Memories of Steve Lauria
By Dorothy Vogt
November 23, 2004 - I haven't been much involved in the running scene in Staten Island this year (kids, work, responsibilities, distance, they all get in the way!) but my brother, Mark, keeps me apprised of all that is going on at SIAC and in Staten Island in general. My fitness level these days seems directly related to my employment status. Early in 2004 when I was unemployed for two months, I was in great shape and ready to run. Then (fortunately for the checkbook, unfortunately for the waistline), construction work boomed and I was in demand again. I am an independent project manager and was lucky enough to land projects at New York Medical College, New York Magazine and then New York University School of Law that kept me busy (really busy!) from March until October. Now I am unemployed again, going to the gym regularly and checking in on the sirunning.com website after a long absence. It's not long before you guys see me at a race!! Even though I live in Northern Westchester now, there is nothing like the camaraderie you feel at a Staten Island race. Trust me, there is nothing like the Staten Island running community anywhere else!!
The reason why I sat down to write today is that I was so touched by Alma Ramos' recounting of her Boston Marathon experience posted on the website (yes, I know Boston was in April and I'm just catching up in November!). I'd like to tell my story about my first marathon.
All through 1999 and 2000, I was coming down to Staten Island regularly to run the fun runs and various other races. It was a great way to see my brother, Mark and his family and to become part of the SIAC family. I met great new people and reconnected with people I knew from high school when I was a pretty OK runner. One of those people was Steve Lauria.
In January of 2001, my husband left me for a secretary at his law firm. He left me with two small children (3 ½ and 2 years old), a bunch of bills and a car that was never the same after he had a head on with it the summer before. I was so angry not for the loss of him (no great loss) but for the humiliation that I felt. No one wants to be left for a younger model. I came down to SI for a fun run and Mark had forewarned everyone. When I arrived for the race, I warmed up with Steve. We talked about what happened. Most people when they heard the story felt sorry for me. "You poor thing", "What a bastard" was what I heard most often. When I talked to Steve, he stop running and said to me "You have to run the marathon." I remember looking at him like he was crazy. I thought, "Oh yeah, THAT's what I need to do". I was struggling to run the fun run and deal with the rest of my life. Steve insisted. "It will fill up your extra time, it will make you focused and it will make you strong for those babies of yours". It seemed absurd, but after awhile, it made more sense than most of what I was going through.
In March of 2001, I sent in my application for the October running of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. I was accepted!! Okay, now the work would begin. Steve, Mark, Dave Panza and all the SIAC teammates were incredibly supportive. This was going to be good.
I trained all summer and Steve was my biggest supporter. As anyone who has run a marathon knows, training is like a part-time job. Being a single mom with two small kids, I was doing crazy things to get my runs in. Thank God for the nursery at the gym - I wound up doing most of my training on the treadmill while the children played under the watchful eyes of the babysitters! By Labor Day, I hated it so much that I convinced myself that I didn't need to run the race; I had proven the point.
In September of 2001, I was the project manager on a construction site at 195 Broadway, between Fulton and Dey Streets. On Tuesday mornings, I had a regularly scheduled construction meeting at 10AM. I always met with the architect at 9AM to be prepared. On that day, with the project winding down, I asked the team to delay the meeting until 12 Noon so I could take my daughter to school (it was her first week). That day, everything changed. I remember it all like it was yesterday. I remember finally speaking to Mark in the afternoon and being so relieved that everyone was OK. Mark said to me, "We haven't heard from Steve yet." I asked him, "Steve who?" because I had assumed that Steve Lauria was still working in Brooklyn. When Mark told me of Steve's new job at Marsh & McLennan, my stomach sank. As the day wore on and it became apparent that Steve was a victim of this horrible day, it was beyond belief.
So, the marathon that I was ready to blow off became the most important race of my life. I resumed training (many times weeping through the treadmill sessions) and showed up at the start line that October morning. I knew Steve would be with me and I kept thinking of his words, "This will make you strong for those babies." When they played the national anthem and the marine corps anthem, I wept like a baby. When I ran past the Pentagon and saw the destruction, I cried more. It was OK; people understood. My thinking going into the race was when the going got tough, Steve would be there with me and help me through. Well, he was nowhere to be found and I practically crawled across the line in 5:12! I am still angry at him about that!
I did it for him because he was my friend and I will always, always appreciate that he did not pity me but saw strength in me. The next year I came back at Marine Corps and ran 4:46. I have one more marathon in me (well, maybe more but let's go with one for now) but it has to be New York. Maybe next year!