September 11, 2001. I was out of work, recovering from a shoulder surgery and living at home with my parents at the time. I was woken up by my mom telling me that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center. At first, I though nothing of it, other than, “wow what a terrible accident”. At this time I figured it was a small, single engine plane or something and not a commercial air liner. I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. Then a few moments later my mother came back in, visibly shaken, to tell me the other tower was hit by another plane. At this moment, I realized this was not an accident, and that there was something going on.
I woke up and rushed downstairs. I glued myself to the television with my mom. We watched the horror, while in a state of confusion, as the reports poured in. The images of that day are burned in my mind forever. We saw people running from the buildings, trying to escape the horrors that they just endured. People in the upper floors waiving to the rescue crews. And all of those first responders, sprinting to the carnage and into the heart of evil while “doing their job”, it definitely wasn’t a typical day for them. This was not the type of situation I’m sure they signed up for. This was not an industrial fire, this was not a residential fire, this was what we learned later, an act of terrorism. The news outlets were covering the wreckage in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon and I was left in awe. The reports of flights being grounded, and how the country as a whole was now locked down.
As we continued to watch this all unfold, it was becoming more evident how critical the situation really was. Then it happened. Floor by floor the south tower began to crash down. It was a shocking sight at first and I didn’t realize what I was seeing right away. About a half an hour after that, the North tower fell. At some point during all of this I remember distinctly my mother cried out, “oh my God, all of those people are still in there”. It sunk in right then and there. 2,996 people were killed that day, and the world changed forever.
A few days had gone by, and America was trying to figure how to react, and when it would be ok to begin healing. All of the sporting events in America were cancelled, understandably, but American was beginning to need a distraction. We needed to escape the tragedy that had crippled the entire country. You see, we can say what we want to about sports. The athletes are overpaid, they are crybabies, it’s too expensive, etc. but sports have a way of distracting us from the real world. For a few hours at a time, most of the worlds problems can be put on hold while we lose ourselves in the moments on the field, or court or wherever.
The first major sporting event in New York following the tragedy was on September 21, 2001, just 10 days after the attacks. The Mets were playing the Atlanta Braves in Shea Stadium. The Mets weren’t a very good team that year, but the whole country seemed to be cheering for them that night. Atlanta was winning 2-1 in the 8th inning. Then, as if it was written in a script, Mets catcher, Mike Piazza hit one of the most important home runs in Mets, in New York, in American history; a two-run homer off of Steve Karsay to put the Mets on top. The moment was almost poetic, as the entire crowd erupted in cheers of U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A. It truly was an amazing moment. (Here is a link from YouTube that documents the moment https://youtu.be/0A3hmASpDqg ).
I’m not saying that game or any sporting event for that matter, can heal the world. But, on that night, at Shea Stadium, in New York, the country felt a little bit more resilient. If you think sports are stupid, or pointless, or whatever you think of sports, remember that night. Remember how the city of New York and all of America embraced a team, and a game, and used them to distract themselves, if only for a few hours, from the senseless tragedy just 10 days earlier. God bless everyone who was affected by this tragedy; the victims, their families, the first responders, and God bless America.