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He only major professional sports event conducted in the U.S. in this week of warring emotions was the Big Island Championships, a WTA tournament at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii. Not that Arantxa S�nchez Vicario, Justine Henin or Lisa Raymond played on blithely as the nation wept. When tournament director Eric Kutner, 28, got the call to turn on his TV early on Sept. lithe day after the event's main draw had begun—he blanched, canceled play for the day and so informed the WTA.
Then, with his brother Jeff and event staffers Ben Hodgson and Simon Porter, he watched the towers burn and fall. All except Eric are or have been emergency medical technicians. They were watching their brethren. Jeff Kutner, 22, a paramedic for Capital Health System in Trenton, N.J., who was in Hawaii working as assistant tournament director, said, "I worship those guys. When the first tower came down, we screamed, 'The command post! What happened to the command post?' "
It was set up too close to the base of the Twin Towers, and more than 300 emergency workers were lost in the pyroclastic-like flows of ash and steel. "Our instinct is to be there," said Jeff, who planned to fly home on Monday night and hopes to volunteer for the rescue effort. "Our mother's instinct," said Eric, "was that Jeff should just stay in Hawaii."
Early Wednesday morning Eric Kutner conferred with players and with venue and tour officials, agonizing over whether to continue. That day, news of a groundswell of other sports cancellations gave the WTA brass pause, so it punted to the young director. It was Kutner's call.
"We had three things to consider," he says. "Safety, logistics and propriety. We were safe because the athletes were already here. It might have been more dangerous to send them back out into the wild world."
Logistically, it seemed easy to cancel the tournament and not have to pay $140,000 in purses. "But it's the first year, and we're trying to build something," said Kutner. "I hated myself for even thinking in those terms."
Then there was the big one. "What, exactly, is a decent interval," Kutner asked, "after the worst thing that has ever happened to us?" No answer could satisfy everyone. Scalded by grief, Kutner and his staff decided to go ahead with the tournament but agreed to create a powerful memorial service. "Not just a minute of silence," said Kutner. "One that meant something, a rededication."
At noon last Friday, with the flag at half-staff, players, spectators and officials filed into the center court stadium at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Eric Kutner told them that he felt continuing to play was correct, but that it was right to remember those who had lost their lives and those taking part in the rescue effort.
A Hawaiian kahuna, or priest, performed a haunting chant of mourning and explained that anyone who wished could drape a flower lei, symbol of love and yearning and evanescence, over the net. That night, as happens almost daily in the waters above the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, five islands over, the leis would be cast upon the sea. Fifty or so people walked past and left leis. One—a tall, sunburned man, sweating in white—was Wayne Newton, who then led the gathering in America the Beautiful. Finally, neighbors joined hands and gave themselves over to wherever silence took them. "And crown thy good with brotherhood" infiltrated one's consciousness the rest of the day.
The players felt the weight of the occasion. "It was good we didn't have to try to play on Tuesday," said Sanchez Vicario, who lost in the second round. "I couldn't have done it."