.”
A native of Staten Island, Bowman began in Scouting as a Cub Scout, earned the Eagle Scout Award, and at the time of his death was serving Troop 43 as an assistant Scoutmaster. He met his wife, Jennifer, at the Greater New York Councils’ Camp Pouch in 1994, and the couple was married five years later.
“The outpouring of support for this memorial campaign serves as a reminder that, out of the tragedy of 9/11, some goodness has shone through,” Gasparo said. “It’s been an inspiring experience for all of us.”
“To my knowledge, no campaign of this magnitude has been done in our councils before,” added Glander, “and I was overwhelmed by the results. A lot of the contributors didn’t know Shawn personally, but, like him, they are all New Yorkers, and it meant something extra to each one to be a part of this.”