Remembering 9/11 from a Personal and Sports Perspective

Remembering 9/11 from a Personal and Sports Perspective
Picture courtesy Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/Corbis via ESPN

The shock of 9/11 was the hit to this generation like Pearl Harbor was to our grand parents and the Kennedy assignation to our parents.  I was on vacation in Miami and we were originally planning on coming home on the the 11th. When we could not find a cheap flight on the 11th we came home on the 10th.

I spent the night at my then girlfriend's apartment. On the drive home the next morning, I remember listening to WBBM and hearing that the WNYC (New York) chopper was on the radio. I thought that was very strange.

When I returned home to my apartment, I turned on the today show and remember not completely understanding what was going on.  What kind of plane had taken out the towers? What were we going to do next and how would this affect everyday life in the future.

My trip to Florida had encompassed many things.  Among those was going to a Miami-Rutgers game at the Orange Bowl, watching the US Open Tennis and the trying to follow the Bears season opener at the defending Superbowl Champion Ravens while shopping at Sample Road Flea Market outside of Fort Lauderdale.

The main focus on September 11 was obviously on the thousands that lost their lives that day and that this was only the second major terrorist attack in U.S. History. The first in Oklahoma City in 1995 was by Americans, N.Y. was the first by foreigners.

The NFL, College Football and Baseball had decisions to play or not. Many comparisons were being made to JFK's assassination in 1963. The NFL decided to play then, while the AFL did not. NFL Games were still five days away, so they had time. Baseball had to make a more immediate decision. They wound up deciding to postpone the season for a week.

The White Sox had just finished up a series in Cleveland and had arrived in New York to play the Yankees. They were just playing out the season at that point.  There were 74-70 and nine games out in the American League. Central. They were Chicago's representative in the Big Apple.

The Biggest Sports story and certainly the biggest story of the day in Chicago was Michael Jordan announcing his second comeback. Rick Morrisey wrote about the comeback in the Trib's legendary Wake of the News Column. Jordan would eventually play his truly final two NBA seasons with the Washington Wizards.

New York might be both the most hated and beloved city in United States. After 9/11 everyone supported New York. The Heartbreak and loss that day was devastating to our nation and beyond. Sports became a way of healing when the returned a week later.

Meanwhile, The White Sox had to find a way out of Manhattan. Ed Cassin the White Sox director of team travel was in the same position 13 years ago. He looked back on that fateful day with ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla on the tenth anniversary three years ago.

"Every team has a resident security agent that works for MLB; it's a local law enforcement guy," Cassin said. "I worked through them, I worked through the Port Authority Police, I worked through the New York City Police, the New York State Police. All traffic was cut down coming into Manhattan. We had to get permission to get to buses to come onto Manhattan the next day, which was a pretty daunting task."

When talking about what Manhattan became in a mini post apoplectic world Cassin said ....

"We walked out, and the corner of 42nd and Lexington, you could have shot a cannon down the street. There wasn't a soul out there in the middle of Midtown Manhattan. It was eerie."

The teams's uncertainty about what was happening was relayed by Cassin to Padilla:

"When I walked off the bus, I wanted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground of the parking lot, because honestly, if you were in New York at the time, you didn't know what was happening," Cassin said.

"You felt, or at least I felt, that it may have been the end of the world. We didn't know. We honestly didn't know. I didn't think I'd ever see Chicago again."

As a baseball fan its innate to hate the Yankees. They were attempting to win their fourth straight world series. They were trying to become the first team to win four in a row since they accomplished the feat from 1949-53. The Yankees upset the Seattle Mariners in five games in the American League Championship series. In one of the most memorable World Series ever, the Yankees fell in seven games to Arizona in the fall classic.

I was rooting for the Yankees in the World Series for the first and probably only time. As fate would have it, when the season resumed a week later, the Yankees returned to Chicago when baseball resumed a week later. They won the first two games of the series against the White Sox.

The White Sox returned to New York on October 1st to make up the three game series that were postponed. The Yankees swept the series.

As Sports began to return and the nation began to heal, sports became a major way once again for communities to connect. In Chicago that happened with the Bears.

The 2001 season became a special one. It was Dick Juron's third season and the Bears won their first Division title since Mike Ditka led them to their sixth division title in seven years in 1990. It didn't make us forget what happened, but it helped Chicagoans heal.

If every cloud truly has a silver lining, September 11th brought us together as Americans and made us more patriotic. God Bless America was frequently played during the seventh inning stretch in American Ballparks and before games, at halftime or in between periods in other sports. Chants of USA and waving of american flags became the norm at sporting events across the country.

We truly became the "United States of America"  maybe more than ever before in our history.

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