20 Years Later: Grieving dad reflects on losing daughter in 9/11 attacks

Tom Frost, 68, of Orange County, is a man who knows about putting one foot in front of the other. He’s competed in 42 marathons; calculates he’s logged more than 75,000 miles. 

But not all the training in the world could prepare him for the events of September 11, 2001.

On 9/11, over many anguished hours, Tom Frost and his wife Melanie learned that their beloved 22-year-old daughter Lisa was among the almost 3,000 people killed that horrible day. Frost had worked the graveyard shift at SoCal Edison. 

His plan was to take a short nap after work, and then pick up his daughter Lisa, who was flying home to LAX from Boston University after recently graduating with honors. But as we know United Airlines Flight 175 never made it. It crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Get your top stories delivered daily! Sign up for FOX 11’s Fast 5 newsletter. And, get breaking news alerts in the FOX 11 News app. Download for iOS or Android.

Twenty years later, we meet Tom Frost at Lago Santa Margarita Beach Club. He has a bit more grey hair but speaks enthusiastically. Mr. Frost suggested meeting at the park where an oak tree and memorial plaque are dedicated in Lisa’s honor. 

Frost told me, "I’d like to think it’s for all the parents who lost a child." 

We sat in the tranquil setting reflecting on Lisa’s life and memory. And of course, the sobering 20 year anniversary of 9/11.

Like many people, Frost commented on how quickly the two decades had seemed to pass since that catastrophic September day. And yet with aching clarity, he described the things he was missing: a daughter destined for greatness, a son-in-law he would never know, grandchildren he would never take to the park. 

"That was all taken from me," he said.

But most of our time together was spent talking about giving. There are two scholarships in Lisa Ann Frost’s memory. One is at her alma mater Trabuco High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, where she graduated in 1998. The other at Boston University, where she was valedictorian. Both scholarships support students exhibiting promise. And Mr. Frost continues his work helping the hungry at the local food bank, which has been named after his late daughter. 

He feels close to Lisa when doing these good works. Pointing to his heart he said, "It almost feels as though she’s still here."

And the marathons continue. Frost said his dedication to running has helped him get through some of the numbing pain. In April 2002, while running the Boston Marathon, the very course where his daughter would cheer for him from the sidelines, at Mile 16, he stopped and offered a minute of silence dedicated to Lisa. He was joined by a fellow runner from the OC. And then, this father who is committed to keeping his daughter’s memory alive, powered through Heartbreak Hill to the finish line.