Amazingly, it has been exactly one year since our nation was shocked into silence by the horrendous terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since we all sat stunned in front of our television sets.
Just like last year at this time, the baseball season is winding down, and another NFL season is underway. I can remember watching the Broncos’ Monday night game on Sept. 10 one year ago. I remember going to bed thinking about Ed McCaffrey’s broken leg, pondering whether his career would be over. I also remember falling asleep that night feeling safe and secure in my bed.
I awoke the next morning to the shouts of my two roommates from the living room.
“Oh my God,” they yelled. “The World Trade Center is gone!”
I grumbled as I rose from my bed to find out what all the commotion was. As soon as I entered the living room, I was assaulted with the images that we all will live with for the rest of our lives. It played out like a Hollywood apocalypse movie on the screen, only it was real.
There were no more thoughts of Ed McCaffrey. No more illusions of safety and security. This was life and death being played out right before my eyes.
As we all suffered through the next week after the attacks, wondering what would happen next, I was relieved that the NFL, MLB and NCAA cancelled all scheduled sporting events. It would have been unthinkable for athletes to be playing games while bodies were still being pulled from the smoking rubble in New York and Washington.
Returning to a normal routine in the weeks and months following the attacks was difficult for many. There were so many questions left unanswered and so many fears unresolved. People needed something to take their minds off of the relentless reality being played out on every cable news network.
The return of sports came just in time.
With a new tempered and respectful presentation, the first baseball games and football match-ups resumed two weeks after the attacks. I was not surprised to see the stadiums filled to capacity with somber, yet enthusiastic fans. These people were thankful for the two or three hours they could sit and enjoy a ballgame without a constant reminder of the dreadful memories of the 11th.
Appropriately, the games were filled with moments of silence, renditions of “God Bless America,” tributes to police, fire and rescue personnel and, of course, tearful singing of the National Anthem. In a way, sports events allowed the country to pay tribute, remember and give thanks on a nationwide scale. Fans waved flags, players wore FDNY and NYPD hats and musicians sang their hearts out while thousands watched from their homes.
New Yorkers were treated to the Yankees’ thrilling come-from-behind victories in the World Series that helped lift the spirit of the embattled city. President George W. Bush, in one of the most memorable sporting moments that fall, threw out the first pitch of the Series – a solid strike right down the middle. The pitch was a fitting metaphor to the way our country reacted to and bounced back from the unfathomable things we had witnessed.
As trivial and meaningless as sports seemed in light of the events, the games eventually helped people to climb out of the emotional hole created on the 11th. There was a certain therapy in being able to cheer again.
There will rightfully be many tributes and remembrances in the sports events across the country this week. The ranks of high school, college and professional athletes will pay respect to the victims of the attacks and to the armed forces around the world that fight so we have the freedom to watch and play sports.
Before Sept. 11, the word “hero” was tossed around loosely, and was often applied to adored sports figures. Because of the courageous and selfless acts of firefighters, police officers and other rescue personnel, “hero” is the name now given to those most deserving of the title.
“Heroes” are now the people who acted with disregard for their own lives in order to save others.
Jason is a senior majoring in journalism.