Sep 11

September 11 Remembrance

Certain historical events are remembered simply by the date. September 11, 2001, is one. December 7, 1941 is another, as is June 6, 1944. I have been to the World Trade Center, both the original and the Memorial. I also visited Normandy, France, and the United States cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach might be the most sobering thing I have ever seen.

I hope someday to visit Pearl Harbor.

Like many who remember where they were when the Kennedys were shot, when Elvis died and John Lennon was murdered, I know exactly where I was when the planes hit. I was covering the Yankees at the time and moving from Maryland to Connecticut. I just passed the Philadelphia exit on the Jersey Turnpike when the first plane hit.

Any doubt it was an accident was dispelled when the second plane hit. Of course, it was a terrorist attack. Anybody could tell that instantly. Those who still don’t believe have the same mentality as those who doubt the Holocaust. Then again, there are those who probably believe the Earth is still flat.

Our movers were volunteer NYC firemen. They told us the river passages would soon be shut down and they had to hustle to get over the George Washington Bridge. So, they left our truck at a rest stop and took off. My ex-wife and I knew we’d never make the bridge, figuring there would be massive traffic delays at that exit. We kept driving north – we actually saw a sign for Montreal – then turned and headed south into Connecticut. What took usually four hours lasted 11.

All the while, without television, I was glued to the radio, the way most of America learned of Pearl Harbor and D-Day. Our stuff came two days late. I plugged in the TV and that’s when I saw the images for the first time. I’ve seen them a thousands more, including too many to count this afternoon.

i knew it would be days before I covered another game. I kept waiting for the official announcement from Bud Selig, but it didn’t come for hours until after the NFL cancelled its schedule for the upcoming week. Security was tight at Yankee Stadium when it was opened for a practice. I remember the team gathering at the mound before talking with us and shared their stories of meeting with emergency personnel and those who lost family and friends.

Thankfully, I didn’t know anybody who was killed, but felt I had when I visited the Memorial years later and saw the photos and read the tribute letters. Family and friends of the murdered brought their loved ones alive for the world to get to know.

Both the Yankees and Mets were gracious in visiting firemen, the police and family members of those killed. The Shea Stadium parking lot was turned into a staging area. Nobody will ever forget Bobby Valentine and his Mets loading trucks.

Both teams were unified in their support of the city. Publicly, they acted as champions. What was disturbing was when players from each team took verbal swipes at each other as to what organization did more the city. It goes to show there’s always pettiness, even in the midst of graciousness.

Mike Piazza’s homer in the first game played in New York after the attacks, and the coming together of the Mets and Braves on the field that day created one of the most memorable scenes in New York sports history. More such stirring moments came from the Yankees during the World Series. While the grand moments are easy to remember, there was some things that get lost in the shuffle. Such as the bald eagle making his entrance into the Stadium, President Bush throwing out the first pitch with a perfect strike, and the singing of God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, something that has become a New York tradition.

There was also the last Series game at the Stadium, when the crowd chanted for Paul O’Neill.

The Yankees returned in Baltimore, and the press box at Camden Yards was where I saw Piazza hit the homer. From there, it was on to Chicago. I never felt safer on a plane than I did on that flight. I’ll always remember a sign at the new Comiskey Park that read. “Hate the Yankees; Love New York.”

The Yankees, normally booed, were treated kindly the rest of the season on the road.

A lot of those memories came flooding back today as they do every year. So do the feelings, ranging from anger to frustration to patriotism to sadness.

They’ll return again next year.

 

 

 

 

Sep 12

Reflecting ….

While September 11 meaning different things to different people, to everyone it was a day of reflection. So, I reflected.

The documentary detailed the times when the terrorists checked in for their flights, about the same time I was hitting the road outside Washington D.C., for New York, following the moving van with my furniture and belongings.

I was covering the Yankees at the time after a long stretch on the Orioles and was moving to Connecticut.

Ten years later, I am still mesmerized by the ungodly sight of the planes ripping into the World Trade Center and the buildings that were supposed to last forever crumbling into dust.

I was on the New Jersey Turnpike when I heard the news. My cell rang shortly after and it was the movers, who were also volunteer NY firemen. They had to leave my stuff at a rest stop and try to make it into the city. I knew they didn’t have much time to reach the George Washington Bridge. By this time, it was evident this was no accident and the airports around the country, as well as the major bridges into New York would be closed.

With the bridges blocked I had to keep driving north before back tracking into Connecticut. What was normally a little over four hours took closer to ten. At one point, I saw a sign with the miles before the Montreal exit.

I listened to the radio the way they used to listen to the news reports during World War II. I didn’t see my first video of the attacks until late the next day when I caught a glimpse on a restaurant television. I could only imagine what they were talking about on the radio.

My thoughts were of rage and anger, and years later those feelings still simmer. They barely diminished with the news of bin Laden’s death. I will never forget, or forgive for what happened. Those who can are better than me.

When baseball resumed, I was in the press box in Baltimore and watched on television when Mike Piazza hit that homer against the Braves. The only other time I saw writers clap in a press box was the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record.

I’ve watched replays dozens of times and get the same chill. Surfing the coverage Sunday I watched a replay of the pre-game ceremonies from that night. Last night’s ceremony didn’t have the same impact – no way it could – but was simple and poignant the same.

The Mets did a tremendous job then and now.

At the time, the Yankees were also magnanimous in their generosity toward the families of the victims, the fire and police. There was never a competition between the teams on which team gave, or grieved, more.

The emotion in the Yankees clubhouse was just as genuine as it was in Shea.

I felt no fear of flying. I didn’t feel inconvenienced at the security gates and those first few flights were a breeze. Many of the planes flew half empty. I didn’t even mind being searched at the ballpark. For the rest of that summer, it was part of the process. Besides, my inconvenience was nothing compared to others.

Although I didn’t lose anybody at the Towers, I knew people who did and grieved for them. I still do.

The Yankees were going to make the playoffs that year. They always did. But, the games didn’t have the same edge as usual. The buzz returned during the playoffs.

I was inspired at the show of patriotism during the World Series, one of the most compelling sporting events I ever covered. Those three games at Yankee Stadium were as exciting as I’ve ever seen.┬áThe Yankees were frequently booed on the road, but the edge was off that fall, as if jeering them was a sign of disrespect for New York.

After awhile, I was tired of the “win it for New York,” sentiment and stories. Every day it was the same thing. I enjoyed the break when Yankees fans chanted for Paul O’Neill when he played his last game at the Stadium during that Series. That was really back to baseball for me.

As the years passed and I reflected on this yesterday, I became more jaded and less trusting. In airports, I look at people and wonder who they are and their intentions.

I didn’t lose anybody, but I’ve been impacted, as all of us. The economy has been on a downward spiral the past decade, which can’t be refuted regardless of your affiliations. I support our military, and have been moved at scenes like at the airport in Atlanta several years ago everybody in that lobby stood and cheered when a company of soldiers marched through.

Even so, those years in Iraq drained us to the point of recession, inflation and unemployment. I thought about that yesterday, too, and wondered when it will end.

My life, as has yours, changed over the last decade.

Politically, I might be more jaded, but I do have a sense of appreciation for the fragility of life that might not have previously existed. Maybe it is about getting older, but part of it was acknowledging my feelings after listening to people talk through their tears yesterday.

People who lost more than I.