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Professional Sports Sparked the Return to Normalcy Post 9/11

Photo by USA Today
Mike Piazzo’s homerun. Photo courtesy of USA Today

Everyone’s lives are filled with monumental moments that take place, a particular historical moment in time, for better or worse, when we all remember exactly where we were when a catastrophe or joyous event occurred.

For some, it may be when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  It may be when their favorite team won the Super Bowl or the World Series.  It may even be the infamous O.J. Simpson car chase.  It could be anything.

In my life, there are two moments that stick out in my mind that I have lived through, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.  While Katrina ravaged the community I lived in, destroying homes, businesses, flooding nearly everything, 9/11 is easily the more significant event for me. 

I was in the third grade.  My class had left our classroom to use the restroom and get water from the water fountain.  I still remember my teacher, Ms. Purser, telling us to keep our fingers over our lips so we would not talk and to stay in a straight line.  While we were walking back to class, the power went out.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked: American Airlines Flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines Flights 175 and 93.  The two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center complex were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. 

The plane that crashed into the Pentagon was American Airlines Flight 77.  The fourth plane crashed near a small town close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is believed the hijackers’ target of the fourth plane was either the Capitol or the White House.

However, 13 years later, it seems that the only time we hear about the attacks is the annual reminder that is the anniversary of 9/11.  While there are many people who still live with the effects of the attacks, it is far from the forefront of society.

But why is this? How did we come together as one nation to the point where this memory is just that, a memory? 

There are a great number of factors, but I want people to understand how big a role sports played in returning New York City and the United States of America to normalcy. 

There was a huge debate on when sports should be resumed nationwide and in particular, in New York City.  Baseball was the first to return five days after the attacks.  It marked the beginning of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s plea to the public for everyone to return to their normal lives. 

Ten days after the attack, the New York Mets brought professional sports back to the Big Apple as they played host to the Atlanta Braves.  Both teams donated their game checks to the families who lost their loved ones according to Bleacher Report.  Players from both sides replaced their customary ballcaps for hats that simply said FDNY or NYPD as a tribute to the brave firemen and policemen who sacrificed everything to save any lives they could. 

It was certainly fitting that the Mets’ biggest star, Mike Piazza, delivered the game-winning homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning.  When Piazza’s mammoth homerun left the yard, it brought joy to the hearts of those who longed to feel anything besides pain.  It brought tears to grown men and women’s eyes alike.  It was symbolic of a wounded nation responding against all odds and stating that we will never quiver in the eyes of heartbreak and adversity. 

The return of baseball was indicative of that return to normalcy.  It served as a refuge to help ease the pain. 

It served as a distraction that so many people needed in this time of sadness and sorrow.  At this time, it was evident why baseball is America’s favorite pastime.

Baseball was not alone though.  The return of the NFL after a two-week absence brought together upwards of 90,000 people together as a united group.  Gone was the pride of fans wearing their team colors and in its place was the pride of hoisting American flags into the air. 

In an appropriate end to the hardest season ever endured, the New England Patriots raised the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.  American patriotism had never been stronger despite the losses and heartbreak of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

America was forever changed by 9/11.  It changed the world forever.  It made everyone believe and understand that this could happen anywhere, at any time, and it may not be preventable.  It was the spark plug that led the United States to declare the War on Terror.

It left children without parents.  It left husbands and wives without their spouses.  It made people live without their friends, brothers, sisters and cousins.  It made people not want to leave their beds in the morning because the pain and anguish they felt was too much to bare.  It took our peace of mind and crushed the spirits of a proud nation.

The three successful hijacked plane attacks on 9/11 took an estimated 2,942 lives according to the New York Magazine.  There were 1,717 families who never received any remains of the loved ones they lost on that fateful morning. 

The staggering statistics go on-and-on and are enough to rattle anyone.  They certainly rattled me to the point where I had to set my laptop down because I was becoming teary-eyed. 

When the power went out in my school, I was confused, along with everyone else.  It took only a few minutes for the power to return which is when it was learned that the attacks had taken place leading to the entire school being sent home early.

To this day, I have no idea why the power went out that morning in a small elementary school in Slidell, Louisiana and if it indeed had anything to do with the terrorist attacks.  Over the years, I have pondered about this without a conclusion, an absent conclusion that will never be resolved.

But to me, it is very symbolic of the attacks and the rebuilding of America’s psyche and hope.  The power going out serves as a reminder of the heartbreak and pain of one of America’s darkest hours.  The power returning symbolizes a nation that will always respond like the brave firefighters did without hesitation or regard for their own life. 

To me, professional sports served as the water those firefighters used to put out the burning embers.  The return of professional sports sprayed water on the burning spirits of a nation and were the beginning of the return to normalcy.

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Professional Sports Sparked the Return to Normalcy Post 9/11