Memories From Half a Decade Ago

Sometimes events come along to put everything into perspective. This was never more evident than September 11, 2001. At the time the Arizona Diamondbacks were marching towards the play-offs. The team seemed to be peaking at just the right moment and with three weeks left in the season all eyes were focused on continuing winning and getting home field advantage. Everyone was busy making plans for the post season and watching as Bob Brenly began to set his rotation to meet what appeared to be the St. Louis Cardinals in the first round of the play-offs. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were dueling each other as much as their opponents. Each player was trying to out do the other every outing. Expectations were high that year even though the Diamondbacks had only been in existence since 1998. All of that changed in one short day.

The day started like any other. The Diamondbacks had just completed a three game series with the San Diego Padres where they won 2 of 3. After an off-day on Monday it was time to start a three game series with the Colorado Rockies. This would be the final three games of the home stand before a road trip that would begin in Milwaukee then move to Denver and finish with an important 4-game series with the Dodgers. With only two weeks left in the regular season these games would mean a lot. But at 5:46 AM Arizona time tragedy hit when the first plane hit the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. From that time forth baseball ceased to be important. The country was in shock that such an event could occur on our soil. The shock was quickly changed to fear and grief as each of us assessed our own lives and what it would mean if this tragedy would have happened to us. All sporting events were cancelled as people came to terms with their losses. Assistance poured out in every community as we helped those around us. Emergency workers flocked to New York City to assist in the clean-up efforts. Security became a new signal each of us looked towards to try and bring comfort to the uneasy feelings we each had. The country had lost its innocence and the thoughts of sports were few and far between. We had gone from being obsessed with our sports figures to being filled with fear not understanding what might happen next. If ever there were a time for diversion, this would be it. The country needed something to rally around, a way to take our minds off of the helplessness we felt not being able to fix the wrongs of the world.

We all knew that things may never be the same. We would never feel completely safe in our homes again. We would never look at those who are culturally different than us and not wonder if they harbored ill feelings towards us. We were united by pain and frustration and everyone’s stress levels were exceedingly high. There were rumors that remaining the baseball season would be cancelled but commissioner Bud Selig quickly squelched those thoughts and after an absence of six days baseball resumed. No one knew what to expect when games began being played again. Many thought baseball would look uncaring by resuming but instead people flocked to the ballparks. They were eager to replace the thoughts of fear with thoughts of the game. We were not trying to forget that the tragedy had happened; we were trying to show that regardless of the horrors going on around us we are capable of resuming our lives. We were no longer driven by our love of the game as much as we were relieved to have baseball to help us return some form of normalcy back into our lives. For a brief 3 hours we were allowed to feel again, to remember the joy that life could bring. At the end of the game we would return to the thoughts of what had occurred and have to deal with our losses but for just a moment we had something we could hold on to and that something was baseball.

Tonight around the Major Leagues there will be tributes to those who were lost at the events of September 11, 2001. We will undoubtedly sing God Bless America and we’ll all stand a little taller during the national anthem. Our voices will be heard over the loud speakers at the stadium and through this game we will give thanks to everyone who has gone before us making it safe to return home. In some ways those events 5 years ago seem like they occurred a lifetime ago and for many that day marked the end of a lifetime. For those of us who have survived we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. The victims and their families may at times be out of sight but they are never out of our thoughts and prayers.

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