Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jackie MacLean and Her Gang of Green - Lesson VII

Tomorrow is the Tunnel to Towers Run. It is an event that - while everyone involved in it wishes that the reason for it did not exist - is simply extraordinary. Tomorrow's edition shall be the 10th. I am participating in it for the second time.

A lifetime ago, when I was a student at Wardlaw-Hartridge, the girls did not play soccer. In the fall, in addition to tennis (which they still play) the girls played field hockey. My two sisters who also graduated from W-H played field hockey. And if I may be permitted a bit of bragging on Kara and Jill right here (and how exactly do you propose stopping me?), both of them played it very, very well. That was a generation ago. At W-H these days, field hockey exists only in decades-old championship banners and in black and white photographs from old yearbooks. Dylan was right. The times, they are a-changin'.

Jacquelyn MacLean is the Varsity Girls Soccer Coach at W-H. Her team is very good. Through their first half-dozen games this season, they were unbeaten and had given up four goals while scoring thirty-four. As impressive as their on-field exploits are, they ain't the half of it. They shall this October - as they have done during Octobers past under Coach MacLean's tutelage - be actively involved in Breast Cancer Awareness Month, raising money through their own charitable works. Works performed as a team.

Tomorrow morning Coach MacLean's kids will run for the third consecutive year in the Tunnel to Towers Run. They shall run as a team - in uniform (be on the lookout for a fast-moving bunch of girls wearing lime green shirts with gold lettering) - as they have done the past two years:

On Sunday, for the third straight year, Wardlaw-Hartridge’s girls soccer team will participate in the annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation Run. It follows the footsteps of firefighter Stephen Siller, who was off-duty and on his way to play golf on Sept. 11, 2001, when New York was attacked.

After his truck was stopped at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the father of five raced on foot to the Twin Towers with his heavy gear strapped to his back.

The run honors the memory of Siller, emergency service workers and others who lost their lives on 9/11. It’s also a fundraiser. The Rams already have raised $1,350 in registration.

Though the girls soccer team has no personal ties to Siller, all Americans have ties to that day, coach MacLean said.

“I wanted to have my players experience what this firefighter went through, which doesn’t compare to things they go through, especially on the field,” MacLean added. “When they are tired and want to quit, they can remember the race and Stephen running to save lives in full firefighter equipment.”

If you espouse the belief that coaches are coaches AND not teachers, then please feel free to give me a shout. I enjoy a good debate more than most. You can offer whatever evidence you want in support of your position. I got Jackie MacLean. I win.

"As long as a body draws breath, there is time to contribute something." - Dennis Smith.

Firefighter Richard Kelly, Jr. was a member of Ladder 11. FF Kelly was a member of the FDNY for twenty-four years. He spent the final twenty-three of those years at Ladder 11. He was the senior man in the house. Music was his passion with a collection of more than 400 compact discs including The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, two of his favorite groups. He was a nationally acclaimed boom bah player and instructor. FF Kelly was fifty years old, husband to Carolyn and father to Michael.

A year or so prior to his death, FF Kelly and his wife had purchased a home in Pennsylvania where they vacationed and where they had at least discussed retiring to in the not-too-distant future. Speaking of her husband Carolyn Kelly said, "He always made everyone feel comfortable and loved. Whether you were a commissioner, the president, a loved one or a homeless person on the street, it didn't matter to Ricky. He would treat you with the same kindness and dignity. Ricky would always say that we could have fun in a paper bag."

Firefighter Thomas Kelly of Ladder 15 had an interesting history with the World Trade Center:

As a 20-year-old apprentice in the steamfitters' union, one of Thomas W. Kelly's first assignments took him to the World Trade Center. It was 1970, and what would become New York City's most prominent landmark was climbing upwards. He was responsible for spraying asbestos to provide heat and insulation on the 40th floor of Tower 1. He wrote his initials and 638, his United Association union local, in the stairwell. Next to it, he wrote "UA forever." In September 1971, he showed this marking to his future bride when he took Kitty Murphy out on their "first big date."

His use of the World Trade Center must have worked. Kitty Murphy became Kitty Kelly, his wife and the mother of his two sons. A Brooklyn boy, FF Kelly once paid $1420 for an original seat from Ebbets Field, a gesture that to this son of a devout Brooklyn Dodgers fan brings both a tear and a smile.

Firefighter Thomas Kelly of Ladder 105 followed the career path of his dad Emmett, who had been a member of Ladder 142 in Ozone Park. FF Kelly was thirty-nine years old. He was both a Mets fan and a Dead Head, piling into a van with his two brothers James and Robert to follow the Grateful Dead up and down the east coast.

In the New York Times tribute to him published in the Autumn of 2001, FF Kelly was remembered as a man whose life revolved around family, the water and bike trails as he embraced any opportunity to spend time with those he loved the most doing the things he enjoyed the most.

Lives well lived. And lives to be measured by their breadth and depth even if their length was taken from them by violent means.


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