PHOTO COURTESY OF CORNELL ATHLETICS

Three-time All-American Eamon McEneaney, a 1993 National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, reportedly helped 63 people to safety after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center that year. Eight years later, he was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Remembering Eamon McEneaney, Cornell's 'Wild Irish Rose'


This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of USA Lacrosse Magazine.

To recognize the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we are sharing several stories throughout this week that capture the lives and legacies of the people, families and communities impacted most.

December 1975 // Long Island

It was the start of intercession when Cornell men’s lacrosse coach Richie Moran called Dr. Louis Schimoler at his veterinary practice in Greenvale, Long Island. Moran wanted to check up on one of his top players, sophomore Eamon McEneaney, who helped Schimoler paint the interior walls of the hospital. It was the first of three daily jobs —waiter and bartender were the others — McEneaney had picked up that break.

It’s also one of Moran’s favorite recollections of the former three-time All-American.

“Oh, he’s doing great,” Moran recalled Schimoler telling him a few days into the arrangement. “He shows up at 7:30 every morning with buns and hot rolls and coffee.”

Moran wondered, knowing the approximate 10-mile trek to the North Shore from McEneaney’s home near Floral Park, then asked: “How’s he getting to work?”

Schimoler assumed McEneaney drove.

“That can’t be right,” Moran said. “I know he doesn’t have a license, and I know he doesn’t have a car.”

Soon after, Moran got his answer. McEneaney got a ride from a neighbor to the main thoroughfare nearby, and then hitchhiked — sometimes more than once — to Schimoler’s practice. After painting, he would hitchhike back to the restaurant and bar closer to his home for jobs two and three.

All this, so he could meet his tuition requirements for the following semester at Cornell.

To those who knew McEneaney, particularly those who played against him, that anecdote would be met with an understanding nod. Talk to someone who knew McEneaney, and they’ll have their own favorite story to tell.

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Another Moran favorite came when he recruited McEneaney, who received major scholarship offers but surprised Moran on his scheduled visit by showing up the wrong weekend. He arrived at the bus station downtown and, unassumingly, walked the two-plus miles uphill to Moran’s office, stopping to ask directions along the way.

Later in the trip, McEneaney told Moran not to worry: “I learned a lot about Ithaca.”

He’s also the guy who would later meet his future wife, Bonnie, in a popular Ithaca bar called The Nines after participating in a streaking rally. He walked up to the bar in a towel. Bonnie looked at him and remarked, “Nice outfit.”


McEneaney was brash, confident, loyal, fierce, tough, hot-tempered and a prankster. But his soul had depth too.


May 28, 1977 // Charlottesville, Va.

Defending national champion Cornell had advanced to the NCAA Division I final with a chance to repeat against Johns Hopkins. Early that morning at the team’s hotel, McEneaney, a senior, was restless. His nervous energy spiked. He left the hotel and, in 80-degree heat, crushed a three-mile run.

Later that afternoon, as the temperature climbed to 100 degrees, McEneaney scored three goals and dished five assists in a lopsided 16-8 victory. It was Cornell’s 29th straight victory and capped a second consecutive undefeated season — not to mention what still stands as one of the great individual careers in lacrosse.

“He was an extremely competitive guy,” said Mike French, a 1976 Cornell graduate who spent two years teaming with McEneaney and Jon Levine. Some say it’s the best attack line ever. “I was similar. We came from different backgrounds, but both extremely blue collar — me from Canada and a big family, him from Long Island and a big Irish family. He was a tremendous competitor. He would put his foot on the gas pedal and not take it off.”

McEneaney finished his illustrious career as a three-time first-team All-American in an era when Ivy League freshmen could not play varsity. He amassed 96 points in 17 games as a sophomore, 81 in 16 games as a junior and 79 in 13 games as a senior. Sports Illustrated called him Cornell’s “wild Irish rose.”

McEneaney defied his 5-foot-10, 155-pound frame with exceptional athleticism. He could reverse dunk a basketball with two hands. He had quickness, vision and an indomitable spirit. He spent two years on the Cornell football team and earned All-Ivy accolades as a receiver. After graduation, he nearly made the New York Jets’ roster as a punt returner before being cut in the last round. In 1993, he was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

McEneaney wrote about his experience at Cornell for a university-published book called “Wearers of the C.” It opened: “I was elated when I was accepted at Cornell. I told the Maryland coaches, who were also interested in me, that we would win the national championship. They laughed, and I lied: we won two titles.”








Feb. 26, 1993 // New York City

Terrorist Ramzi Yousef parked a Ryder truck filled with 1,500 pounds of explosives in an underground garage at the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The blast killed six people and left thousands scrambling to exit a structurally unsound building. It was later reported that McEneaney, who worked in the building, helped guide 63 people to safety down 105 dark staircases by orchestrating a human chain. At each landing, he performed head counts to ensure no one was left behind.

As a two-sport athlete, McEneaney drew praise in different ways. He was brash, confident, loyal, fierce, tough, hot-tempered and a prankster. But his soul had depth too.

McEneaney evolved into an accomplished poet and writer. The youngest of seven siblings of Edward and Mary McEneaney, he obsessed over Irish history. As Moran told it, McEneaney during downtime on trips to Ireland enjoyed settling into a pub to engage locals on topics such as the history of the Vikings in Ireland. Some naysayers placed bets on the accuracy of McEneaney’s impromptu lectures. Much like his college days, he did not lose often.

McEneaney held a reverent respect for lacrosse’s Native American roots. Long after wood sticks gave way to plastic and metal, he kept his original wood crosse.




PHOTO COURTESY OF CORNELL ATHLETICS

McAnaney evolved from a lacrosse star into an accomplished poet and writer.


Feb. 1, 2012 // Schoellkopf Field, Ithaca, N.Y.

Cornell will take its home field for the first official practice of the 2012 season, weather permitting. The scoreboard will be lit, the clock ticking down time left in each drill, flanked by two numbers that don’t change.

21.

10.

Boiardi and McEneaney. Cornell’s only two retired numbers, they symbolize individuals lauded for more than just their lacrosse exploits.

Not a day goes by that Moran does not think of McEneaney, of painting jobs and hitchhiking, of streaking rallies and poems, of goals and assists and championships, of friends and laughter, of family and love.