Parking their golf bags outside of the Shillelagh Club on Prospect Avenue soon after dawn on Tuesday, nearly a dozen men met inside the club to prepare themselves for the Be a Hero for Zero walk to the World Trade Center.
And for the past five year, golf caddies Greg Corbo and local resident Ken Cooke have been doing just that.
Corbo, from Lancaster, Pa., but who grew up in Montclair, began the walk in 2008 with Cooke to remember those in the area who died in attacks. Only Corbo and Cooke made the trek into the city those first two years. But last year there more, and this year they led about nine other caddies.
“It is part of history. It was a national catastrophe,” said Corbo about the Sept. 11 terror attacks early Tuesday morning. “Let’s just take one day out of our lives to remember what happened and pay respect.”
While remembering all those who had died, Be a Hero for Zero also highlights specific local people who perished that day. In the past, the group has walked for individuals such as Thomas Knox, son of the Shillelagh Club founder, Harry Knox.
This year, the group decided to walk for Michael Finnegan and John Murray, two members of the Rock Spring Country Club in West Orange.
The walk can be grueling, said Cooke. It is roughly 25 miles, and the men carried golf bags, some even two bags. In addition, the men carried a large American flag and a sign with the names of Finnegan and Murray on it.
“It is a commitment to all those who perished that day,” said Cooke. “If I can give something back in some degree I’d do it, and this is how I do it.”
The men began their haul by walking from the Shillelagh Club to the intersection of Prospect and Northfield avenues where they touched the Rock Spring Country Club sign.
“Kind of like how Notre Dame touches the sign, we’re going to touch the sign,” said Corbo. “We are going to give the [Finnegan and Murray] their day.”
The gang walked their way to Newark Penn Station where they caught the train to the World Trade Center.
And then it was to the World Trade Center where they usually do a few laps. But when they arrived at the site, the group was invited into the National September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero by the New York Police Department.
"The guys were so stoked about it," Corbo said. "It really touched us. We were real happy about it and it gave us another boost of energy."
After seeing the memorial, the group headed toward Battery Park where they knocked golf balls into the Hudson River labeled with the initials of those who passed away 11 years ago.
Corbo said he is looking forward to next year, where he hopes to garner more support and have an even larger group walk its way into the city.
“We’re just going to keep doing it,” said Corbo.