Sep 11

Mets To Remember September 11

Whatever they have in mind, the New York Mets will have a tasteful display tonight in honor of the September 11 terrorist attacks. It will be emotional, especially for the first responders who lost family and friends, it won’t reach the level of the night when baseball returned to New York at Shea Stadium and Mike Piazza permanently reached folk hero status.

Nothing can duplicate that night because nerves were still frayed raw and lower Manhattan was continuing to smolder.

Every year we remember, as we should, and the events of that day will simply be identified by the date, similar to December 7 and June 6.

Americans died then, and sadly, there are fewer and fewer who remember. September 11 will stay fresh for a long time, especially since Americans are still dying in the Middle East, one of the ramifications of that day.

Like all of you, I remember where I was and what I was doing at the time. I’ll never forget, and don’t need a slogan to help me remember.

My wife and I were on the New Jersey Turnpike, just having passed the exit to Philadelphia, when I heard the news on the radio. At first it was one plane and details were sketchy. Then it was two and all the world knew it was no accident.

We were moving to New York from Maryland. Our movers were volunteer firemen from New York. They left our stuff at one of the rest stops and hustled back into the city before the bridges were closed.

We had to drive north through New Jersey and circle back down into Connecticut to get to our new home. There was no television hook-up, but I was transfixed by the radio coverage, like America was on December 7 and June 6.

I was covering the Yankees at the time, and they were to open a series with the Chicago White Sox that night. I suppose the White Sox got home by bus, passing the volunteers heading the opposite direction into New York.

Both the Mets and Yankees were commendable in their efforts to comfort, but sadly some shots were fired across the bow as to which organization did more. The Mets were in the forefront because the Shea Stadium parking lot was used as a staging area, and there were countless photos of Bobby Valentine and his players loading supplies.

Both teams visited hospitals and fire houses in the city, as the Mets did yesterday.

I never felt safer on an airplane than when play resumed and the Yankees traveled to Chicago. “We hate the Yankees, but love New York,’’ read several banners.

It was an odd feeling to watch baseball again, but as the game progressed, it became more comfortable.

But not normal. Never normal again.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

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. The 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.