He became a legend for the way he played the sport of lacrosse, but Cornell's Eamon McEneaney's impact as a person was far greater than that as a player.
In May 2001 the undefeated 1976 national champion Cornell men's lacrosse team held its 25th reunion at the 2001 NCAA Lacrosse Championship at Rutgers University. The team attended the games and was introduced to the huge crowd during halftime of the championship game. A few months later one of the team's biggest stars, attackman Eamon McEneaney, died in the attack on the World Trade Center.
Former Cornell coach Richie Moran noted, "It was a sort of godsend we were all able to get together."
McEneaney, a three-time first-team All-American (freshman weren't permitted to play varsity then), played on two national championship squads -- 1976 and 1977 -- as part of a 29-game win streak. Cornell was 44-2 with McEneaney. He won the 1975 Turnbull Award as Division I attackman of the year and was the 1977 Division I Player of the Year, as well as 1975 and 1977 Ivy Player of the Year.
He set NCAA tournament records for assists, tournament points, and game assists, and was voted outstanding player of the 1977 championship game. McEneaney represented the U.S. in the 1978 world championships, and was elected to the Cornell Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982 and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1993.
He came to lacrosse early, playing for Hall of Fame coach Bill Ritch at Sewanhaka High School of Long Island from 1971 to 1973. At Cornell McEneaney was also a two-time football letterwinner who led the team in receptions, was second in team scoring, and was second-team All-Ivy as a wide receiver in 1976. He also met his wife, Bonnie ('78), as she recounted to Newsday, "There was a streaking. I met him in a bar. He was wearing a towel and I said, 'I like your outfit.'"
After Cornell McEneaney worked for the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald, where he rose to senior vice-president and limited partner. He was planning to cut back and work from home so he could spend more time with his four children and on his other passion — writing poetry.
During the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, McEneaney was credited with leading 63 people down 105 flights to safety, helping them form a human chain. He performed head counts at each landing to make sure no one was left behind.
Richie Moran recounted another story of Eamon. Earlier in 2001 he and McEneaney were walking in Manhattan when a homeless man approached and appeared to be well acquainted with McEneaney. Moran inquired whether he had given the man money. McEneaney said no, but he had been taking the man out to lunch once a week.
On April 27, 2002, at the Cornell ceremony retiring McEneaney's uniform number, Moran said "We'll never forget No. 10, he had a heart the size of his chest." To honor his memory, Cornell created the Eamon McEneaney Memorial reading series. Cornell University Library also published a volume of his poems in 2005 titled "A Bend in the Road."
After his death, McEneaney's family started a search to recover a painting artist Leroy Neiman completed after watching Cornell play Johns Hopkins as a guest of lacrosse alumnus Robert Rule. Neiman gave Rule the painting after his visit. The painting was found in the home of Bill Brine, one of the founders of Brine Lacrosse, who didn't know the McEneaney family was looking for it. The painting features No. 10 in the center, with the ball, head down, driving to the goal through a wall of blue defenders.
"Eamon is often touted as the toughest Cornell athlete, pound for pound, that ever wore a Cornell jersey. I have never heard this reputation challenged," said Cornell Athletic Director J. Andrew Noel.
— Suzanne Eschenbach