Terrorist victim, local champion
Oct. 3, 2001
Joshua Cooley
Staff Writer




Friday, Sept. 7 was a big day for Jason Goldblatt — much bigger than he realized at the time. The 31-year-old lawyer had an interview with the firm of Venable, Baetjer & Howard, where his good friend, Todd Reuben, worked. Reuben was a Venable corporate partner who first met Goldblatt in 1995 when Goldblatt was applying for a summer associate position with another firm before it merged with Venable. As Goldblatt came in, Reuben immediately started cracking on him because of his dressy interview attire. That was Todd, always the wise guy.

After the interview, the two close friends met in Reuben’s office and for a half-hour shot the breeze: Updates of their wives, Goldblatt’s professional future, Reuben’s 11-year-old fraternal twins, Jason and Jeffrey, future get-togethers, etc. Goldblatt walked out of Venable’s downtown Washington building thankful for his good friend and optimistic about his interview.

It was the last time he would ever see Reuben.

Four days later, Reuben boarded the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 77 at Dulles International Airport for a last-minute business trip to California but was killed tragically along with 63 others as terrorists hijacked the plane and smashed it into the Pentagon.

As America has tried to heal collectively from one of the darkest days in its history, smaller communities all over the country have been coping with losses that were deeply personal. One of those communities was The Bullis School in Potomac, where Jason and Jeffrey Reuben are sixth-graders.

Goldblatt was one of approximately 700 people who attended a benefit soccer game at Bullis on Saturday night in an effort to raise money for two organizations: The Reuben Twins Trust and the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund. The game raised about $11,000 to be split 50-50 between the two causes.

For Goldblatt and many other friends and family members of Reuben (including his 14-year wife Vivian, his brother Keith and his sister Stacey), the game was one more way to honor a man they loved dearly.

"I’ve spoken to Viv," Goldblatt said, "and she told me she’s been amazed from the outpouring of letters and cards she’s received from people that she didn’t really know. … If there’s any consolation, it’s knowing how widespread Todd affected people."

Although several of those close to Reuben understandably wished to remain silent Saturday night, Goldblatt graciously gave me his time and his thoughts on Reuben, the type of family man and friend who seems to come along only so often but affects those in his wake for a lifetime. As his brother Keith said, "To have known him even briefly is to remember him forever."

So Goldblatt and I found a spot along the railing surrounding Bullis’ athletic field Saturday night, where he reflected on the life of a dear friend. As Goldblatt spoke, the soccer game raged, the loudspeakers blared and noisy soccer tykes pranced all around us. Yet there was a calmness in Goldblatt as he looked into the distance, sometimes glassy-eyed, and recounted the legacy of Todd Reuben.

Reuben, 40, of Potomac, was the ultimate sports fan. After starring for Churchill High’s soccer team in the early 1980s, he continued playing at Emory University in Atlanta, where he met Vivian before graduating in 1983. He eventually went to law school at George Washington University and started practicing in 1989, almost the same time Vivian had the twins.

Soon, Reuben was taking Jason and Jeffrey to whatever local high-school sporting event he could find, especially soccer. They particularly enjoyed Churchill, Wootton and Whitman games.

"It didn’t really matter," said Goldblatt, a 1988 Bullis graduate. "If there was good soccer to be found, he’d take his boys to go see it."

Since Sept. 11, Keith has been taking the twins to Bullis boys soccer games.

"I’m trying to fill in with them as much as I can," he said.

Reuben loved the area’s pro sports, too. He and Keith went to countless Redskins games, and as a season-ticket holder, he couldn’t wait to see Jaromir Jagr take the ice for the Capitals.

Last summer, Reuben decided to revive a family tradition — going to Redskins training camp. He invited Goldblatt, who cited it as one of his favorite memories of his friend. Taking off work one day, Reuben piled his sons, his father and Goldblatt into the car. The group drove up to Carlisle, Pa., and spent six hours in 95-degree heat watching Marty Schottenheimer’s crew.

"He had a great time, I had a great time, and we just sat and talked and watched the whole day," Goldblatt said. "It just showed the type of family guy that he was and where his priorities were."

Reuben enjoyed life’s simple pleasures. One of his favorite pastimes was jogging with his golden retriever, Dudley. He worked as hard at family life as he did at work, where he was highly respected by junior lawyers, senior partners and clients.

But his greatest delight was investing time into Jason and Jeffrey. He took the boys everywhere, coached them in soccer and basketball and kept them at the forefront of his life. The boys have inherited their father’s love of athletics and his kind spirit.

"Really, the biggest legacy Todd leaves are his kids," Goldblatt said. "They’re two of the nicest" — Goldblatt paused and stared off across the Bullis soccer field, seemingly trying to rein in his emotions — "they are caring, empathetic, outgoing, athletic boys. They’re going to be tremendous young men, then tremendous adults. They’re going to be a real credit to their dad. It’s unfortunate that he won’t get to see them go through the life experiences that I know he was so looking forward to. I think that’s his legacy. They made him proud a month ago, and they’ll make him proud as long as they’re alive."

Ironically, as Goldblatt was talking about how Vivian and the boys were dealing with the tragedy, Jason and Jeffrey approached us. The twins were good-looking mirror images of each other, each sporting identical Adidas warm-ups suits. Jeffrey had a visor hat on; Jason did not — that’s the only way a bystander could tell them apart. They were smiling, boisterous and having a good time with a group of fellow ballboy cronies in their innocent, 11-year-old world. Jeffrey noticed Goldblatt talking to me.

"What are you doing?" Jeffrey asked.

"Talking," Goldblatt replied.

"Are you getting interviewed?"

Goldblatt stalled to think of a proper response:

"What’s that?"

"Are you getting interviewed?"

"We’re just chatting."

Yes we were, boys. We were just chatting about a remarkable man.