From charity, hopefully, comes healing

“It was 8:53 a.m. when we began talking. He told me he had broken off with his employees. They had gone down an express elevator to the ground level, and he had gone back to get some personal effects. For whatever reason, he just went back.

“His (office) was on the 78th floor of the South Tower. It was part sky lobby and the rest offices. We were talking on the phone, and he looked out the window, and saw Flight 175 make that left-hand bank turn on line with his office.

“He said, ‘Oh my God, Andrew, here comes another plane. I love you. Take care of the family.’

“That was it. The next thing I heard was the roar of the motors and windows shattering.

“Then the phone went dead.

“Pretty shitty thing, huh?”

Imagine that being the final conversation with your father. The roar of the motors and windows shattering. The phone goes dead. Imagine that horror.

Andrew Levine lived it, and to this day can’t get past it. He never completely will. Since that moment he has sort of wandered through life, searching for answers that will never come and for a path that might lead him to some sense of normalcy beyond the day America was attacked and his father murdered.

“I don’t know how you even approach the idea of processing something like it,” he said. “Sometimes the brain will just not let you forget. There is no closure. I’ve gone for a lot of help. I would love to get past it and to be better and better each year. It hasn’t happened.

“Maybe this golf tournament is a small way for me to process things once a year. I don’t know.”

It has been said that golf is a natural fit for all of us, mentally no matter how inflated a handicap one owns, that it satisfies the spirit among all the grass and trees, that there are few better places to heal than strolling a course, that it is where one goes to escape.

Andrew Levine also has found it a place to remember his father and nearly 3,000 others who perished on 9/11 eight years ago this week.

He will on Friday’s anniversary hold a charity tournament at Boulder City Golf Course in memory of those lost in the attacks, the third time he has done so in the name of Robert Michael Levine and others.

The first two events were held in Alabama, where Andrew lived and worked running sports bars, where he stood watching television and speaking to his father for that final time.

He is 39 and resides in Boulder City, helping out at the golf course, caddying some on the PGA and Nationwide tours, a former high school and college golfer wanting to become a fireman.

His mother died in 1997 from cancer, and he lost his sister since the 9/11 attacks. He was married two years ago, and it didn’t last. He keeps wandering.

August and September are always the worst months, because it is well known that for anyone who lost a loved one on 9/11, years might pass, but as the day nears annually, memories and occurrences are bound to return them to that moment.

However much healed, they revisit that time, and those like Andrew who battle post traumatic stress disorder can experience powerful and sporadic images of the incident. He takes medication for his disorder. It doesn’t always help this time of year.

“I always think things have to get better, because they can’t get worse,” he said. “I want this tournament each year to be a celebration of the lives lost, to bring people together, and for those who perished never to be forgotten.”

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the Injured Police Officers fund and the Firefighters of Southern Nevada Burn Foundation. It’s a four-man scramble format that begins at 8 am. The cost is $110 per player. It’s a package that includes prizes, lunch and drinks, and a performance by trick shot artist Craig Hocknull.

And at some point during play, be assured Andrew will pause and remember.

Robert Levine was a 66-year-old vice president for Baseline Financial Services, which occupied parts of floors 77 and 78 of the South Tower, the center of the impact zone for Flight 175.

He stood there Sept. 11, 2001, and watched as the plane descended from the southwest and approached his building. He stood there, telephone in hand, watched death draw near at incredible speed and said goodbye to his son.

The second of impact: 9:02:40 a.m.

“I was watching it while talking to him, but television has that seven-second delay,” Andrew said. “I had already heard the sounds on the phone. I already knew what had happened before seeing it.

“I just fell to the ground in disbelief. I just rolled up into a little ball and convulsed … My father was smart. Witty. Charming. He didn’t have to still be working at 66, but had made a deal with the owner that they would both retire at age 72 on the same day. …

“I’m sure he’d be proud of what I’m doing with this golf tournament. I’m sure he wouldn’t want America to forget.”

For information on the RML Foundation charity golf tournament, go to www.thermlfoundation.org or call 702-292-0201.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on “The Sports Scribes” on KDWN (720 AM) and www.infernosportsradio.com.

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