On September 10, 2001 my wife and I were at Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play the Red Sox and, hopefully, see Roger Clemens attain a career milestone I wish I could recall right now — there were so many of them. But it was a gray, wet day and the rain kept coming down and down through a lengthy game delay.
We had very good seats behind the Yankee dugout. I remember watching Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, and former Red Sox manager Joe Kerrigan confer on the warning track in the rain. At one point they went walking around the field, skirting the tarp over the infield to prod the soggy grass with their shoes, then heading toward the outfield and doing the same to test it. You could see the water squish up under their feet from the saturated turf.
It wasn’t surprising that the game was postponed, with a makeup date to be determined if necessary. The field wasn’t playable, and the Yankees had a big division lead (13 games) over the Red Sox. I’m fairly certain that game never had to be made up.
Although my wife and I were disappointed it was called, we took consolation knowing that we had tickets for the next night’s game. The team coming in was the Chicago White Sox. Our seats weren’t nearly as good but we were still hoping we’d get to see Clemens achieve the milestone I now forget offhand. (Editor’s Note: At age 39, Clemens was after the fifth 20-win season of his career.) At any rate, we wondered whether he’d make his scheduled start in the pitching rotation or skip his turn.
When I woke up September 11, my wife already had the local news on — the channel was NY1 with its round-the-clock coverage. She had tuned in for the weather forecast and perhaps an update on whether Clemens was pitching that night. The weather really wasn’t much of a question; all you had to do was look out the window to know it was a picture-perfect day.
Not long after I started watching TV the regular morning news cycle was interrupted. It was about a quarter to nine, and there was a report of smoke coming from the World Trade Center. I wondered at first if a fire had broken out in one of the offices. But within minutes somebody — a motorist, I believe — phoned the station to say he thought a small plane had crashed into the tower.
And then the events of that day began to unfold with a horror that was, at least then, so incomprehensible to us.
We had friends who wound up staying at our Manhattan apartment for most of the day. One had been at work and the other was out looking for work. Both lived outside the borough and couldn’t get home when the city went into virtual lockdown. They called and came over searching for a place to go, and I went out to the store and joined the lines of people getting bottled water and extra food provisions. We did not know the scope of the attack, or who was attacking us. We only knew New York city had been attacked and thought it might be wise to stock up.
I remember, now, all of us watching television in stunned disbelief as the towers came down. And then watching all the rest. I cannot describe the sense of unreality and isolation we felt. It was as if we’d slipped into some dark alternate universe. Or if that impossible universe had eclipsed and overtaken our own. What was happening wasn’t really happening. Except of course we knew it was.
About a week later my wife and I had to leave New York for a while, and did so with hearts as sunken as Atlantis. Someone had put prayer candles in our apartment building’s lobby and I stared at them for a long time before heading out. Several tenants had been at the World Trade Center, including two young women who’d asked us to come up to their apartment and have ice cream with them a couple of days before the terrorists struck — they’d taken off from work for their spur-of-the-moment ice cream party. They were roommates in their late twenties or early thirties and hadn’t lived in the building long. They were killed in the flames and destruction of September 11.
We were at Yankee Stadium the day baseball resumed. Then at the end of October, one of the friends who’d stayed with us on the day of the attacks had tickets for Game 3 of the World Series, the first played in New York. He said there was a chance he’d be able to get me a ticket, and stopped over at the apartment for a while and waited for a call. In the end, the seat went to someone else and I stayed home and watched that game on television with my wife.
I’ve never really thought I had much of a shot at that World Series ticket. Or believed that my friend thought I did. We never spoke of it later, but I’ve always been convinced he came over just so we could spend some time together before he left for that game, a raucous, World Series game at Yankee Stadium in New York City, just six weeks or so after the homicidal, suicidal maniacs hijacked those planes.
We’d shared the day of horror, the three of us. And that October evening before President Bush threw his ceremonial first pitch from the mound, we were going to share just a little of the defiant triumph and renewal that series would bring to New York City.
As I sit writing this now, eight years later, with the television on as the names of the lost are read at what was once the place where the Twin Towers stood, it all comes inextricably together for me. The impotent shock and horror, the sorrow, the memory of baseball lifting many of us up when we so desperately needed it — and, yes, the satisfaction of knowing we have endured.