NEWPORT NEWS -- 'Angel represented, for me, the American Dream,' explained Sheriff Gabe Morgan. 'He was pursuing the American Dream, and on that day, our way way of life was attacked.'
'That day,' Angel Perez, Jr. went to work at Cantor Fitzgerald, just as the 43-year-old Brooklyn native did every day.
'That day' was September 11, 2001, and Perez was in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
'Almost 3,000 people died. I knew of others through someone else, but never knew them, personally. Angel was personal,' Morgan told 13News. 'You just kind of say, 'What a waste. What a waste.''
Morgan and Perez met when they were young and enjoyed a friendship that lasted 3 decades.
'I call it more of a big brother-little brother type relationship, informal mentoring: 'Hey, don't do that. Don't go there. Don't hang out with that guy,'' Morgan said.
'Watched him grow up and be the man that he became,' continued Morgan. 'They used to have a saying when I was growing up in the 70's: 'It's glorious to die for a cause, but not just because,' and he died just because, and I don't want that to be the end of the story.'
As Morgan challenged others to do something special to remember anyone they knew directly who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, he decided to offer the Angel Perez Scholarship. Morgan will award $1,500 of his own money to a high school senior accepted at a college or trade school.
'They would have been 7, maybe 8 years old, at the time of the attack, and the further we get away from that attack, the more it's lost, and it just becomes an event in a book,' noted Morgan. 'As Americans, we need to cherish the freedoms and the opportunities that we have in this country, and I want young people to remember that, and that's what this is really all about.'
Morgan will be putting out information about the scholarship criteria and application process by way of high schools throughout the Hampton Roads area.He already knows an essay will be part of the application. Students will be asked to discuss the meaning of September 11, what they were doing that day in 2001 (if they can remember), and how they envision keeping the memory of those who died and the date's significance alive.