The Role Of Sports When Tragedy Struck

Updated: September 11, 2015


There a lot of emotions that swell up on or around this date, especially when the words ‘Never Forget’ are mentioned. Even as I attempt to collect my thoughts on this piece, I can remember exactly where I was on Tuesday, September 11th, 2o01. I was in 7th grade, in the boys locker room getting changed for gym class. I remember sitting on a bench waiting for class to start when the principal interrupted us on the intercom, saying that a plane had crashed into one of the buildings of the world trade center. Even at that time, it was thought to be an accident but by the end of our gym class it was clear to the entire nation that this was no accident. My classmates and I weren’t sent home early, but for the rest of the day each classroom I entered, the sole focus was on the television and of the news coverage.

Like the rest of America, I was scared. How could someone do this? What if this was just the beginning? My mind went through all of the awful questions, and I was much too young to understand the magnitude of the events that were unfolding before my eyes. I felt awful for those involved, the ones who lost loved ones. How could they continue on after suffering through such a terrible tragedy. For the rest of the week, things were silent. We tried to continue on with our lives as they used to be, but there were so many questions that were left without answers. I could only watch on as the first responders were shown heading into the wreckage trying to save anyone they could. I remember the faces of those brave men and women whose faces were painted with ash and debris. It was the first time that I saw how truly savage and cruel this world could be, yet in the face of such terror there were men and women, like me, who would do anything they could to help in anyway they could.

11224252_10150577505974984_5134871034573456328_oStill, even as the countless stories of self-less heroism started making their waves around the news stations,
there was a void. An emptiness that as a nation we all held in our collective hearts. For as hard as we tried, it was hard going back to normal in a world that would never be normal again. Something needed to change, or come back to give us that sense of normalcy. Then, on September 21st, we were able to take those first steps as a nation. Looking back at the box score it would appear that the contest between the Braves and Mets at Shea Stadium was just like any other game, just another one out of the 162 regular season games. But, that night, something truly special happened that no box score could ever explain. We were able to forget about the misery and the terror for just a few hours. We could forget about the awful images of buildings collapsing and people crying for loved ones lost, and we could cheer for our national past-time and root for web gems and big home runs.

That is the most amazing thing about sports. Sure, it’s fun to get home from a long day of work and flick on a game and check your fantasy teams, or head to the bar to catch a few innings with your friends, these are everyday things that usually go unnoticed as we are focused on so many other things in our day-to-day lives. Except, what do you do when things can’t be the same, what happens when everything gets turned upside down?

This is what happens. Look at the faces of the players and of the fans. They were looking for something to bring them out of this nightmare, something to give them some sense that everything was going to be okay in this time of uncertainty and horror. I remember watching that game and watching that home run and even though I wasn’t a fan of either of those teams, I couldn’t help but explode in cheer with the rest of Shea Stadium. The crowd went absolutely nuts, and for the first time since the attacks, people could cheer and smile. A simple home run that sent shock-waves through Queens and the rest of the country.

Sports has this effect on people and its always worth remembering on a day like today. Sure, we look at sports as a way to show athletic prowess but sports is something so much bigger, so much more than that. It’s more than just a nine inning game or four quarter contest. It’s a small window of time where people can forget about the tragedies in their everyday lives and join in celebrating small victories with neighbors and strangers alike. Now, I know that for some people in this country, especially those who lost loved ones on this day 14 years ago, it’s extremely hard to ever forget or move past those terrible events. But, we are a strong country, filled with incredibly unique and diverse citizens. On a day like today, I’m reminded what a great country I live in. When I think about 9/11, I don’t think about the planes crashing into the buildings, or their subsequent collapsing. I think about the first responders. The heroes. The people who risked their own lives to save their neighbors. I think about the way America came together in the face of pure terror, and how sports helped remind us that we are an un-wavering nation, and we’re proud to call ourselves citizens of the United States of America.

Until Next Time, @wtjefff


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