Firemen Goes For Hole
By Elio Velez
As a New York City Firefighter for 19 years, Tom McCann puts out fires before they get out of hand. Now Tom must keep his golf handicap from getting out of hand.
McCann, a Belle Harbor resident, will join with N.Y.C. firefighters, Kevin O’Brien and Guy Warren, in traveling to South Lake Tahoe, Nevada for the 13th annual American Century Celebrity Gold Championships. The event, which raises money for the Uniformed Firefighters Association Scholarship Fund, will be broadcast on ESPN, July 19 from 4-6 p.m. and will continue on NBC on Saturday, July 20, at 4-6 p.m. and Sunday, July 21 from 3-6 p.m.
McCann remarks on how he got the call. "My friend is Ed Burke, who runs the sports program for the Fire Department. He knew I liked golf, gave me a call and I just lucked out."
To say it’s been a long year until the event for McCann would be an understatement. On September 11, he was one of the many firefighters to get the citywide recall order to head to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers. McCann, who spend days at the site, said about entering the scene, "Incredible, never saw anything like it, hope I never do again."
When Flight 587 crashed in November, Tom’s son Michael witnessed the crash. "He thought the plane crashed at his school, (St. Francis de Sales), McCann said. "All I saw was the fireball."
Golf is one of the outlets for McCann to relax. He plays golf at Marine Park in Brooklyn. "That’s one of the outlets. It’s a big one", said McCann. Tom also plays basketball as a point guard for the Graybeards squad.
For Kevin O’Brien, a 21-year veteran, and a member of the FDNY Special Operations Command of the Fire Department, going to participate in a charity event is not new. For 10 years (1992-2001), he was the tournament director of the Alfred E. Ronaldson Golf Tournament, which raises money for the families of fallen firefighters. "Last May (2001), we had 1540 golfers in one day. "That’s the way firemen are… we do something and we do it together."
"When I go out there, I want to see the kids in Tahoe, and how 9/11 affected them", O’Brien said. "We got a lot of drawings from the kids, and we want to reassure them and thank them. It was really wonderful to see."
O’Brien arrived at the site just as the North Tower of World Trade collpased. "I was 20 feet into the area near the Broadway side and the tower collapsed. That building came down in 12 seconds, and for people to run in poor visibility and dust that is inches deep, you either got hit or you didn’t."
O’Brien will head with his wife and four kids out to Tahoe and Kevin says they are real excited.
The event will feature celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd and other stars. There will be live and silent sports memorabilia auctions and the sponsor, American Century Investments, hope that $100,000 could be raised by the event. Tom will be paired with Dallas Cowboys’ running back Emmitt Smith and Kevin will be paired with TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley.
When they arrive in Tahoe, the people and the celebrities will show their appreciation not only for the three firefighters but also for all firefighters. An incredible amount of support has been shown and Tom McCann has seen it. "The flowers, cakes and people coming down to the house and showing their support is what got us through those days." McCann said. "It’s incredible."