No story had an impact on our community this year like the death of Tom Cutinella.
A high school junior and first-year starter on the Shoreham-Wading River varsity football team, Tom died after suffering an apparent head injury in a game against Elwood/John Glenn Oct. 1. He was the third U.S. high school football player that week to die from an injury sustained on the field.
News of Tom’s death made its way onto the pages and websites of some of the nation’s largest media outlets, including ESPN, Time, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The reports all told the story of a young man who cared deeply for his family, friends and country.
At Tom’s funeral, the crowd was so large the doors to the church were eventually shut and the service was broadcast over loudspeakers to hundreds of additional mourners outside.
[The day Tom was born] was the first best day of our lives,” his father, Frank, said during the eulogy, referencing the days each of his children were born. “No other day will ever compare to that. His death was the worst day of our lives, and no other day will ever compare to that.
“Tom was the most positive person I have ever met,” he continued. “I know that Tom would want each and every person affected by his death to move forward — go back to school, go back to work, play the sports you want to play and do the things you love to do.
“Tom would never ask for a pity party. He was just too strong and positive for that. Thank you and please live life, and love life, like our Thomas.”
The Shoreham-Wading River football team would go on to complete its first-ever undefeated championship season.
Top 10 stories of 2014
No. 10: Historic district is history
No. 3: Fatalities on area roadways
No. 2: Riverhead’s budget saga