CHESTER, Pa. — Dan Tracy had to get to his daughter, but he couldn’t get through the crowd.
Throngs of parents and siblings and friends and alumni filled the stairs at Talen Energy Stadium, clogging up his path to the short wall separating the spectators from the field where his daughter and her North Carolina teammates were celebrating their second women’s lacrosse national title. The Tar Heels had just thumped No. 1 Maryland, 13-7.
Wearing a brand new, oversized national championship t-shirt and a giant smile to match, Sammy Jo Tracy ran from the field toward the hordes of familiar faces leaning down from the concrete partition, clamoring to get close to their champions.
She had to get to her father.
Faced with an impenetrable wall of people in front of him, Dan climbed over the metal railing of the stairs, swinging his right leg over followed by his left, partially covered by a flesh-colored compression sleeve, until he stood balanced on the outside of the railing on the small sliver of stairs not meant for pedestrian traffic.
Carefully, he sidestepped down a couple of levels until he could lower himself to the stadium’s next plateau, only about two feet below him. Even still, he couldn’t get to Sammy Jo. So he jogged down the line of people at the balcony until he found an opening just in time for his oldest child to reach her father.
There, finally, Dan and Sammy Jo reunited, grasping hands in an extended high-five, celebrating all of their achievements.
“I was going to get there anyway I could,” he said with a signature New York accent.
Climbing down from the stands would’ve been impossible for Dan a year ago.
A few months prior to the 2015 women’s lacrosse final four, Dan was in the front car of a passenger train on the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem line when it struck a car on the tracks near Valhalla, New York.
Six people died, and Dan, once an All-American defenseman at Maryland, nearly lost his leg. Now, he has a metal rod inserted into his left leg, but significant blood flow and swelling issues require him to move frequently. They also make long-distance car trips, like the 8-hour trek to the ACC championship in Blacksburg, Virginia from their Bedford, New York home, impossible.
“It was just one of those things, everybody has things that happen to them,” Dan said. “It’s just unfortunate that it happened to me. Everybody rallied around me. My son was here, he was a senior in high school at the time. He was great and so was my wife. We tried to play it down to Sammy because she’s away at school and I didn’t want to, I just told her I banged up my leg a little bit. She had no idea the extent of it at the time. If anything, it brought us together.”