I can tell you exactly where I was at 8:46 a.m. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The school year had just started, and I was sitting in Ms. Barhaus' fourth grade classroom on the fifth floor of the south Brooklyn building. Like any fourth-grader in the first month of post-summer vacation school, I had no interest in what was being taught.
My eyes would wander out the window, across the East River, and toward Manhattan. I wish I would have been paying closer attention to what was going on that morning, if only so I wouldn't have been fixated on the skyline. You can't un-see those kinds of images, and 13 years later, the memory is as crisp in my mind as its ever been.
Had that been the extent of my September 11 experience and it still would have been traumatizing. But in the moments after the first tower was hit, and our entire school was herded into the auditorium, another harrowing thought crossed my mind. Every morning, after my dad walked me to school, he would proceed to walk to the A train, taking that to the PATH train, which he boarded through the basement of the World Trade Center.
An hour or so later, my mom came and picked me up from school. Our 10 minute walk home was met with plumes of smoke and burnt pieces of paper falling from the sky. The streets were empty. And not a word was spoken about my dad.
Hours later, we received a phone call from my brother, who was in high school at the time on the Upper East Side. He was safe, and staying at a friend's house for the night. There was no use in trying to make the trip home with the subway shut down. A few hours after that, we finally heard from my dad, one of the biggest reliefs of my life. He had finally gotten a hold of a pay phone, and was safe. My dad was in the basement of the South Tower getting breakfast when the first plane hit. He got out.
While I don't remember it, my mom told me in the weeks after that day I refused to watch television. For the most part, after all, it was a recounting what I had already seen, and didn't need to be reminded of. When I finally did turn the television back on, it was to watch the Mets play the Braves on September 21, the first sporting event that was held in New York after the tragedy. And from that was forged my lasting sports memory with respect to 9/11, and really one of my strongest sports memories ever.
There's no one way to cope with tragedy. On this anniversary of September 11, on my least favorite day of the year, I chose to write. It's not the first time I've written about my experiences, and I doubt it will be the last. But here at the Banter, in a community where we promote discussion, and where I know so many of you reside in or have close ties to New York, it felt appropriate to open up a dialogue here. Again, by no stretch of the imagination is there a correct way to confront your emotions, but I wanted there to at least be a space to do so.
I still get a bit choked up when I watch that Mike Piazza home run. It's one of those enduring sports moments that transcend a game. I remember Rudy Giuliani taking part in the pre-game ceremonies. The message was simple: We can stand up to these attacks, united as a city. Sports was the vehicle, and New York needed something to bring it together.
"If the season ends tomorrow, we're all winners, because we didn't give up," Piazza said after that game. And boy, was he right. The reprieve I and I'm sure many other New Yorkers got for a few hours that night was much needed. That hole aspect of the aftermath of this tragedy underscores why sports are so special.
So no matter where you currently live, or lived 13 years ago, take a moment to share, or reflect, or acknowledge those who are close and important to you. But above all, do whatever feels right to you. In unison, by continuing to live our lives, we show just how strong we really are.