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By: Alma R. Ramos

Steve Lauria and Tom Celic were more than just my SIAC teammates. They were like the big brothers I never had. As of today, they are still missing in the horror of the WTC tragedy. I wanted to write this as a tribute to them, and to tell what they meant to me.

Both men had similar gentle, qualities. I never saw either of them get angry or heard them raise their voices in anger. Their gentle hearts came out in their mannerisms as well. They each had a soft-spoken voice, and were both very determined in whatever was their task at hand to accomplish.

It didn't matter that I was slower than either one. Whenever we ran together on the track at Farrell, Tom was the encourager. He encouraged me as I finished my rep and he'd begin a cool-down. He'd make sure the group waited for me before we began the next repetition. When finished, he'd always turn to make sure he knew who was left so he could encourage them/me onward as well. In regular road races he'd ask how I'd done/how I'd felt, and would always have a kind word for me. At the Farrell workouts, Steve and I would sometimes wind up doing a cool-down or warm-up together if we arrived at the same time. We'd talk and talk. He was a great listener. At the Fun Runs, Steve always included me on his cool-downs. I'd timidly ask if anyone would be going for one, figuring the guys didn't want a slow girl coming along. He didn't feel that way. He'd say "of course", and then add that he always did a cool-down and I was welcome anytime.

When he was excitedly planning the 70's Fun Run Series race #5, we'd discuss the 70's (we'd both graduated class of '79) and the music. He loved the disco era, and we reminisced about the songs and discussed how/what he'd have at the race. He was looking forward to it and planning for it like a kid waiting for a Christmas gift. I'd always been the unwelcome, shy one. I'm no good around crowds, and do better in smaller groups, therefore, it was so nice to be accepted by them. They were like big brothers, watching out for me. At the recent Celic race, I couldn't run because of a recent accident. I came early to help and asked Tom what could I do. He said "Nothing. I want you to stay off that leg and rest your knee." After the race, I asked him again if I could help with the cleanup and he repeated that I needed to rest.

At several races, I'd come to Steve and Mark Vogt with "protect me" complaints about some guy trying to make a pass. When I came to them at the Celic race, they puffed out their chests, put their hands on their hips and said they'd protect me. (Mark is like another big brother.) We'd laugh as I stood between them. I was safe; they were tall and I was "protected."

There is now a hole in my heart. A hole left by the parting of my two dear brothers. I am so glad to have met them, and miss them dearly. My tears flow freely as I write this, but I had to do it. I wanted everyone who didn't already know them to know what a wonderful part of the running community they were. Good-bye Steve and Tom. I'll always miss you. I truly hope that you are found and return to me/us soon.