I just wanted to share this great story written for today’s paper by columnist Rick Carpiniello. It dealt with Holy Child senior Danielle Riverso, whose father Joe was a former Stepinac football player and coach. Joe worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died on 9/11 at just 34 years old.
As Joe Riverso’s old team begins another season tonight, here’s the story of his daughter — an athlete and part of her dad’s living legacy…
RYE — Joe Riverso is forever 34 in his daughter’s eyes. He lives in photos around the West Harrison home where Danielle and her mom, Jodi, live. He is stuck in her memory, as her youth softball coach who used to blast Beatles tunes when the two of them drove in his car, and as someone who made her laugh, who gave her chewing gum when her mother wouldn’t or would buy her ice cream after she watched him work a practice as an assistant football coach at Archibishop Stepinac High.
People tell Danielle she looks like Joe, and her mother tells her she’s stubborn like her dad, too, but that she also has so many of his great qualities, especially athletically.
But Danielle Riverso’s memory of her dad is limited. She had just turned 7, and just started second grade at the Good Counsel elementary school in White Plains when Joe perished on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center, where he worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.
Danielle, now 17 and a senior volleyball and basketball player at The School of the Holy Child in Rye, is certainly not the only child of a Sept. 11 victim, and probably not the best athlete among them.
But she is a shining example of the strength and character of the thousands who lost a parent that dark day. She has met many of them over the years, at America’s Camp for 9/11 kids in Massachusetts.
“There’s got to be other people who have the same story as me,” Danielle said. “It’s nice to know that other people feel the way that I do.”
She remembers Sept. 11, 2001. She remembers being in school, and being confused, that it seemed something weird was going on, that kids were being taken out of school by parents.
“From then on, I think I blacked out a week,” she said. “And I don’t even remember when (memory) started up again, but I know I’m missing parts.
“I didn’t realize this was thousands of people this happened to. I remember I was hysterically crying. I didn’t know other people felt that way when I was little. I remember sitting on the bed with my mom, and she said we were waiting for him to call. And I remember being confused. That was all.”
She went through grief counseling by Oct. 2001, and today, Danielle Riverso is a beacon of strength and perseverance .
She is a very good high school volleyball player, a fourth-year player, a team captain who last year played through a severely sprained ankle — as her dad would do as a Stepinac football player long ago — in the league championship game. It was an injury that was so bad that she missed the first three weeks of basketball season.
“Oh my God,” Jodi said. “It amazes me that she’s so much like Joe and he’s not here. Athletically, the man loved football. He would stand out there with a broken leg. She’s the same way. She’s committed to a sport. Just committed, not only to her athleticism, but to her school, which he was, too. He was to a fault sometimes. She’s the same way.”
Danielle is a straight-A student, an all-league athlete and just one of so many great stories to rise from that horrific day.
“The really great kids, they rise to the top,” Holy Child athletic director John Pizzi said. “And that’s Danielle. She’s beloved by the community. The sign of admiration for her is just amazing.
“People know her. It’s not ‘She’s that great volleyball player.’ It’s ‘That’s Danielle,’ because she’s just a great all-around person.”
Which is what they used to say about Joe. Danielle gets a kick out of wearing his football jersey to the Sports Page Pub in White Plains, where Joe worked as a young man, and having complete strangers tell her stories about her dad.
“I’ve seen stories on the flip side of this,” Jodi said, “But I believe the majority of them thrive because you have two choices when this happens. You can dig your head in the sand and let your kid lose two parents, or you can rise above the ash and work with them and take care of them, and guide them and support them. Evil didn’t prevail in her case, and the cases of many other kids. And she will go on to greater things from here.”
Danielle likes to give back. She worked at a camp this summer for underprivileged kids in New York City.
“She stayed down there for a week with them,” Jodi said, “and came home saying, ‘You know what? My life isn’t so bad today. As bad as my tragedy was, it’s not so bad.’ ”
Holy Child basketball coach Mickey Duignan was a firefighter for 20 years in New York City. He was summoned to the World Trade Center the night of the tragedy, and every season he brings his athletes to his fire department as a life lesson.
Duignan said that Danielle is the kind of player you want to take the last shot, or the two free throws, in the final seconds of a one-point game — not because she’s a good shooter as much as she’s the type of person who would accept that responsibility and thrive with it.
Duignan recited a quote from Vince Lombardi:
“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back,” Lombardi said. “That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”
Duignan read it again.
“If you believe this quote to be true,” Duignan said, “then Danielle Riverso has lived a glorious life.”