by Barrett Seaman
A bright summer day, the first full one on a planned week-long extended family vacation trip, a tentative misstep on top of a scenic waterfall and a promising young life is suddenly lost. Late Thursday morning, August 25th, 17-year-old Tyler Rosenberg, a rising senior at Irvington High School, slipped and plunged down a 50-foot rock chute of Hamilton Falls, in Jamaica VT, sustaining injuries from which he never recovered.
Tyler leaves his mother, Irvington resident Ellen Price Rosenberg, an administrative assistant at the Early Childhood Center at the Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, his father Craig, a coach at Briarcliff schools, a sister Allie, 13, an Irvington middle schooler, two sets of grandparents, an extended family of neighbors and a slew of friends, including a new girlfriend from Connecticut he had met earlier in the summer at camp.
The Vermont trip, to a family friend’s ski lodge near Stratton Mountain, had become an annual adventure for the Rosenbergs and their neighbors, Brian and Della Lenz. This summer, Ellen and the Lenz’s played chaperone to eight teenagers. The trip was scheduled from Wednesday to Wednesday, and the outing to the park at Hamilton Falls happened on the first full day, one that would become the last.
A year ago, Tyler didn’t go on the falls outing. He stayed at the ski house, bouncing a ball in every room of the house, which, he admitted later, helped him realize how much better his day would have been had he been with family and friends.
At his funeral service, where more than 800 people filled the vast sanctuary of the Westchester Reform Temple, friends and family drew a picture of a boy with a rich imagination who from an early age was able to create his own entertainment. As a child, he would transform salt-and-pepper shakers and table utensils into armies he would then deploy around a soup bowl or a plate of food.
An avid gamer, he was an aficionado of Marvel Comic characters and once formed his own tribe of Avengers. His game name, which still tops his Facebook page, was “The Arrow.”
This summer, Tyler opted to go along to the scenic falls. Along with Ellen, Della, little Brian and Logan, he started at the top, while “Daddy Brian” Lenz led the girls on the three-mile hike up the mountain. Unlike his friend Brian, who was the risk taker among the three teenage boys, Tyler stayed up top, laughing and smiling with his Mom and Della. When he moved to vacate the rock where he stood, he realized it was too risky to cross the bridge separating him from the others, so he attempted to climb back up the rock. It was then that he slipped. Ellen and Della watched as the flash of Tyler’s red shirt shot through the rocks to the middle falls some 50 feet below.
Since he was a kid, Tyler picked out his own wardrobe and invariably chose orange or red. According to family friend Peter Thomas, who gave one of the eulogies at Tyler’s funeral August 28th, he had voiced disappointment after a visit earlier in the summer to a college he had otherwise liked, because he could not find a single bottle of orange Gatorade on campus.
When Tyler fell, little Brian and Logan also watched from their vantage at the bottom of the falls, another 40 or 50 feet below. Brian quickly worked his way up the sharp incline to reach Tyler.
Three young Irishmen visiting the park, coincidentally also from Westchester, ran down the mountain to help. One of them, Jamie Lynch, was the first there and helped Brian haul Tyler onto a rock ledge.
As they trekked nearer to the falls, Brian Sr. and the girls heard people shout that a boy had fallen and quickly ran up. Daddy Brian scaled the rocks to reach Tyler and started CPR, along with the Irish boys.
Unable to get a cell connection in the remote location, Ellen grew desperate for help. She jumped in the car and headed down in search of a house with a landline. When she found one, she burst in the door, calling out for help. When none came, she picked up the phone and dialed 911. It was 30 minutes before Vermont State Police Corporal Mike Sorenson reached the scene and began to help with CPR, but to little avail. Daddy Brian refused to stop, however, and ultimately succeeded in drawing a deep breath from Tyler. Because of the dangerous terrain, the high angle rope rescuers who followed had to establish rigging to bring Tyler down from the middle pool. But he was still breathing and occasionally moving when friends and family last saw him.
A sports enthusiast, Tyler had played catcher and outfielder on Irvington’s baseball team, though didn’t make the squad last spring. Even riding the bench, he was happy to be part of the team. He was an ardent New England Patriots fan in a household and town disposed to the New York Giants. Diagnosed early with Attention Deficit Disorder, he worked hard to overcome the handicap, often with the help of Craig’s father, his “Grampa Bob” who had been a schoolteacher himself. By the end of 11th grade, Tyler was doing well enough to contemplate college and had his eyes on a career in sports management.
“Oh, he was a scootch,” Della Lenz told mourners at his funeral. “—so stubborn and could drive you absolutely crazy. Believe it or not,” she added, “at times I too can be the same. But I guess that’s why we clicked,” said a woman who was in many ways a second mother to Tyler.
Though he marched to a different drum, Tyler is remembered for displaying empathy for others. He was protective of his little sister, Allie, and solicitous as well. Middle school students at Irvington are not allowed to order lunch off campus, so Allie and her friends would text Tyler who would order from downtown eateries for them.
A medivac helicopter was dispatched to take Tyler on an 18-minute flight to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center near Hanover, New Hampshire, some 70 miles away. There was no room on the chopper for Ellen, however. After stopping by the house to drop the rest of the group off and to call Tyler’s father Craig, Ellen and Brian Sr. drove the two hours to the hospital. Craig, along with Grampa Bob, set out for the four-hour drive north from his home in Elmsford.
Tyler had had a really good summer. At Pennsylvania’s Camp Summit, he had won the Sportsmanship award, which seemed to boost his self-confidence and imbue him with a certain serenity. He had also met Ali Mayerman, a fellow camper from Connecticut, with whom he would Skype late into the night after they returned to their respective homes.
The doctors were waiting when Brian Lenz and Ellen arrived at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. She later said she knew in her heart what they would say: that Tyler’s injuries were beyond repair. He was on life support but without any prospect of recovery. She again called Craig, who was struggling to break free of New York City traffic and was still hours away. It was too late, she said. She felt she had to give them permission to let him go. He was pronounced dead at 5:13 p.m.
Della Lenz described Tyler as “a puzzle that was coming together.” The Tuesday night before they left for Vermont, Tyler went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Meadowlands, accompanied by Peter Thomas, a family friend. After The Boss’s rendition of “The Promised Land,” Peter turned to Tyler and repeated the lyrics from the chorus:
“Mister, I ain’t a boy, no, I’m a man
And I believe in the Promised Land.”
“That’s you,” said Peter. Tyler repeated the line and then grinned, acknowledging that the description fit him just fine.
The family asks that donations be made on Tyler’s behalf to a fund established in his name at the Irvington Educational Foundation, where Ellen had served as a board member.