An emblem to honor those lost in the September 11 terrorist attacks is pictured behind home plate at a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Many ceremonies commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 on New York and Washington are being held on this day.
Sunday evening, the eyes of the world of baseball will be focused on New York City, where nearly 3,000 people died, several hundred of whom were first responders, police officers and firefighters. Before Sunday night's game between the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, the Mets will have a ceremony to honor first responders:
The Mets will mark the occasion with a pregame remembrance ceremony, and they've offered free tickets to New York City first responders and their families. Brooklyn native and former Mets reliever John Franco will throw out the first pitch, and the national anthem will be sung by Marc Anthony.
It's hard to know how to properly note anniversaries such as this one. Mets manager Terry Collins may have the right idea:
"I don't consider it a celebration," said manager Terry Collins. "A remembrance is one thing. But to honor those people that risked their lives on that day, they should be honored somehow. They should be. And so to be a part of that game -- and obviously the Mets were the first team to play back in New York after that -- to have that honor again I think is going to be special for the players."
Some of the members of the Cubs, in town to play the Mets this weekend, including third baseman Aramis Ramirez and manager Mike Quade, shared their memories of that tragic day 10 years ago:
For Quade, who was on the coaching staff of the Oakland Athletics team that played the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs in 2001, the emotions and scenes from those few days a decade ago remain vivid. When he went onto the field, Quade made a detour to find then-New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and shake his hand.
“It’s hard to even describe the feeling then," Quade said. “A couple of days in the playoffs and going through all that, the emotions that were involved. There’s certain things that are left with you for life, and obviously that’s one of them."
Ramirez remembers waking up in Pittsburgh the morning of the attacks and finding his voice-mail box full.
“My mom called me like a thousand times [from the Dominican]," Ramirez said. “She was worried because of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. She thought it was close. She didn’t know. It wasn’t that close, but it wasn’t that far either."
On Sept. 11, 2001, among those in New York City were members of the Chicago White Sox, who were scheduled to play the New York Yankees that night -- a game that was postponed, along with games for the rest of that week. Some players with the Sox that day, still with the team today, along with general manager Kenny Williams, recounted stories of their experiences to the Chicago Sun-Times, and especially recall one thing that occurred after they had chartered two buses to drive them back to Chicago:
At 6 a.m., after a night of uncertainty and fear, the Sox began their journey west to Cleveland, where they planned to stay for the night before returning to Chicago.
But just before they got on the George Washington Bridge toward New Jersey, police stopped the buses. They asked the Sox if they would take two nurses across. The nurses had worked through the night, and the lockdown meant their families couldn’t pick them up.
"They got on the bus, and the smell of death was on them," Williams said. "They were covered in soot, covered in blood. One sat next to me, one sat next to [then-manager] Jerry Manuel. All I could say was, ‘Are you OK?’ And she just looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen in my life. It melted my heart. God only knows what she saw that night.
“We dropped them off and watched them embrace their family members before we drove off."
We should indeed always remember these, not just the enormity of the attacks and the innocent who died, but these small stories of brave men and women who risked their lives to try to save others on that terrible day 10 years ago. Tonight in New York City, baseball and the Mets will try in some small way to remember those sacrifices. We should indeed never forget.