Make My Spirit Live On

By Anthony Liverano

Firefighter Michael Cammarata

Following the tragic days after September 11, 2001, lists of the missing were slowly compiled. The bureaucracy remained standing and would require the submission of the basic legal documents that would ensure complete files were kept on each missing person. It would be a haunting task for the surviving family members.

In Staten Island, Linda Cammarata searched through her son Michael’s drawers for his birth certificate and other things. During her search she found something that would give ultimate meaning to the rest of the lives of each member of the Cammarata family.

She slowly pulled out a folded piece of loose-leaf paper. When she unfolded it, it read: “If anything ever happens to me…” Mrs. Cammarata stopped reading and called her other son, Joseph. What he read on the paper was heart-felt, a list of four requests to be carried out in the event Michael himself was unable to.

The first was to “take care of Jenna,” Michael’s girlfriend of seven years. They started dating when they were 14. At 22, the youngest firefighter to die on September 11, Michael Cammarata, was last seen entering the Marriott Hotel in World Trade Center Tower 3, according to witness reports.

His second request: “Don’t mourn, as this is the career I chose.” In his book, Face of Courage: Rise from the Rubble, published earlier this year, Joseph Cammarata recounted how his family questioned what could make a healthy, young man at the start of a bright, new career, write something like this. What could have happened that would provoke it?

Michael’s List

His third request, and the one that his family members would try ever so hard to satisfy: “Make my spirit live on.” It would be this request that Michael’s mother and brother would work passionately to fulfill.

Michael’s final request was simple and comforting: “Remember I love you all and will be waiting for you upstairs.”

After reading the list, Joseph said he declared, “I will be the one forever, and I do mean until I perish one day, who will relentless carry out this list.” And he has stayed true to his word.

Nearly one year after the attacks, in September 2002, the street that Joseph and Michael grew up on was renamed Firefighter Michael Cammarata Place.

It was one of 81 street renaming ceremonies announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to honor the fallen heroes of September 11, Joseph says in his book.

In the middle of 2002, the Cammarata family established the Firefighter Michael F. Cammarata Foundation, initially intended to provide scholarships to students from Tottenville High School who went on to attend college. But the Cammarata family, very active in the hockey community on Staten Island, having organized a charity hockey game in 2002. “The Fire Department of New York played against Michael’s childhood friends as another way of making his spirit live on,” Joseph said in a recent phone interview.

Because of their active role in the hockey community, “we found out that there were kids who wanted to play hockey, but couldn’t afford the equipment,” Joseph said of his family.

Kingdom Ave. at Hylan Blvd. in Staten Island, NY

At that point, the foundation changed its objective to providing money for kids who wanted to play hockey but couldn’t’ afford the equipment. On Modells.com, three top-rated hockey sticks priced at $19.99, $69.99, and $99.97; top-rated ice skates range from $39.99 to $99.97; top-rated helmets range in price from $49.97 to $84.99. These competitive prices are indicative of the significant cost of playing ice hockey. This doesn’t include all the other necessary equipment and the fees required to play in an organized league.

As of today, Joseph said that the Firefighter Michael Cammarata Foundation has helped “a couple hundred students” either play hockey or ease the costs of achieving a college education.

A Q&A with the New York Marathon’s Oldest Runner

By Chaya Rappaport

Sheldon Zinn completed the 2010 New York City marathon in just over 8 hours.

Sheldon Zinn completed the 2010 New York City marathon in just over 8 hours.

Sheldon Zinn, 87, a retired ophthalmologist, was the oldest person to complete the 2010 New York City marathon last weekend, finishing in just over eight hours. Zinn, who says he is “a believer in staying in shape,” ran his first marathon at age 73, and has run in more than 20 since then.

Always an athletic type, Zinn played racquet sports until a rotator-cuff injury forced him to consider other options. The director at his local YMCA in Arizona—Zinn has divided his time in recent years between Phoenix and Brooklyn–encouraged running, and Zinn’s youngest son, after completing a New York marathon, urged his father to do the same.

Zinn ran his first dozen- marathons with his wife, Joan, who died in 2005. In 2008, Zinn married my grandmother Judy, 76, who is not a runner, but is supportive of her husband.

A religious Jew and a humble man, Zinn began his day on Nov. 7 by praying with other marathoners who are members of JRunners, a Jewish runners club. He began the race in the late morning, and when he crossed the finish line in Central Park, very cold and tired, it was nearly 8 p.m. Judy met him at the finish line and took him back to their Brooklyn apartment, where he fell into bed and slept for five hours.

D&S: How did you train for the marathon?

Zinn: It was self-training. Most marathon aspirants get into programs where they’re part of a group and they train with coaching and the like. My training consisted of a weekly routine of running a track in the high school, tracks in the city, building up to the point where you knew you could at least do 20 miles.

D&S: Has marathon running gotten harder as you’ve aged?

Zinn: For sure. Age is going to take its toll. I think the peak, for the pros, those who really are into this, which I’m not, those who actually train and run for the monetary reward that they might get, I think the peak is in the early 30s, and after that it drops down.

D&S: Are you usually the oldest marathoner?

Zinn: I did one New York marathon in which a fellow from India, who was 92, he was in the marathon, he came in at over nine hours.

D&S: What are the perfect conditions for a marathon?

Zinn: I ran one marathon in Chicago where I remember it being cold, but the wind was at your back and Chicago is flat, and I said to myself: “If the world record is broken, this would be the condition,” and it happened that very marathon—the world record was broken that day.

D&S: As a doctor, what do you consider the health benefits of running, especially at an advanced age?

Zinn: The internists, they’ll tell their patients, go out and walk, get a little exercise, do something, don’t just eat and sit and sleep and do nothing.

I remember it was in Wisconsin, I ran into this fellow, he was from New York, and he told me that he was running a blood pressure of 160. The doctor put him on medication, but said, he could try running. [This fellow] he got rid of the medication just from running.

But there are a lot of individuals who should not be running, and you do see them on the track. The first marathon that I did was in New York—two people died. (12 seconds)

D&S: What are your goals as a marathoner?

Zinn: You know, everybody chitchats. They’ll talk about “well, how many states have you done?” You know, a lot them want to do all 50 states. It’s a goal: to do a marathon in every state in the Union. It takes a lot of money, a lot of them do it.

D&S: What was your most interesting marathon experience?

Zinn: They were all interesting, every single one of them. Washington, D.C., it was called the Marine Marathon, put on by the Marines and it was the week after the 9/11 and it was amazing, you walk, you run by the Pentagon, it’s bombed out, and they tell you no photographs. Alaska… Hawaii..Hong Kong, they were all amazing. In Philadelphia, you run across the Schuylkill River. Did one in Las Vegas. Idaho… beautiful; some beautiful scenery out there, I never realized it.

D&S: Will you run another marathon?

Zinn: I don’t know, people are telling me to do it. I was thinking in terms of dropping back to half marathons. But Simchi [Zinn’s son] told me to go for the marathon again.

 

Correction: May 8, 2013

The original version of this article stated that Sheldon Zinn is a retired optometrist. Zinn is a retired ophthalmologist.

Reflections of a First-year New York Marathoner

By Andrew Toutain

marathon_mainEarly on a crisp clear Sunday in October, 4,713 runners gathered at the Richmond County Stadium in Staten Island for a 13.1-mile half marathon, the last of the half-marathon races organized by the New York Road Runners before this Sunday’s New York marathon. For many of the runners, including teenagers and octogenarians , the Staten Island race marked the culmination of months of physical and mental preparation for the challenge ahead.

For me, the Staten Island Half Marathon was one of my last opportunities to get in a long run before the big race on November 7. Completing this race also would fulfill my nine-plus-one commitment to NYRR. As a member of the NYRR, if you finish nine of its sponsored races during the year, and volunteer for at least one other, then you receive a guaranteed spot in the ING New York City Marathon, so-called because the financial services firm is the title sponsor of the event.

The New York marathon started 41 years ago with a course that circled Central Park four times and with only 55 men crossing the finish line. A few years later, Fred Lebow, president of NYRR at the time, redrew the course to encompass all five New York City boroughs. Today, the 26.2 mile races starts in Staten Island, snakes up through Brooklyn, briefly swings through Queens before entering Manhattan at 59th street; it then touches the southern tip of the Bronx before reentering Manhattan on the way to the finish line in Central Park. Last year, the race included over 40 thousand runners and nearly 2 million spectators who line the route citywide.

I ran my first marathon last year in New York. I pushed my body further than I thought I could. Before that morning, I had only run in half marathons, with my best time just under an hour and 44 minutes; but I didn’t know if I could run twice the distance and achieve my goal of finishing in less than four hours. When I reached the finish line, last November, at Tavern on the Green, in Central Park, I saw that my time was just under three hours and 56 minutes.

Crossing that finish line was an emotional moment for me. Even though I wasn’t competing against anyone, I felt like I had achieved something important. Running is a contest with yourself; as long as you finish, you are a winner. By the time I exited the park that morning, I was already thinking, “I could do that again, and I bet I could do it faster.” That became one of my goals for 2010: to train during the year and compete in the 2010 marathon.

staten_ferry

En route to the October half marathon, the view of Manhattan from the back of the Staten Island ferry.

The NYRR Half Marathon Series began last January 24 with a race in Central Park. For many runners, it marked the start of training for this weekend’s marathon. On that frigid morning, we started the race in the southwest corner of the park, right below where I had crossed the marathon finish line three months earlier. My goal was to finish the race in under an hour and forty minutes. If I could do that, I figured, I would have a shot at beating my 2009 marathon time come November. The Manhattan Half Marathon course runs in two counter-clockwise loops around the park and ends near the Naumburg Band Shell, but the simplicity of the course is deceptive. Near the northwest corner of the park there are a series of hills that could stagger even the most capable athlete. If you take Harlem Hill for granted on your first pass, it could very well become “Heartbreak Hill” on your second loop around the park. I finished the race in just over one hour and forty minutes, a little short of my goal. I had come out too fast in the beginning of the race and then ran too strong on the first set of hills. No matter; I still had plenty of time to train before November.

Serious runners, training for a marathon, will cover 25 to 50 miles per week, with the typical marathon athlete averaging closer to 100 miles. They will train daily, get plenty of rest and stick to a well-balanced diet.
I have a different training schedule. It consists of a nine-to-five job, attending classes at Baruch College, playing in a Williamsburg band and trying to spend some quality time with my wife, all of which leaves me with about six hours of sleep per night. It also means that I squeeze my training runs in on the weekends; even during the spring and summer when I tried to run at least three times a week, I averaged a paltry 10 to 15 miles. As for diet, I enjoy the fried-cheese and potato-chip food groups, as well as a good cocktail or two in evenings. Although I don’t have best training regimen, I was able to improve my times for each of the NYRR races I entered. In June, I broke the seven-minute mile mark for the first time. In July, I ran my fastest 10k at about 46 minutes But more than logging my “personal best” times, I began to enjoy the routine of running with the NYRR – the ritual of running with a community of people who get out and push themselves for their own personal reasons.

The Queens Half Marathon, which took place on one of the hottest days last summer, tested my resolve. By the time I had reached Corona Park on July 24, the day of the run, the thermometer was already in the 80s. As I was heading home after the race, it was approaching 95 degrees. During the announcements at the start line, organizers urged the 3,600 sweating runners to “run easy.” “Don’t push yourself,” they said. “This is not the day for your personal best.” I finished well behind my goal time with one of my slowest half marathons yet, despite having tried a new running technique.

My running strategy consists of Google searches the night before one of my races. Before the Queens Half Marathon I learned about a technique called the “negative split,” which involves running the first half of a race slower than you run the second half. The idea is that you conserve your energy at the start of the race and increase your speed at about the halfway point. But during the Queens run I came out too slow and was unable to make up the time I needed to reach my goal.

For the Staten Island Half Marathon I decided to run at a smooth, comfortable pace for as long as I could and see what happened.

The Staten Island race is my favorite of the NYRR half marathons, even though I have to leave my home in north Brooklyn at 4:30 a.m. in order to catch two trains and make it to the starting line by 8:30. I love the view from the back of the ferry as it travels toward Staten Island’s St. George Ferry Terminal, Manhattan’s downtown skyline receding as the sun rises over the Brooklyn Bridge. The October race is almost always accompanied by perfect running weather. Then, too, it is the last long race before the New York marathon. Whatever the reason, for the last few years, I have always looked forward to running on Staten Island.

When I reached the finish line at the Richmond County Stadium and realized that I had beaten my own personal best by three minutes with a time of just over an hour and 37 minutes, I raised my arms in the air and clapped my hands for myself. Then I looked around for someone with whom to celebrate; but my fellow runners were in their own worlds.

Running is often a solitary experience. That’s especially true in the New York marathon, when the crowds start to thin out at the 19- or 20-mile mark, the only encouragement that matters is inside your own head. That is something I will keep in mind as I start my second marathon on Sunday.

Ghouls, Goblins and Spooky Tails

Story and photos by Kacey Herlihy

Furry pirates, tail-wagging police officers, barking rabbis, howling ballerinas, 10-inch-tall clowns, hairy super heroes, the Dog from Ipanema. It sounds like the cast of one of MGM’s All Barkies Dogville Comedies of 80 years go. But it actually took place on Thursday, on West 55th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

The Howlin’ Halloween Pet Parade and Costume Contest is just what it sounds like: pet owners gather, with their pets dressed up and ready to trick-or-treat. Among the original costumes were doggy bumblebees and bananas. More than 100 people watched the judging.

In past years, the parade portion of the event was prominent, with doggy treats supplied to the doormen on the block for distribution as the caravan marched by. This year, more than 40 dogs took part.

As participation grew over the years, the parade became unwieldy and the event is now more focused on the costume contest.

Started in 2001 by Stephanie Wallace, a local resident, the event has become a tradition in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; after Wallace moved away, Mitch and Jen Jacobson took over the coordination in 2007. Working with the West 55th Street Block Association, they collect donations at the contest to support the association’s holiday lights, which are hung on the trees each year.

“People really look forward to this, people come out, they’re rubbing elbows in the street, they bring their kids, and I think I would miss it if it wasn’t there,” said Jen Jacobson.

Mitch Jacobson added: “That’s why we picked it up; we realized it wasn’t going to happen if we didn’t do it.”

The contest’s three judges evaluate each dog’s costume based on its creativity. Prizes are supplied by local pet-related businesses, including MaizieInManhattan.com; Pet Market, on West 57th Street; and Spoiled Brats, on West 49th Street.

After all dogs were showcased, the judges had the tricky job of deciding upon the winners, and they picked Olive, a pug dressed as an olive martini. Second place was awarded to Mike and Jasper as the Olsen Twins.

The celebration “brings people together,” said Scott Johnson, who was participating for the first time.

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