Last week I spoke to Jeff Emig, the four-time AMA Supercross and
National Motocross Champion, about the fuel controversy that was
surrounding the AMA Supercross Series. Fro gave me his opinions, and we
decided to talk more later for a “Between the Motos” update with one of
the most popular riders in motocross history. I say that because Emig
always made time for the fans, he was great with the media—often going
the extra yard to help make a story work, or coming to races early to
help with local newspapers—and he was always available when someone
asked him to try to make a difference in the life of someone less
fortunate. In other words, Emig is a Hall of Famer, on and off the
Anyway, we had the interview scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but that same morning, Racer X
received a letter jointly addressed to myself and David Pingree asking
us if we could possibly print a letter about one motocross family’s
terrible ordeal on September 11, 2001, and how a rider and a promoter
helped the grieving family. This is the story of the Tumulty family, as
written by James Tumulty.
The letter is long overdue. I should have written a long time ago. It’s a story about my friends, Jeff Emig and Jonathan Beasley. It’s also a story about Bill Jenkins and the Kawasaki Motor Corporation. But it’s mostly a story about our family, and how these folks helped us after the loss of our brother, Lance, in the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/01.
The story started in the early ‘90s when our youngest brother was relocated far from our New Jersey roots to Southern California because of his job. His world was turned upside down, and the only thing that was constant was riding and racing. Lance had hours to ride every day due to the time difference and the requirement that he work during East Coast “Wall Street hours.” He rode all over Southern California, and he frequently ran into Jeff Emig, who was practicing there in the early stages of his factory career. The “homesick kid” and the “soon-to-be superstar” became track buddies.
Then our family did what families do: We had children, acquired mortgages, got promoted in the workaday lives of suit-wearing Wall Street dweebs. We always bought new bikes every year and rode as much as we could. We also continued to attend races near our home. Lance and I even found and purchased a 150-acre farm 20 minutes from Unadilla and commenced building an outdoor national-style track in the field adjacent to the home site. Riding was our favorite thing to do together, and we went riding all the time!
Then the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at approximately 8:50 am on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. The image of black smoke billowing out of the building was on every TV in the trading room where I worked, which was in midtown Manhattan on Park Avenue. Lance and I traded with each other often, so I had a direct wire. I hit Lance’s wire and he picked up. He told me that a plane had just hit the other Tower and people were jumping out of the windows of the top floors to escape the flames and smoke. I begged him to leave immediately, and he said he was going to call his wife and head for the stairs. I then hit the direct wire that I had with my other brother, Shawn, and told him that I had spoken to Lance and that he was leaving the building. We agreed that Shawn should not call Lance because we didn’t want any distractions—we just wanted him out!
For the next two days we wandered the city going from hospital to hospital with pictures, photocopies of dental records, and samples of our family DNA that we provided by pricking our fingers and letting a few drops of blood drip onto a cotton ball. But like many thousands of others, we were searching in vain. E-mail records later revealed that Lance was still at his desk, on the 84th floor of Tower 2, when the second plane hit that very location. “Lance Romance,” as we called him, was killed instantly. Our family was devastated. My mom had just lost her second of four children (my sister Jodi-Ann was killed in a car wreck some years earlier). Lance’s wife, Cynthia, became an instant widow, and his two young children were fatherless. We were truly in a terrible way.
My brother Shawn and I couldn’t believe what she had done—we were psyched! For the first time in what seemed to be an eternity, we had something to bring us together and to forget our sadness for a moment and remember the fun we had riding with our little brother, Lance.
We are also friends with Bill Jenkins, Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Kawasaki. Bill knew our pain; he had a brother-in-law who was also killed in the WTC and was very sympathetic to Donna’s call. Bill and Kawasaki arranged for a brand-new KX250 for Fro to ride, and the picture was almost complete. Needless to say, we are loyal Kawasaki customers forever.
Believe it or not, the day we left for Budds Creek, the entire state of Maryland was under a tornado watch! Several tornadoes devastated the area throughout the afternoon and evening. Fro and Jennifer, his wife, had to sit on the tarmac in Las Vegas for four-plus hours in a plane that had no air conditioning. When Fro arrived, local authorities had begun moving tornado victims into our hotel, and we saw some seriously injured folks that had just seen their homes destroyed. They were just grateful to be alive, and that helped put things back into perspective. We were alive, and that wasn’t something to feel bad or guilty about. Life’s a gift, and we were squandering it by moping around all the time.
Since then, we have ridden with Jeff Emig numerous times, and he stays with us frequently when in the area for races and other Fro biz. Our little girl, Amanda, as well as all her cousins, absolutely adore Jeff and Jennifer.
Among our family, we view the trip to Budds Creek as the beginning of the healing process. That was it. I wanted to share it with you because I feel that this is a story that needs to be told. Jeff Emig is a great champion, a great friend, and a world-class human being. Jonathan Beasley is a great guy who runs a great racetrack. And Bill Jenkins is a wonderful friend who works for a great company. Our family has been blessed by these folks in ways that I can’t adequately express in written words; they really have no idea what it meant to our family and the memory of our little brother Lance. Thank you.