Gulf volleyball freshman worries about her firefighting relative

This article appeared in the Tampa Tribune on Sept. 21, 2001.

Tribune correspondent Gulf freshman Amy O'Brien was a bridesmaid at her cousin Jennifer's wedding in New York this summer.

She watched with a smile on that July 7 afternoon as Jennifer and New York City firefighter Kevin Reilly looked into each other's eyes and exchanged their vows.

To O'Brien, her cousin's new husband was larger than life. He was fun, brave and handsome.

He was committed to his new wife, 'Til death do you part."

Reilly also was committed to his job as a New York City firefighter in Division 11, Battalion 31 Engine 207 out of Brooklyn.

Now, it is believed death has parted the newlyweds.

Reilly was one of the first firefighters who rushed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 to save the people trapped in the building following the terrorist attack.

O'Brien watches with sadness wondering if the man she danced with at the reception will ever be found.

The building collapsed with Reilly reportedly in the lobby.

O'Brien, who plays for the Bucs volleyball team, is trying to keep her mind off the family and national tragedy.

"It's not easy," O'Brien said.

She resumed play this week for the Bucs, but there are times when Coach Shari Schau can see her young player's thoughts drift to lower Manhattan.

"The biggest thing is to keep an eye on her," Schau said. "She keeps to herself. I ask how she's doing. She doesn't bring it up. You can tell her mind is sometimes elsewhere."

When O'Brien heard of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, her first thought was of her uncle, another New York City firefighter.

He was OK, but concern about Reilly quickly replaced that relief.

O'Brien tries to replace the thoughts of the tragedy with memories of Kevin's recent trip to New Port Richey, where the two played board games and laughed.

"He is young and cared a lot about people," O'Brien said. "I saw a brave guy. If he wasn't trapped, he would be part of the rescue."

As a tribute to the heroes and the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, O'Brien's teammates have banded together before every game for the singing of the National Anthem.

The song wasn't part of the pre-game ritual, but the suggestion by Schau made it a fitting tribute.

O'Brien's teammate Ruthie Vaughn, who is always singing on the bus during road trips, was the obvious choice.

"It's something I can do," Vaughn said. "This is the best thing we can do. There's not much else we can do."

"We do it for the fans, ourselves and the whole country. It's the small things we can do to pull everybody together."

As O'Brien continues to play, she knows wins and losses are not important.

There are thousands of people like her who have a loved one feared dead in New York.

"Who really cares about volleyball right now," O'Brien said, not sure of her coach's reaction.

"She's right," Schau said. "It's OK to think that. Right now, you have a hard time coming up with reasons to do this."