We all remember September 11th. It is one of those things that (without conforming to cliche) we “all remember where we were.”
The fact that this monstrous and horrific event occurred a decade ago is absolutely logic-defying. How could something that unfolded a decade ago impact life still until this day? It is puzzling to say the least, but nonetheless, does ring true in just about any policy that resonates outside of the aura that the “government” of the United States possesses.
I will withhold from deterring comments though for now, as this is solely meant to be a reflection of my personal 9/11 story. I know it is a little early, but I felt that with the hectic schedule that comes with college, this may be the only chance that I get to really say what I want to say.
September 10, 2001. I can remember it ever so distinctively. It was a Monday evening, and the next day I was set to go into New York City for a second-opinion on my back. I have lived with Kyphosis (if you don’t know what it is, think Scoliosis but in the upper part of the back) for all of my life, and at this point had been about three years into treatment via a back brace. My father was going to take me to work with him, at some point in the day see a specialist, and then head out to the Yankee game at night (versus the Tampa Bay Rays, I believe it was).
I can remember being so excited. I was going to miss school (and yes, subsequently my best friend’s birthday, something for which he still hasn’t forgiven me to this day), and get to spend a day at work with my father. I went to bed at around 11:30 p.m. or so because I had just finished watching “RAW IS WAR” on TNN, having been so pumped after seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin wreak havoc on Team WWE during the Invasion angle. Yes, I still remember that like it was yesterday.
I woke up at around 6:00 AM the next morning. My father and I set out to catch the morning bus by Sam’s Club at around 7:00 a.m., and were en route to NYC shortly thereafter. I had with me my CD player, which I was using to give the new BeeGees album This Is Where I Came In a spin. I got through most of the album, and at about 8:40 a.m. (which is an estimate based on the events that would follow), we headed towards the Lincoln Tunnel.
For those unaware, the Lincoln Tunnel runs parallel to the World Trade Center.
At this point I looked over, marveled at the behemoth structures in front of me. All the skyscrapers left me dwarfed and stunned, but nonetheless in awe. I looked at my father, who had this strange look on his face, a look that I had never seen before. Nothing appeared to be wrong, but I could tell he had a sense of uncertainty in his eyes. It is a sight that has stuck with me to this day, and when asking him about it in the past, he has told me that he just “had an odd feeling” about that day.
At around 8:42 a.m., we entered the tunnel, and came back out the other side. We walked the distance from the Port Authority to his office, about nine blocks. Nothing appeared to be wrong at the time. There was no panic on the streets, no rush in anyone’s step.
Upon reaching his building, we went upstairs to the third level, where his office at Nipkow & Kobelt was located. No more than three minutes after we entered his room, one of the sales reps burst in.
“Two planes just struck the World Trade Center, turn on the radio!”
My father threw down his papers and yelled the only thing that he could: “F**k!”
The first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., four minutes after we had just passed it.
Following this, all else was forgotten in the work world. There were no more thoughts of going to the doctor, or the Yankee game for that matter. At this point, it was a matter of shock.
The towers proceeded to collapse, a rumble which likely could have been heard for miles. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when they did, but that may just be due to memory and the fact that my father’s office faced a rather secluded section of a street.
Obviously the first thing my father did was call my mother and assure her everything was okay. I was shaken and most definitely cried several times throughout the day, but I didn’t quite understand the severity of what had happened. The only thought that kept going through my mind was that the Empire State Building was now the tallest building in New York City. I guess that’s what goes through a third grader’s mind though.
From here, it became chaos. Nobody knew if the attacks were over. We began to hear reports of the other hijackings, including the crash of United 93 in Pennsylvania. Immediately, people knew it was Bin Laden. It was a sick realization that the United States was now at war, after a period of what had been relative peace with the outside world. It was incredibly difficult to fathom that a war was going to occur, and I had a hard time understanding the impact that would come of it.
At around 1:00 p.m., my father grabbed me while I was eating a snack and sprinted towards the door. I had absolutely no idea what was happening. The entire office building soon followed, and rendezvoused in the main lobby. I could see out on the streets everybody was sprinting north. My father went outside the building to find out what was happening. Turns out, a piece of a building that was under construction had come off due to their being no attendants (most had left following the attacks), and people interpreted it as a bomb.
If there has ever been a moment in my life where I thought I was staring death in the face, that was it.
We returned to the building, and began plotting our next hurdle: Getting home. All of the buses were not going to run for at least twelve more hours, and driving anywhere at this point would be futile. My dad contacted an associate at another office who took the train out of New Brunswick to get in the city everyday, and he agreed we could take it and then he would drop us off back in East Brunswick.
Once we met up with him at around 5:00 p.m., we headed towards Penn Station. As we walked towards Madison Square Garden, we passed televisions in stores showing the horror unfolding (at this point, we had not seen videos as we only had access to a radio and the multimedia content online was not quite up to date). It was unreal, and incredibly difficult to watch.
Then we reached the train station. Never in my life have I seen the human form take on that of a pack of animals. Swarms of people with absolutely no idea of where they are heading. In honest truth, it was just as what The Joker had said in The Dark Knight:
“Introduce a little anarchy, upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos.”
As I held my dad’s hand, a man with a large briefcase ran past us and hit me in the head with it. To this day I still have a mark on my head from it, though it didn’t really formulate until a little while after. They were giving away free train tickets, and we promptly headed home. On the ride back, we could see in the distance the pillowing smoke and flames that resonated from Ground Zero. On the right of me was an advertisement for the United States Army. Surreal sight.
On May 1, 2011, I was doing my late-night tweeting as I always do. My goal over the past several years has been to break sports news at a rapid pace, mostly to inform my friends and to help out my website. For this, I’ve established somewhat of a reputation (not always good, of course).
At around 9:00 p.m., a story broke that Barack Obama had scheduled an emergency press conference concerning a huge breakthrough with national security. Immediately I began conversing with some friends as to what it could be, with Bin Laden being in the back of my brain. Could it be that we had finally conquered this terrorist figure after nearly a decade of hunting? I didn’t want to get ahead of myself.
Then, about 30 minutes later, I received the update over Twitter. It read:
“Source: Bin Laden Killed”
Seconds later, I got the news up on Facebook, literally getting dozens of “likes” and non-believing comments immediately. I was in shock. I ran in to my parents room, telling them to turn on the news quickly. I even went to wake up my grandmother and tell her of the news.
When our president announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden, it was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I often use the term “coming full circle”, but this was the epitome of that statement. Even though I had not lost anyone directly in the attacks of 9/11, I felt a small sense of closure for something that scarred my brain for 10 years. It was elation, it was shock, but most importantly, it was right.
When we connect September 11 to the sports world, we think of all the emotion that drove these athletes to forgo tragedy and compete at their absolute highest levels. We remember Mike Piazza hitting his game-winning home run against the Braves just 10 days after the tragedy. We remember the tremendous World Series that followed (something that will be elaborated upon later this year) and gave sports some of its most dramatic moments of all-time. We remember the triumphant return of football.
And why do we remember?
Because sports gave us hope. It gave me as a 10-year-old boy hope. It gave the firefighters who climbed the stairs of the towers hope. It gave those who lost their loved ones hopes.
They provide us with memories and dramatic events that allow us to transport ourselves in an entirely new world, one where only intense competition matters above all else. In this time, we learned to appreciate the serenity that all sports brought us, and embraced it with open arms. Had the leagues decided not to return as soon as they did following the attacks, I’m not so sure the nation could have handled any more days of a stagnant and hopeless life.
A decade later, sports continue to offer us a getaway to the other worrisome aspects of life. They are our vacation spot. Our go-to place in times of trouble. Sports helped me move past 9/11. It was because of sports, in a way, that I was even in New York City on that fateful day. The day inspired me to become who I am today, to stand out and realize where I came in.
The picture above was taken from Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2002. I had made it my goal to attend a game a year later, to return to the cause of my justification for being involved in the events. I have never seen so much shear emotion in a sporting event. Even as it rained, dozens of armed forces and NYPD/NYFD members were in attendance, and following a dramatic pregame ceremony, I knew I was in the right place. I had gone back to the source of the occurrence, and for me, it provided a sense of completeness.
I guess that’s the definition of “coming full circle” after all.