Archive for September, 2012

Twin towers tribute

This was published on September 11, 2002


The phone isn’t supposed to ring at 6 a.m.

That was the first thought to skitter across my mind one year ago today. The first of too many.

I thought about my family in New York — my cousin who worked inside one of the World Trade Center buildings and survived. I thought about my uncle who, until he retired three months before the attack, had served as the head of security for the Commodities Exchange, also located within the World Trade Center.

I thought about how two years earlier my wife, my daughter, and I rode the elevator to the “Top of the World” to gawk at the city below, take pictures and collect souvenirs. I couldn’t convince my 3-year old that she was actually seeing the Statue of Liberty because she thought it looked too small.

I thought about what might happen when 9 a.m. arrived on the West Coast. I sent my little girl to school a year ago today, but I didn’t want to.

Like everyone else, I thought about the meaning of life and the inevitability of death. I cried. I prayed. I called my mom and dad. I flipped from one channel to the next for no good reason. Maybe I was hoping Rather or Brokaw or Jennings would break in and announce that none of it had actually happened — that I could go back to sleep.

But it did happen. The phone rang at 6 a.m., and good news always sleeps in.

Of all the things I thought about on that day, the one thing I didn’t think about was sports.

A year ago today, I stopped caring about pennant races and home run chases. I forgot all about nickel defenses and play-action passes. It was as if someone had opened a valve in my mind and everything that made me a sports fan came flooding out. The enormity of the tragedy was too much for me to absorb and I needed to make room.

Whatever the reason, sports had to go.

I’m glad the NFL canceled its games that week, and I’m glad baseball followed suit.

We had no business cheering for our teams in the wake of so much suffering. No one had the stomach for it, anyway.

The respective sports seasons eventually restarted, but I don’t think anyone came back to the stadium or ballpark with the same fervor. We fans have always known we were watching games. We enjoyed the illusion that those games meant more than they did, but we knew better and what happened a year ago today made that obvious.

So here we are a year later and where do we stand?

Our favorite teams will take the field tonight and thousands of us will show up to cheer them on.

Some people think that’s inappropriate. Not me.

Watching a game on this bitter anniversary won’t make me or anyone else a bad person. There isn’t an American on the planet who isn’t mourning today. Some more than others, yes. But we are all mourning in our own way. We’ve been mourning for a year.

Going to a ball game on this particular day doesn’t change that.

And I know that somewhere in the world, people are celebrating today. They’re celebrating the day the United States took it on the chin.

They’re cheering and singing and dancing, and when I see them tonight on CNN, I’ll probably mutter something unpleasant under my breath.

One thing I won’t do, however, is give them something else to cheer about. I won’t rend my garments while they celebrate and I won’t wear sackcloth while they cheer.

Not today. Not ever.

I may never again be the kind of sports fan I was before last year, but I’ll never be the same kind of American, either. October is coming to my country and that means I’m watching baseball.

One of the most striking things I saw during a day full of unforgettable images appeared while I was walking through the mall. The place was eerily vacant. A small assortment of vendors dutifully remained open, but most had left.

As I made my way past the gated stores and abandoned vendor carts, I stopped in front of Prints Plus. The gate was down and the store was empty, but the last person out had left a poignant message.

On the other side of the gate stood a lone print, mounted and framed and placed on an easel. It bore a black and white photograph of the New York City skyline at night. The twin towers dominated the shot.

Majestically, defiantly pointing toward heaven, those beautiful buildings dwarfed every other skyscraper in Manhattan.

In many ways, they still do.


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