Father of Fallen Fighter Finds Solace in Baseball

The Band of Dads reported to the World Trade Center site every day for nine months and dug into haunted ground. The fathers tunneled into holes, speared debris with shovels — they stood still, looking for flies, because flies lay eggs where a body decomposes.

Lee Ielpi, who will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday’s Mets game at Citi Field, was one of about eight retired FDNY firefighters who formed the core of that Band of Dads, and the only one to recover his son’s body in full, on Dec. 11, 2001. Jonathan Ielpi was 29, had two young boys, and worked at Squad 288 in Queens.

Twelve years later, Ielpi, 69, is president of the September 11 Families Association and co-founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center, located near Ground Zero. His peace forever crumbled with those towers, and his months digging left him with cancer, nodules on both lungs, and unfathomable memories. Now, he devotes his days to telling stories, educating people about the attacks, and preserving the legacy of his “buddy.”

The Mets have nurtured strong ties to New Yorkers impacted by the worst moment in our history.

“David Wright came here when he just started with the team” Ielpi says, standing in the middle of his Tribute Center. “And he is a down-to-earth, snot-nosed kid. This kid, you can see the family values. And Jay (Horwitz) has brought them here every year. David Wright, Dillon Gee, a lot of other guys. Jay has always been there for us.”

Ielpi volunteered his own memories in generous detail — this is what they do here, an intense museum at which every guide was personally present during the attack, some in the towers — but continually insisted that this story focus on crediting the Mets for their long-term involvement.

For more information, view www.nydailynews.com

No posts to display