'We Shall Not Forget'
Games become memorial services as sports pay tributePosted: Wednesday September 11, 2002 6:01 PM
Updated: Wednesday September 11, 2002 9:56 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- They came for the games and they came for each other, fans and ballplayers from New York to San Francisco, Americans standing together through stirring ceremonies to remember victims, honor heroes and make a statement about the national spirit.
Yankee Stadium, the scene of so many emotional moments in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks last year, felt like a giant cathedral on the anniversary Wednesday night. Many fans held hands or wrapped their arms around each other and some shed tears, as Yankees manager Joe Torre did, when saxophonist Branford Marsalis played "Taps."
The Yankees unfurled a flag recovered from the World Trade Center and unveiled a memorial inscribed "We Remember," in Monument Park beyond the center field fence. After the singing of "God Bless America" and the national anthem fans erupted with chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A."
"We were tough and united right away after the attacks a year ago, and this is a night when everyone can show how tough and united we still are," Torre said. "We don't need to relive what happened, but we need to remember. I went through a range of emotions, from scared to mad to proud of how the city and country was dealing with it."
The monument in center field, Torre said, "opens a book of memories and sadness that's not going to go away. ... It happened on our turf. It seems like it happened 10 days ago, 10 minutes ago."
American flags flew at half-staff in every ballpark. Songs such as "Imagine," "I Will Survive," "Let it Be" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" played during batting practice instead of the usual bubblegum pop music. And the electronic message boards throughout the country carried a simple message:
"We Shall Not Forget."
Millions of Americans spent the day remembering and mourning and paying homage, and those who came to the ballparks said the ceremonies and songs were important to the nation.
"It feels very special. I wouldn't have missed it. It's something the whole country is looking at," said Jim DiCaprio, 41, Yonkers, N.Y. "It was beautiful, very dignified. That flag with the stars missing was very touching."
In Chicago, fan Geraldine Mrozinksi said she first felt guilty about coming to Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Expos game.
"But once we got here," she said, "it seems like the perfect place to be. Here, we'll commemorate it in the proper way."
Fans came to the ballparks when games resumed after Sept. 11 last year to stand together in defiance of the terrorists and to show that they were not afraid, to declare that their lives will go on, that they would not hide in their homes as the terrorists hid in caves.
Sports is the most parochial and national of our institutions, touching our identities as citizens deeper than other entertainments. We come together for our cities and our regions and root for the home team. For a while, after 9-11, New York became America's home team. The World Series, the football games, all the sports helped America heal.
"Sports," Cubs catcher Joe Girardi said, "is an outlet for people."
Most sporting events went on Wednesday as on almost any other day, despite the government's decision to raise the United States' security alert warning to "high risk."
Security was tight at afternoon baseball games, and crowds seemed smaller than usual. At Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves played the New York Mets in a day-night doubleheader, only about 1,500 people had arrived a half-hour before the first game.
"It's a day that we'll all remember, but you've got to get on with it," Braves outfielder Chipper Jones said. "You've got to do what you do. And that's what we're doing. Twice."
But the day's serious tone was never far away.
Before the Dodgers-Giants game at Pac Bell Park, there was a tribute on the big screen on the center-field scoreboard reading "9.11.01 We will never forget," with a series of black-and-white photos from the events of one year ago.
Instead of a ceremonial first pitch, the ball was placed on the mound by a man whose father died in the attacks. Members of the San Francisco Fire Department tossed wreaths of white flowers into McCovey Cove from a fireboat outside the park.
At the Pirates-Reds game, the first pitch was thrown out by 14-year-old Andy Moskal, whose father, William, was killed at the World Trade Center.
Fans at all games were given a T-shirt with an emblem featuring a red, white and blue ribbon, the major league baseball logo and the words "We Shall Not Forget." That same emblem was displayed on the outfield fences, the bases and the lineup cards.
There was to be a moment of silence at 9:11 p.m. local time at all night games, with a videotape in memory of those who died in the attacks. During afternoon games, the moment of silence and video came during the seventh-inning stretch.
"We're here to play baseball, we're here to entertain and we're here to hopefully help people heal," San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker said.
A U.S. flag flown at the World Trade Center a year ago was raised outside Lambeau Field. At the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., seven white balloons floated into a gray sky as 100 athletes and officials surrounded the Olympic flame.
Cubs second baseman Bobby Hill remembers being at the San Francisco airport last year, waiting for a flight to Chicago. Hill left the airport and walked a half-hour to meet his sister.
It was months before he got on an airplane again.
Hill can see why the games needed to be played Wednesday.
"We helped get everyone going again last year. People were
happy to see us playing," he said. "For that reason, I'm kind of
glad to play."