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Steve Lauria Series

Every Summer, the Staten Island Athletic Club puts on the Steve Lauria Memorial Series.  The series consists of three 3-mile races in June, July, and August all beginning at 9:00am.  Runners may do all three events, but only the two fastest races will be counted for awards (the slowest time is dropped).  For only a $15 entry fee for all three races, runners will be treated to a breakfast for Race #1 and Race #2 and a barbecue for Race #3.

Stephen "Steve" Lauria was a member of the Staten Island Athletic Club who worked at Marsh & McLennan as project manager in the Information and Technology Department on the 97th floor of Tower 1 at the World Trade Center.  He was seen heading for the elevator on the morning of September 11, 2001 at around 8:40am with his good friend and SIAC teammate, Tom Celic.  Mr. Lauria and his friend have been among the missing since the attack that day.  Steve was a dedicated runner and human being known for his generous spirit and sense of humor.  He was also a big supporter of the Saturday morning SIAC Fun Runs.  The Fun Run Championship Steve Lauria race series, held every summer during June, July, and August, are named in his honor.  The following tributes and anecdotes serve to keep his memory alive.

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A Tribute to Steve Lauria
By David Panza

We just attended a very moving service for Steve Lauria at St. Theresa's, after hearing Mark Vogt's touching eulogy for Steve at the candlelight vigil, and reading Almo Ramos' heartfelt story on this website. Those who didn't know Steve that well have a much better idea now as to the type of person he was. What an amazing impact he had on so many of us in such a relatively short period of time!

I recall two incidents involving Steve that affected me directly in a humorous way that I'd like to share. Mark read Steve's written account of the blizzard race at the candlelight vigil, and I was there firsthand to witness the extraordinary event. That morning was horribly dangerous for driving, and my wife Janet tried to persuade me not to go. She correctly pointed out the danger I was putting myself in. My logic was that if the Parks Department plowed the course, there are enough runners who could walk to the starting line from where they live. Thus, the race could and must go on. I hadn't been in contact with Mark or Fred Rigolini, but surely Steve would not be there. He had heart surgery on Wednesday and was released from the hospital on Thursday.

When I drove up, several things were apparent. The course was not plowed, there were no runners and no cars in the parking lot. There was, however, one lone figure standing by the bridge in a parka. Who could that be, I asked myself. As I made my way through the blizzard toward the unrecognizable stranger, I began to laugh, as did the "stranger". I was laughing at Steve for even being there, and he was laughing at me for driving to Clove Lakes from Bay Terrace.

Steve was there to time the race, incredibly. The rest you know about - John Wowk, Keith Gill and Alex Liberatore joined me in the historic race. Keith won the best quip award, when he said to me at the 3/4 mile mark that Steve better be at the 1-mile sign with our split.

The other story involves a mad dash Steve and I had in a Fun Run, where I nosed him out by a stride. I was so exhausted from the effort that I collapsed in the grass beyond the finish line. The grass, mud and sweat all combined to form a stain on my gray tank top, a stain I could not get out, to this day. I told Steve, and he was always so proud that he had caused the permanent stain, and made sure I did not throw the shirt out, but instead wear it occasionally for his benefit.

Steve buddy, I'll miss our daily 5:30PM ferry rides, where you'd show me your latest running shoes purchase. I know it was on sale, but how many pairs do you need? And I'll try to heed your advice - don't turn around during the race, you'll lose at least 10 seconds. Your passion for the sport was unsurpassed, even compared to the many running nuts in our club. We need you to pace us on our long Sunday morning runs, and tell us one of your many high school track stories to amuse us. Rest well in running heaven, Steve, because I know you're there looking down on us, pushing us toward a Personal Best in the next race.

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 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!

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.

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