This Jersey boy will never for­get

The Norwalk Hour - - SPORTS - Jeff.ja­cobs @hearst­medi­act.com; @jef­f­ja­cobs123

He was teach­ing World His­tory 2 at St. Bene­dict’s Prep on Sept. 11, 2001 when he looked out the win­dow and saw world his­tory. The worst, most tragic and hideous kind of world his­tory.

“You could see the smoke,” UConn coach Dan Hur­ley said. “Be­ing in Ne­wark, you look out and you see Man­hat­tan. I re­mem­ber within 10 min­utes of see­ing the smoke, be­ing called into the au­di­to­rium. Just the chaos of what was hap­pen­ing on the way to the assem­bly. Ev­ery­one got dis­missed.”

Is­lamic ter­ror­ists, his­tory’s cow­ards, had forced Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 into the Twin Tow­ers of the World Trade Cen­ter. And when it was over, nearly 3,000 peo­ple were dead, more than 6,000 were in­jured, and a na­tion was shaken.

“We had in­ter­na­tional stu­dents and be­cause they closed the school down, two or three of them came home with me,” Hur­ley said. “There were par­ents of stu­dents who lived and worked in the city. In­ter­na­tional stu­dents, who lit­er­ally a week or two ear­lier, got into the coun­try and didn’t know what was go­ing on. Their fam­i­lies had a hard time get­ting in touch.”

Hur­ley will coach UConn against No. 11 Florida State Satur­day in the Never For-

get Trib­ute Clas­sic at Pru­den­tial Cen­ter in Ne­wark. Sev­en­teen years later, en­ter­ing a ma­jor col­lege bas­ket­ball event only blocks from where he taught and coached high school, Hur­ley still grows emo­tional.

“Yeah, be­cause we all have peo­ple re­lated to us who per­ished that day, hus­bands or fa­thers, daugh­ters,” Hur­ley said. “Ev­ery­one was af­fected by it and is still af­fected by it.” For Hur­ley, it is the Keat­ing fam­ily. “Jeff Keat­ing’s a friend of me and my brother, more adult, post-col­lege,” Hur­ley said. “His brother was a fire­man. He was (at) home as the first plane hit, went back and ended up dy­ing that day as a hero.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port in the Staten Is­land Ad­vance, Paul Keat­ing was awak­ened in his Cedar Street apart­ment when the first plane crashed into the World Trade Cen­ter. He called his sis­ter to tell her he was OK. De­bris and glass were fly­ing all around him. He told her that he was go­ing to the fire­house, Lad­der Co. 5 in SoHo, be­hind his build­ing. “I’m go­ing to the World Trade Cen­ter to help my broth­ers,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the Ad­vance.

Paul Keat­ing was 38.

“There are so many of those sto­ries,” Hur­ley said. “You get a chill when you en­ter into Satur­day. The emo­tion is good. Laugh­ing, be­ing sad, happy, run­ning the emo­tional gamut is a good thing. I’m no stoic.”

So many sto­ries.

While with The Hart­ford Courant, I re­mem­ber driv­ing down to Green­wich High. Of­fen­sive line­man Zack Zion had lost his dad Chuck, an ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent at Can­tor Fitzger­ald. Talk­ing to Zack, as he re­turned to foot­ball, talk­ing to for­mer coach Rich Al­bonizio, I drove home think­ing I’ll never for­get this. I haven’t.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to Bon­nie McEneaney on the phone from her New Canaan home. She had lost her man, Ea­mon, a se­nior vice pres­i­dent at Can­tor, fa­ther of four and one of the great lacrosse play­ers in col­lege his­tory. Through the tears of her un­speak­able tragedy, I re­mem­ber how she had man­aged to laugh when she talked about how she met Ea­mon at Cor­nell. It was at a streak­ing rally. Ea­mon was wear­ing a towel.

“Love your out­fit.” Bon­nie told him. Ea­mon McEneaney was 46.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to Judy Keane for a col­umn in the Courant in 2001 and again on the 10th an­niver­sary of Sept. 11. She had lost her hus­band, a se­nior vice pres­i­dent at Marsh & McLen­nan. Dick Keane was a for­mer Ma­rine and a UConn fan. In the face of her deep­est agony in 2001 she had sent Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush a let­ter and a ban­ner. The ban­ner read, “Peace on Earth.” She did not want rash reprisal and even 10 years later she would ask me, “Is it pos­si­ble to tell a story of some­thing good that emerged from that hor­ri­ble day?”

Hur­ley is right. Most ev­ery­one in the

tri-state re­gion has some tie to Sept. 11. I told Judy Keane about how my wife’s brother Ed — my son’s god­fa­ther — was alive through God’s good­ness and the luck of the Port Au­thor­ity Po­lice sched­ule. Had it hap­pened that night or the fol­low­ing week, when sched­ules re­versed, he would have been a dead man. Those from his unit who rushed into the World Trade Cen­ter did not re­turn. Ed Woods would work the rub­ble along with so many, hop­ing for sur­vivors, later search­ing for re­mains. He would meet his fu­ture wife at an Ir­ish pub. A law stu­dent at Tem­ple in Philly, Jen had vol­un­teered with the Sal­va­tion Army at a Sept. 11 respite cen­ter. Fate brought them to­gether and the good that emerged from that hor­ri­ble day are two great chil­dren. Judy Keane loved that story. Next week­end Ai­dan Woods will have his bar mitz­vah.

In its third year, the Never For­get Trib­ute Clas­sic is a fundraiser for the Fam­i­lies of Free­dom Schol­ar­ship Fund. Ac­cord­ing to its web­site, the Fund has raised more than $150 mil­lion in post­sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion for de­pen­dents of those killed or per­ma­nently dis­abled in the at­tacks and their af­ter­math. This is not some­thing good to emerge from the hor­ror. This is some­thing great.

As part of the tour­na­ment, Hur­ley said his play­ers will be pre­sented with a short talk. UConn grad­u­ate trans­fer Tarin Smith, who played for Dan’s fa­ther, Bob Sr., at St. An­thony’s in Jersey City, was 5 and in kinder­garten on Sept. 11. Both his par­ents were work­ing in Man­hat­tan that day, he said, and forced to evac­u­ate.

“It was more his­tory for me,” Smith said. “Now it’s more real for me, be­cause I know my par­ents were part of it.”

Yes, it is his­tory. And it is real.

For Hur­ley, this week­end will be chance to re­flect on the tragedy yet also to see peo­ple he grew up with in Jersey City, who coached him, his St. Bene­dict’s fam­ily, his own fam­ily and friends.

“We should all take the time to ap­pre­ci­ate how far we’ve come,” Hur­ley said. “We’re stay­ing in a ho­tel in Jersey City and play­ing a cou­ple of blocks down from where I coached high school ball. Jersey City and Ne­wark are prob­a­bly the two places that mean the most to me in the place that means ev­ery­thing to me. I’m go­ing to take the time to ap­pre­ci­ate the jour­ney. Prob­a­bly dur­ing the an­them look around and say, ‘Wow, coach­ing UConn. 12 years ago, I was coach­ing against Peddie School in front of 200 peo­ple.’ ”

Like Dan Hur­ley said, it’s good to laugh and cry and not be a stoic. His mom and dad, Chris­tine and Bob Sr., will ar­rive at Pru­den­tial Cen­ter from Jersey City. From their apart­ment, they have a view of Free­dom Tower, built from the rub­ble of the hor­ri­ble day. They also have an ex­cel­lent view of the Statue of Lib­erty, un­bowed in New York Har­bor since its ded­i­ca­tion in 1886.

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