September 11, 2001. It's hard to believe we're more than a decade removed from that day. With time, the bruise has healed, the fear of another attack has subsided, life has gone back to normal.
But on that day and the immediate days and weeks that followed, we were a nation and people shaken. The constant playing of planes crashing, buildings crumbling, and people in terror was all we saw on our TVs. It was devastating. It was confusing. It was saddening.
It also shut down baseball. A non-strike stoppage of the game? Could you imagine it ever happening before 9/11? Ever at all?
But it happened. Bud Selig shut down baseball, cancelling all games from September 11 through the following Monday.
It was a necessary move for a nation on the heal. And when it came back, we were ready, and for me, it led to one of my best Wrigley Field memories.
September 27, 2001
In spring, I bought myself my usual birthday present, tickets to a Cubs game for their final home stand. The game I picked was Thursday, September 27, Cubs vs Astros, a night game that warranted a vacation day the following day for a three-day weekend.
As you may recall, the Cubs had been in a pretty good race with the Astros and Cards. Even though they squandered a several-game lead in August, they were only a handful out in September. This was set up to be a solid Central Division matchup.
What it turned out to be was something a tad more historic, the first home game at Wrigley following the attacks.
As I approached the gates to the park that day, I vividly remember a feeling I had never experienced at Wrigley Field. Fear. I've had nervous, excited, beer-buzzed, etc., but I've never felt fear or uncertainty.
The increased police presence around the park only served to amplify those fears. Wrigley has always been an escape for me. It’s impervious to the outside world. Except that night.
Reminders of what we were dealing with as a nation were abound. There were American flags everywhere in the stands and draped from the rooftops. There were color guards, recognition of police and firefighters, a moment of silence, and people crying. I've seen crying at Wrigley before, but never before the game started.
When the Anthem played, I and nearly 40,000 strong were moved. Not since Pearl Harbor had there been an attack on our homeland, and now this song had a little more meaning.
Exhaling, it was time to play ball. And in the bottom of the first, this happened.
I was never a Sammy Sosa fan. I never liked the showboating, showing up to spring training late, the locker room boombox, the questions about his steroid use, but this event has always stuck with me.
As I watched that tiny handheld flag circle the bases from my upper deck seats, I felt safe, proud and mostly a part of something bigger than me. To experience that with thousands of other people all feeling perhaps the same emotions at the same time was moving, and something I never wish to experience again.
Were you there? Were you watching from home? What are your memories?
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