As we remembered the fallen from September 11, 2001 on its 18th anniversary this week, it was a reminder that the entirety of our youth were not yet born on that horrific day.
I remember the day well. I was in first-grade at Sugar Creek Elementary, and no outside recess had us all puzzled on a picture-perfect late summer day. When I arrived home after school, my Mom broke the news to me. I was only 7-years old, but as I watched the replay over and over of the World Trade Center towers falling that evening on TV, I was able to understand the magnitude of destruction, because we had visited New York City just a couple years earlier.
The day September 11, 2001 I remember well, but the days, weeks, months, and even years to follow are a fuzzy memory.
Now 18 years later, my yearly ritual on September 11 involves Alan Jackson’s “Where you when the world stopped turning,” and a lot of sports videos, specifically baseball.
Sports have always helped Americans find unity. And the fall of 2001 is a perfect example.
On Friday, September 21, 2001, the New York Mets played their first home game at Shea Stadium since the terrorist attacks. Trailing 2-1 with a man on, Mike Piazza sent a no-doubter home run into deep center field, giving New York citizens something to cheer about for the first time in days — an image that will forever be cemented in New York Mets history.
The Chicago Cubs didn’t play a home game at Wrigley Field until Sep. 27 following 9/11, and a similar moment was captured. Sammy Sosa ran into the outfield at the start of the game, holding an American Flag, and minutes later he homered in the bottom of the first inning, grabbed a flag from first-base coach Billy Williams and circled the bases as fans went into a frenzy.
Fittingly enough, the 2001 World Series featured the New York Yankees. And there was President George W. Bush to throw out the first pitch at Game 3 in Yankee Stadium.
I had a professor in college who was in the press box that evening, and with everyone in attendance worried of an anthrax threat, Bush didn’t care. He had to be there. He owed it to those citizens.
Bush gave the crowd a thumps up before delivering the pitch. He used sports as a way to tell New York that everything was going to be okay.
The 9/11 attacks came full circle at Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia in the spring of 2011 with the Mets taking on the Phillies. As the news traveled throughout the ballpark on May 1 of 2011 that Osama Bid Laden had been captured and killed, USA chants began to echo through the stadium.
Dark days have happened, and will continue to happen in this country, but one thing is constant, and that is sports will always shed light on better days ahead.
No matter the circumstance, and no matter the city, sports in America has always and will always bring people together.
I hope we never face another September 11, but I know that if we do — sports will be there to get us through.
Jared McMurry was born and raised in Montgomery County and is the Sports Editor of the Journal Review. He can be reached by phone at 765-918-8656 or by email at email@example.com