By KEVIN CANESSA Jr.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. —
I must have been 5 or so. It was 1979.
I was in the living room with my grandpa, Tom, and as usual, as was the case every day at 5 p.m., we had Channel 4 on for the news. It was likely Chuck Scarborough behind the mic and in front of the camera.
They broke to a story about Ed Koch, the mayor of New York.
"How come he says 'ahhhh' all the time?" I asked my grandpa.
"That's just how he talks," grandpa told me.
Grandpa wasn't the biggest fan of Koch — the mayor was a liberal Democrat, and grandpa was a Republican who loved Richard Nixon.
And yet, despite Grandpa's views of Koch, I loved the man. I was 5, and it was the beginning of a love affair with politics, one I didn't realize was happening at the time, but one I know of now that I look back at it.
There are so many reasons why Ed Koch will go down as one of the most beloved politicians in my lifetime.
Perhaps it's the notion that like me, he came from humbled beginnings in the Bronx (I from Jersey City). Perhaps it's because he told it like it was. Perhaps it was because he cared more for the little guy than he did the big banks and unions.
Perhaps it's because he could be friendly with fans — like everyone in the Democratic Party — and with his foes, like the-late John Cardinal O'Connor, with whom he never saw eye to eye, but who saved him a seat every Christmas Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Perhaps it was because every time he spoke, you knew it was coming from his heart, and not form a terribly awful prepared speech laid into a teleprompter.
Most likely, it was just because Ed Koch was seriously just like you and me.
Before he died, Koch told The New York Times he wanted to be remembered as "being a proud Jew who loved the people of the City of New York and did his best to make their lives better."
And that's precisely what he did.
He made the lives of millions of people better.
He restored pride to New York City at a time when the city was burning (Summer of 1977), had no money (Ford to City: Drop Dead), there was no law and order and people just wanted to get the hell out.
After he was mayor, New York was safer. People wanted to stay.
People wanted to come.
And regardless of what your political affiliation is or was, there's no doubt — he truly did make people's lives better.
And our world is short one great man today.
Somehow, I suspect, St. Peter and the Lord are getting an earful right about now — and they're probably close to changing their minds about a lot of things.
Rest in peace, Ed Koch.
Rest in peace.
And thank you for making me love politics like few others could.
|One of the final photos taken of Koch, during a recent hospital stay.|