New York Stories Revisited

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Editors Note: Rich Lerner first reported this story in the month after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Last week, he re-connected with some surviving family members to find out where life has taken them in the five years that have passed. These accounts and others are featured in a 1-hour special, 'New York Stories of Enduring Spirit,' this Monday evening at 10:30 p.m. ET on The Golf Channel.
 
Those foursomes with a hundred laugh-filled Saturdays past became threesomes with an empty feeling.
 
The father/son tournaments, for some, are forever tearful times of reminiscence.
Fathers without sons, sons without fathers. This has always been an unbearable cost of war.
 
Husbands without wives, wives without husbands, too many left with the beauty of a setting sun but no late afternoon golf partner with whom to share it.
 
That great connector of people, that connector of generations, this sport called golf, is for many surviving family members the good in the good times remembered.

 
Susan McDermott honeymooned at Pebble Beach with husband Matt, a 34-year-old equity trader lost with hundreds of others from the Cantor Fitzgerald family. It was incredible, recalls Susan of their days at Pebble. Matt grew up as a caddie on Long Island, played New Jersey National to a 4-handicap and left behind two small children when the worlds light went out Sept. 11, 2001.
 
Susan was three months pregnant at the time, and early the following year gave birth to a boy. He looks just like his dad, said Susan last week from her home in New Jersey. Named for his father, Matthew McDermotts now 4 and bears a striking resemblance to his late father. You should see his golf swing, muses his mom.
 
Susan has not re-married, devoting all her energy to raising her three children. I feel Matts presence strongly, she said. This is where I want to be. Im so content.
 
Sally Alameno laughed when asked if she was familiar with The Golf Channel. Are you kidding? Channel 69. Andrew watched it all the time! Thirty-seven-years-old, Andrew Alameno worked as a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald. A New York Times article on fallen fathers who were at-home heroes said of Andrew that he brushed the hair of his 2-year-old daughters Barbie doll, played endless rounds of Monopoly Junior with his 5-year-old son and skipped dinners with clients to hurry home to Westfield, N.J., by 6 oclock. Andrew Alameno was also an amateur club maker, a hobby he pursued from the basement of his home. Hed just finished making a first set of clubs for his son. He loved golf, Sally said. And he was loved by all.
 
His son, Joseph, is now 10 and recently went to golf camp. For the first time, he used something other than the set his father had made for him. He did wear his dads old baseball cap, said Sally. Daughter Nina arrived at her first day of second grade with her fathers college ring tucked inside her backpack.
 
To have young children is the greatest gift, Sally told me early September of 2006. You keep going. You compartmentalize.
 
Sally did not remarry. She started a business creating hand-made stationary and greeting cards, conceding that she needed an outlet. I feel happy and fulfilled.
 
Of course, its always there, said Sally. She pays close attention to world affairs, reading several newspapers each day but added that the politics of finger pointing serve little purpose. To live with that level of anger, well, you cant do that, she said.
 
On Sept. 11, 2001, Ken Eichele was an early starter in the qualifier for the USGA Mid-Amateur championship at Bedford Country Club outside the city. He was even par through 14 holes when he learned of the full weight of the attacks, which hit home particularly hard for him.
 
Eichele was a New York City fire chief. He was told of the news by a fellow New York City firefighter whod yet to tee off.
 
With all the bridges into the city closed, there was no way at that moment that Ken could get to ground zero, although he badly wanted to be there to do his job. He finished his round in confusion, his mind racing and with no idea what hed ultimately scored. He rushed home, then to his station house in Manhattan on 85th between Lexington and Third. Nine of the 12 men from his house called to the site of the attacks perished. Ken got to ground zero later that night, some 12 hours after the attack. He worked 48 straight hours, pulling out just one live body. So exhausted was Ken that he admits to falling asleep behind the wheel of his car on the way home from a shift, luckily without serious injury.
 
He went to 10 funerals in a span of a few days. There were scores of others for friends hed met in his 28 years with the New York City Fire Department that he could not attend.
 
As for that Mid-Am qualifier, it was scrapped early on Sept. 11, the few completed rounds wiped off the books. It would be replayed in its entirety the next week. Eichele did not play. Obviously, there was much work to be done at ground zero, and too many friends and colleagues to bury. There was just no way I could play, he said. The USGA learned of the situation. And happily, they extended a special invitation to Ken to participate in the national Mid-Amateur Championship the following year.

Today, Kens retired and living with his wife, June, in Pinehurst, N.C. He estimates that in 2005 he played some 260 rounds of golf. At 55, hes one of the finest over-50 players in the southern region, finishing sixth in the recent North and South Senior Amateur.
 
Im enjoying every minute of it, Ken said last week. As for the events five years ago, Ken explained, I have a poster of the 343 men who died in my office at home and I look at it every day. Ill never forget them and Ill never forget what happened. But I dont dwell on it.
 
He did express concern for some of his brethren who have suffered and died from lung disease as a result, Ken and many others believe, of the dust inhaled at ground zero. Ken, never a smoker, says he lost 16 to 18 percent of his lung capacity but otherwise feels strong, and lucky. After all, he was on the course on Sept. 11 five years ago.
 
Golf, he says, saved my life.
 
Today, it gives his life meaning and purpose.
 
Some foursomes will never be whole again.

Some fathers will never play golf with their sons again.
 
Some children will never get the chance.
 
The hope is that golf, which has always been such a powerful connector of people and generations, can in its own small way help to heal in the years ahead.

 
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