PHILADELPHIA – Joe Maddon remembered exactly where he was when he first heard about the 9/11 attacks, almost 3,000 miles away from the Twin Towers at his house in Long Beach, California.
“I got into my Dodge Ram pickup truck and turned the radio on,” Maddon recalled 14 years later. “Reports were coming in and I really thought it was another ‘War of the Worlds’ kind of a hoax.”
It would hit very close to home. At the time, Maddon worked as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach for the Anaheim Angels, part of the long journey that led him from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to Lafayette College to ultimately becoming a star manager with the Cubs.
Maddon remembered his old fraternity brother, Neil Levin, who had been appointed executive director of The Port of Authority of New York and New Jersey in March 2001.
“We had just been in contact for the first time in 20-some years prior to that,” Maddon said before Friday’s doubleheader against the Philadelphia Phillies. “I knew that he worked at the World Trade Center. My thought was: ‘OK, it happened early enough. He’s the boss. Please don’t go to work early.’”
Maddon said Levin was in the Windows on the World restaurant atop the North Tower when the plane crashed into the building.
“I believe he would have been governor of New York by now had he lived,” Maddon said.
The two college buddies lost touch after Lafayette but reconnected as Levin climbed the political ladder, getting a big job with the agency that now oversees One World Trade Center, the PATH rail system and the region’s major airports, bridges and tunnels.
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“I kept badgering the Yankees every time we went into town, because I figured somebody’s got to know the head of the New York Port Authority,” Maddon said. “I couldn’t find (his phone number) anywhere. I couldn’t find any friends that had it.
“So I finally ran it down and gave him a (call). We talked not a month before it happened. We were making plans.”
Sitting in the visiting dugout at Citizens Bank Park, Maddon remembered Levin as a “wonderful guy” who “looked a lot like Al Pacino. Looked like the ‘Serpico’ character.”
Levin died at the age of 46, one of the thousands of casualties remembered across the country on Sept. 11.
“Neil’s gone,” Maddon said. “A lot of people have a lot of different stories. But Neil was my horrible moment from that day.”