This is personal. I grew up in Garden City, NY, the kind of suburban Long Island town that sent most of its sons (and more than a few of its daughters) to the man-made canyons of Lower Manhattan, where they became brokers, bankers, traders and general wheeler-dealers. And like many other LI towns like it, we lost a lot of people when the towers went down on 9-11. Dave Leistman was 43 that day, more than 10 years older than I was, but he grew up in my hometown, played lacrosse for my high school and for Adelphi University, right in the heart of GC. And he settled there after graduating, taking a job with Cantor Fitzgerald. He left behind a wife and two teenage children.
I knew Ryan Kohart — but I knew him when he was a chunky underclassman at Garden City High School, tagging along with his brothers and cousins at parties and football games. He graduated a few years after I did, played lacrosse for UNC and then took a job as a trader with Cantor Fitzgerald, the firm that lost more than 650 employees, about two-thirds of its workforce, that day.
Jim Murphy was a friend, a year behind me in school, and we hung out with the same crowd. I went to Grateful Dead shows with Murph, hung in backyards at keg parties and shared Camel Lights, ditched school and drove into Queens looking for trouble. When I think of 9-11, the first face that comes to my mind is that of Murph, a real sweet cat who went too soon.
Robert Ferris was 63 when the World Trade Center went down, taking him with it. He was also the father of my friend, Bobby Ferris, and probably the nicest guy in Garden City. He was active in St. Ann’s Church and the school, and knew everybody by name in that corner of town where the streets are named for Ivy League schools. If you lived in that neighborhood when he did, chances are that every time it snowed he would have cleared your driveway and sidewalk with his snowblower before you even woke up. His son Bobby, now a doctor, was working at St. Vincents in NYC when the planes hit.
Mike was a couple years ahead of me in high school, and he graduated with my sister. He was one of the seniors I noticed when I was a sophomore because he was kind, funny and popular. I also was in class with his brother Chris, who remains a friend even though I didn’t recognize him at our 20-year reunion. Sorry, bro, but you look totally different.
I remember Eric Steen, as well — he graduated Garden City High School a couple years before me, as well. But I remember him almost exactly as he appears in the photo attached to his legacy.com obituary, although he was 32 when he perished.
We called Tom Brennan the Old Man because, even when he was 17 years old, he was all hunched over and puffy like Mr. Magoo. I hung out with Tom a lot: Dead shows, keggers, the parking lot of our high school. I remember one night in particular, at a friend’s parents’ house in the Hamptons well before the summer season began. I never met the wife or his daughter he left behind, and I can’t remember the last time I saw him; I just know I’ll never see him again.
I didn’t know John Capello; he was just about 10 years old when I graduated high school. But I imagine he grew up much like everyone else in Garden City. He hung out on 7 th Street, played Centennials soccer, went to college and then took a promising job with Cantor Fitzgerald. He worked on the 105 th floor of Tower 1, right in the initial impact zone. He was 23.
Rob McLaughlin. Wow. I didn’t even realize until researching this piece that we lost Rob McLaughlin, my friend Julie’s brother, on this day, too. Rob worked for Cantor Ftizgerald and was living in Westchester. And I haven’t thought about him in a long time. Even all these years later, we are still counting our dead.
More than 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001, and untold thousands ran in to help in Lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in that Pennsylvania field. We mourn them all, as we do those who were left behind. Goodbye, friends. We miss you, and we will remember.