Ever since two planes trainwrecked my American dream September 11 has always struck me. I don’t know what to say, what to do, or what to write.
So why am I bringing things up a week and eight years after the tragedy? At the moment I’m reading a book called “102 Minutes” about the moments around the attacks on the Twin Towers, when workers scurried to save themselves and their workers. To say that it’s moving is an incredible understatement.
There are names that jump off the page in this case aren’t the names of the people—there are far too many to mention to have a serious emotional connection with all of them—but the companies. The companies involved we still hear from on practically an everyday basis.
But I can’t imagine what it would have been like as the CEO of each company—especially John Duffy, CEO of investment firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods—the last of whom lost his son in the atrocities.
They weren’t storm chasers or loss chasers—they were people chasers.
As the great saying goes: “There aren’t any atheists in foxholes,” they must have been praying to their God, any God, that the people they knew would get out safely.
And as the world finished, our sports world changed, too.
Baseball—America’s pastime—stopped for a while. There were talks of possibly abandoning the season.
At Fenway Park on the day that baseball came back, the atmosphere was congenial—even friendly. Fans forgot about the fact that I was a Yankee fan, and were quite happy chatting about life. You know why? Because while sports is great—it’s also an escape, and a great one at that.
And in New York, back-to-back World Series home run for the Yankees made some non-Yankee fans actually want a Yankee win that year.
And speaking of baseball, I had another one of those ‘Post 9/11 moment’ at Shea Stadium a year later.
I was sitting next a guy and his wife and his kid, chatting through a Mets-Phillies game as once again the Mets were finding a way to lose. I talked about the 9/11 stuff, and talked about how much I respected the police and firefighters. Worked out that the guy was a policeman who also had a high-end security job at Shea Stadium. That day, Shea Stadium became a refuge and force for something other than baseball. At the end of the night, he pulled off his FDNY hat and gave it to me. I could have cried.
But eight years later, sports—the whole face of it—is still going. But for me, something has changed.
The national anthem is sung with a little more vigour. The silence in the Stadium while someone sings “God Bless America” is almost as deafening as the tune coming out of the speakers. The black flag still hangs, and sometimes that flags are still at half-mast.
Because in our world where winning and losing is a major thing, after 9/11 we’ve realized. Sports matter—but not more than life itself.