A Tribute to Brother Eamon McEneaney '77

Brother Eamon McEneaney '77
December 23,1954 - September 11, 2001

Eamon McEneaney, hero, father, poet, and athlete, was killed in the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. He was one of the world's greatest lacrosse players and an All-Ivy football wide receiver for the Big Red.

In lacrosse, he was first team All-America from 1975 thru 1977. He led Cornell to undefeated seasons and national championships in 1976 and 1977, and represented the United States in the 1978 World Lacrosse Championship. Eamon is in the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and was named to the NCAA's Silver Anniversary Lacrosse Team.

An attackman, he weighed less than 160 pounds, and was called the toughest athlete, "pound for pound," that ever wore a Cornell jersey. His number 10 was retired by Cornell in April, 2002, at a tribute attended by 27 former teammates and hundreds of family and friends.

The following paragraph is an excerpt from The New York Times "Portraits of Grief" series:

Eamon McEneaney: A Man With a Secret.

Sometimes a wife learns things about her husband after he is gone, and this is how it has been with Eamon McEneaney's wife, Bonnie. She knew that Eamon, a senior vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, had escaped from his office on the 1O5th floor after the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, but she did not know he had been a hero. "He saved the lives of 63 people," Ms. McEneaney said from their home in New Canaan, Connecticut. "They were hysterical, and he pulled them together and wet paper towels for them to put over their faces and made them form a human chain and took them down the stairs. All he ever told me was that he came down the stairs with some friends."

Eamon was also a prolific writer and poet, with a special interest in Irish literature. His teammates and friends have endowed The Eamon McEneaney Memorial Reading Series, which brings an Irish or Irish-American literary figure to speak at Cornell each year. He left Bonnie and four children, Brendan, Jennifer, Kevin and Kyle.

Coach Moran
Remembers Eamon

By Kathleen Bolton
[From The Cornell Spirit March 2005]

In 1972, Eamon McEneaney was the most sought-after collegiate lacrosse recruit in the country, but head coach Richie Moran was not daunted. He would use all his considerable powers of Irish persuasion to convince McEneaney to play lacrosse for the Big Red.

McEneaney, a hotshot high school athlete from Elmont, New York, was entertaining offers from Big Ten colleges and universities, all willing to give the talented prospect full
scholarships -- offers that an Ivy League university, with its emphasis on academics over athletics, could not match.

But Moran was not without some weapons in his arsenal. Already a highly regarded coach in the collegiate lacrosse world, Moran also happened to know McEneaney's high school lacrosse coach, Bill Ritch, who fostered McEneaney's talents in football, basketball, and lacrosse at Sewanhaka High School. And he intended to utilize that connection to its fullest.

"Eamon was a curly-haired leprechaun in those days," Moran said. "I had some doubts that he could come to Cornell; academically and financially there were concerns." But Ritch praised Cornell to McEneaney, causing him to listen more attentively to Moran when he came on recruiting trips to the high school. Moran suggested coursework that could beef up McEneaney's academic record. He also persuaded McEneaney to work in a visit to Cornell among his long list of visits to other universities. To Moran's delight, McEneaney agreed.

They worked out the details by phone. Moran put together an exhaustive itinerary for the highly sought after recruit, with a carefully planned schedule that would show the university and the lacrosse program in its best light: visits to prestigious professors, meals at the Statler Hotel, supervised fun in Collegetown, hard-to-get tickets to men's ice hockey. McEneaney was to be given the redcarpet treatment.
So it was with great surprise that Moran received a phone call at home from campus the weekend before McEneaney was scheduled to visit. "I had just sat down to dinner," Moran recalls, "when I got a call from Eamon saying he was at the lacrosse office, and asking where everyone was." Horrified, Moran listened to McEneaney tell him that he traveled to Ithaca alone by bus, arriving at the downtown bus station where he proceeded to walk up the steep incline to the university, asking for directions at the top of each hill.

Panicked, Moran quickly called players Jay Gallagher '74 and Bruce Arena '73 with orders to find McEneaney, take him to dinner at the Statler, and then to a hockey game. Meanwhile Moran made a few phone calls to cobble together some sort of last-minute itinerary that would impress the recruit. He managed to set up a meeting with Dr. Leonard Feddema, then dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a meeting that would change the course of McEneaney's future.

For McEneaney, despite his impetuous nature, had made it a point to bring his writing portfolio with him, which he shared with Dr. Feddema. At the end of the meeting, Feddema was convinced that McEneaney was special, a blue-collar student-athlete whose force of personality would overcome any lack of academic skills, and told Moran so. Moran began to think that he now had a real chance to bring McEneaney to Cornell.

Moran took the young recruit to all the Cornell highlights: Sage Chapel, the libraries, the scenic overlooks. McEneaney seemed suitably impressed. Moran then handed him back to Gallagher and Arena to enjoy an evening's social event at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, after which they were to put the 17-year-old back on the bus to Long Island.

One week later, Moran received a call from McEneaney's high school guidance counselor, commending Moran on the great visit he had arranged for Eamon, who had arrived back at Sewanhaka High School full of enthusiasm for Cornell. However, the counselor told Moran, it was a pity that the pickup basketball game he had arranged for the players ended in seven stitches to McEneaney's eyebrow from an errant elbow.

Moran, astonished, immediately called Gallagher and Arena to get the details. What emerged was troubling. The "social event" at the SAE fraternity was a party with a live band. McEneaney, who loved to dance, was grooving with the girlfriend of one of the frat brothers who took exception and landed a vicious blow to the teenager's brow, causing a melee in the frat house. Concerned, Moran called McEneaney, certain that his hard work wooing the talented athlete was for naught.

"All he kept telling me was that he wanted to come to Cornell," Moran said. "It was the greatest place in the world to him."

"Then you'll have to improve on your boxing technique," Moran told him, finally leaving the loquacious Irish kid at a loss for words.Addendum to "Coach Moran remembers Eamon"

Eamon ioined SAE and worked at the house in exchange for free room and board. After his tragic death, it was learned that SAE National had no record of his membership. However, his pledge brothers confirmed that he had been initiated, and the Fraternity sent an SAE pin and certificate of membership to his widow in 2002. An accompanying letter said: "His name will be enshrined at the Levere Memorial Temple in Evanston, Illinois, erected in 1930 to remember those members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live."

Coach Moran believes that his SAE membership was not recorded and no pin issued in 1974 because he was unable to pay the initiation fee.

Remembering Eamon McEneaney:
Cornell Lacrosse Legend With a Heart of Gold

By Barbara O'Neil Mingle
[Cornell Spirit March 2005]

Special tribute was paid to Cornell lacrosse legend Eamon McEneaney '77 following the men's lacrosse team's final home game of the season on April 27. Eamon, a former vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

His death brought heartache to innumerable people, most especially his wife, Bonnie, his children, Brendan, Jennifer, Kevin and Kyle, and his father, Ed.
Celebration trumped grief, however, as the prevailing sentiment of the day, as 250 family and friends, some having traveled from as far away as London and Hawaii, gathered in Ithaca to pay homage to the lacrosse warrior with the heart of a poet.

Twenty-seven former teammates, many of whom brought their families, wore red T-shirts imprinted with Eamon's number 10, supplied by former lacrosse player Joe Taylor '80. They listened with rapt attention to their former coach Richie Moran, as he related anecdotes of their beloved teammate's competitive spirit and generous heart before formally announcing the retirement of Eamon's number 10.

Cornell Hall of Famer Mike French '76, whose pairing with Eamon constituted what many believe was the best attacking duo ever to play lacrosse, recalled happier days on Schoellkopf Field in the mid-'70s. "We laughed. We didn't have a care in the world. We were invincible and Eamon was the heart and soul of our team-our spirit," said French, who spearheaded the effort to organize the memorial event" His devotion to family, friends, teammates was unconditional and unparalleled. It is what I will remember most about him."

"A superstar of lacrosse," is how Director of Athletics Andy Noel described the former three-time All-American who led-his team to national championships and undefeated seasons in 1976 and 1977. "He was an electrifying athlete who elevated all those around him," said Noel. "In my first year coaching wrestling at Cornell I experienced the magic that was Eamon. I realized excellence could be achieved at Cornell and I raised my goals."

Exhibiting uncommon strength and grace, Bonnie McEneaney spoke movingly of her husband and suggested that he sacrifice of his life and all the other victims of September 11 may have, in the long run, saved millions of lives by having roused our country to lead a global campaign against terrorism.
Bonnie also stressed the importance of making the most of every day. "Every hour, every minute, every second is a precious gift. Don't put off too long those things you want to do. Make sure your priorities are correct. Every single day, celebrate life."

Daughter Jennifer, age 9, and son Kevin, age 6, gave tangible proof that the spirit of their father, who enjoyed writing poetry, lives on. Tender words about their father were woven into poetry by Jennifer and into a prayer by Kevin and recited before the misty-eyed audience.

"Love is the strongest force that lives," said Bonnie. To witness the outpouring of emotion elicited by her husband's untimely death, was to conclude that Eamon's tremendous capacity for love rendered him invincible after all.

McEneaney's poems now available
Lacrosse great and 9/11 victim has work published posthumously

Cornell University Library press announced the publication of A Bend in the Road, poems by Eamon J. McEneaney '77 in December 2004.
McEneaney, legendary lacrosse player for the Big Red, died when the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001. The poems are a collection of McEneaney's work, written over his lifetime, and found after his death by his widow, Bonnie McEneaney.

Anyone who met McEneaney would be treated to a jovial man who loved life. But there was a dark side to McEneaney as well, one that manifested in his poetry and fiction. This was also coupled with an eerie belief that his life would be a short one. "Eamon's poetry illustrates the incredible contrasts in his personality," Bonnie McEneaney said. "He didn't hesitate to explore that darkness."

Premonitions of death suffuse his work, and in his poems McEneaney examines the connections between life, death and the spiritual web that binds them. Bonnie is finding that the elderly and terminally ill are drawing comfort in the poems, because they do not shy away from uncomfortable topics, such as speculating on the afterlife and preparing one's self for death.

"What Eamon's poems suggest is that one can be one of the greatest lacrosse players in the history of the game and also write poems of supreme invention, lyricism, and trenchancy," says Professor Kenneth McClane, W.E.B. DuBois Professor of Literature. "Cornell is a magnificent school because one can be a great athlete and a wonderful poet, the two passions complementing each other, like fire and air. Eamon proves, and oh so powerfully, that the human heart blesses and celebrates."

"I'm still amazed by this whole experience," Bonnie says of the thread that McEneaney's book of poems has woven around her in the aftermath his death. "Touch points connecting Eamon's life to others are being revealed to me on a daily basis."

Article from the NY Alpha News July 1976:

Cornell NCAA Champ In Lacrosse; Upsets Maryland 16-13

The Big Red lacrosse team brought an NCAA championship back to Cornell as it upset defending champion Maryland 16-13 in two overtime periods on May 29. The triumph in the tournament final at Brown University, gave Coach Richie Moran's squad a final slate of 16-0 along with the national title, the second for the Red since the post season tourney was started in 1971.

Approximately 12,000 spectators were on hand in Providence for the thrilling encounter, which marked the first time the game of lacrosse drew national television. Included in the crowd were a number of SAE actives and graduates. Among the alumni were former Cornell goalie Joe D'Amelio. '75 and recent Eminent Archon Kenny "Runt" Steele. As with many other activities at Cornell, members at Hillcrest played a significant role in the accomplishments on the field.

EAMON McENEANEY, an all-American selection for the second straight year, broke an all time university career assist record midway through the season as he went on to register 61. The junior attackman now has 126 with a year of eligibility remaining. Voted the outstanding attackman of the country as a sophomore, Eamon's ability as a feeder paved the way for teammate Mike French to break all NCAA scoring marks.

Although not on the field very often, BRIAN LASDA played a crucial role in the Red success story as a face-off specialist. The stocky midfielder from Tully, N.Y., had his best outing in the important mid-season clash with perennially tough Johns Hopkins. Frequently referred to as "Moose," the former football star muscled his way to over two-thirds of the face-offs against the Blue Jays and received recognition in Sports Illustrated.

Perhaps Brian had his most memorable moment of the season when he scored his first career goal in the quarterfinal 14-0 win over Washington & Lee. During the last few minutes Lasda had the rare opportunity to play offense while Moran was pressing for an extremely rare shut-out. When he got near the goal Brian explained, "I saw the goalie and aimed the ball right at him, because I knew I couldn't hit him."

DAVE BRAY, a member of the second midfield unit, played consistently tough throughout the campaign and was a solid defensive player. Dave provided the fans with a few eye openers with his wind-up shots from the outside. The Animal Science major scored four goals and added the same number of assists.

Another brother at Hillcrest, VINCENT SHANLEY, was a defenseman on the undefeated squad. Vince saw limited action as a sophomore this spring but was superb when called on in man-down situations. Shanley came to Cornell two years ago and was a standout on the freshman team. After taking a year off, it took Vince a while to catch up on the field, but by his progress he is sure to play a big role in next season's march.

Steve Klein '77