I wrote this following the Mets/Braves Game on September 21, 2001
Somewhere in the confusion and fear of the last week and a half, the cold slipped by the summer and started to embrace the city. Winter reluctantly edged in on The Game. The Game and all her loyal subjects had invited Winter’s Autumn Advance. The world had been turned on its side and the people needed something – anything – to feel right. They needed something familiar, something normal. So, The Game and Winter embraced and gave the aching City what she needed. Baseball between two arch rivals on a chilly September night was normal.
Ten days before, evil possessed the Republics great falcons, swept from the clear, blue September sky and crashed into the Great City’s Twin Brothers. Close to three thousand souls were offered up to heaven violently and the shockwaves spread across the Republic and in its ripples everything that felt comfortable before was washed away.
The Scribe stood with the brown-eyed girl among the throngs with tears in his eyes in the stadium, the Old Lady of his boyhood dreams. It was old and falling apart. Its glory years were long behind it. This was his beloved stadium, long marked as an ugly crone on the royal landscape, standing host to a game far more important than herself, The Game and maybe even the Great City in which she stood in.
But on this night, the big blue Old Lady was simply breathtaking, decked out in red, white and blue, playing her small part in the violent, heartbreaking drama that started ten days before. There was something both glorious and devastating about her on that September night. She had seen great moments of glory in the past, but never would she have seen a bigger victory than that night. There would be no glory to be had that night, just victory, the type of victory that transcends scoreboards and statistics.
The faithful and friends and families had ventured from all parts of the Great City and beyond to gather inside the Old Lady’s embrace. They had nervously travelled on great locomotives and buses and maybe even in the great metal birds to arrive there and to try to experience an emotion they hadn’t known in what seemed an eternity…they wanted to feel normal. They wanted to watch a simple game between two teams and they wanted to feel like they did on September 10. Of course, that would never happen – September 10 was gone forever. They knew that. They knew it was gone forever…but they had to try to feel normal, and not the new normal that September 12 and everyday after had become.
At the very least, they had to say “to hell with the fear.” They had to walk out of their apartments or suburban houses and gather and tell the bastards they hadn’t won. They had to nervously get on the crowded buses and trains to defy the fear. Some may have even had to go past the giant gaping, smoldering hole in the sky to send a message to the bastards that the fear would not win. In a very American way, they turned to the Great Nation’s Game to deny Fear its victory. Fear was wounded the moment the first ticket was ripped and was utterly vanquished the moment the 55,000th ticket was ripped.
The Voice had asked for a solemn moment of silence for the fallen. And the sea of people went silent. The Game went silent. Winter went silent. It seemed as if the entire world had gone silent. Then, from the silence, a familiar sound emerged. The engines on the jet roared as the giant bird surged into the blue September sky over the stadium. A million times before, the Old Lady had heard this familiar roar, but this was not the same. This time, it was different. Somehow, in the wake of the surging engines that almost shook the stadium, the silence had grown deeper. The giant bird would disappear into the sky, where it belonged, leaving a more profound silence in its wake.
A scribe would have to believe himself to be immortal to believe that he could capture accurately the raw emotion and intensity of that evening…I am so very mortal. Even if all 55,000 voices were to speak in unison of the Great Rivals embracing in the center of the diamond, or the solemn color guard or the cheers for a mayor that has never been a friend in that stadium or the red white and blue that blanketed every inch or the striking image of the ribbon and the lost lights on the scoreboard skyline or the rousing rendition of God Bless America or every other moment that would happen that night, he still would not capture what the night meant.
That would be handled by a single crack of the bat by the team’s greatest star. To try to describe the moment-to set it up-to detail what had happened in that moment, in that home run, feels like a betrayal of that moment. But in that moment, the Great City in the Great Nation, desperate for something beyond the endless funeral processions and pages upon pages of obituaries, was lifted for just a moment out of the smoldering pit of sadness and was brought to its feet in a single moment of joy. It was something so simple. So normal.
September 10th has been lost forever. The innocence of the Great Nation is forever lost. However, for one night…for one moment, baseball delivered the first, fatal blow to fear and brought back hope to a nation.