Remembering and Embracing September 11th
Photos obtained via @RaysRepublic
Every American living at the moments between 8:46 am to 10:28 am EST have a different insight and prospective on the horrific events of September 11th 2001. Anyone over the age of 10 will always have a memory of those twin towers smoking like chimney stacks and the unearthly sound that resonated throughout our televisions as the tons of steel and concrete began their ascent, falling to rest at the base of those once majestic towers.
We can not ever change the fate of those who perished, or commemorate those who participated in the largest rescue mission in this world’s history and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that day trying to save people they had never met.
We also can not forget about the swirling emotions of pain and confusion that entangled our minds watching this horror unfold as we all collectively wondered aloud and to ourselves, what the world was going to be on September 12th for us as a Nation.
I just want to state for the record that I am proud of the way this entire country, from sea to shining sea pulled together not only for the citizens of New York City, but how we rebounded as a Nation. I still feel remorse here 10 years later over the loss of those two great symbols of our American way of life.
I remember I was working on a Pepsi full-serve vending route that morning and was just coming out of the Raymond James building in Carillion Parkway when the sky seemed eerily silent. I was within a 5 miles of Tampa airport, and about 2 miles from the small St. Pete/Clearwater Airport. As I put my lay-down back on the truck and started to head towards my next stop, I was unaware that the first tower had been struck by an American Airlines plane out of Boston destined for Los Angeles.
I pulled into the main parking area of a financial services company just down Ulmerton Road and entered to find the receptionist and Security staff huddled around a bank of televisions watching the events unfold in front of them. My pager suddenly went nuts with 5 straight pagers from my St. Petersburg warehouse and supervisors imploring all trucks to finish their current stop and proceed back to the warehouse immediately.
Considering Tampa Bay had the United States military’s Central Command at nearby MacDill Air Force Base, my Unit Manager wanted to get all of our people off the roads in case this was a simultaneous targeting of military and because President George Bush was in this region visiting a Elementary School in Sarasota at the time. I proceeded immediately back to the St. Petersburg warehouse and sat with most of my fellow Pepsi employees watching the horrific events.
I could only think about how as a young teen, my Uncle George took my father and myself towards the top of one of the towers while it was still under construction and showed us both the sights of New York from a truly unique prospective. The pride shown to us that day by my uncle moved me even then, and as I watched those towers begin to self destruct, I knew in my mind and soul a bit of him also crumbled to the ground that day.
During that low point in American history, the Tampa Bay Rays were in a hotel in Manhattan preparing for a night game against the New York Yankees. With the evolving dangers of the day still unfolding around New York City, that night’s contest was quickly canceled and players and Rays staff were advised to stay in the hotel as a security measure.
When the Rays finally did get to play their contests against the Yankees, it was the first visual moment that this city got to display its perseverance, its unique toughness and the game signaled the first emotional volley to the world that the healing had begun. It was a game surrounded by intense emotional episodes and truly patriotic gestures by fans and players. As a measure of remembrance, all the players uniforms had a American flag patch over the MLB label in the rear of the uniform. The players caps also had a stitched United States flag on the left side of the cap, closest to their hearts.
It was a game that was not played for competition as both teams seemed to be still a bit numb, and it showed on the field. It was a symbolic moment of gathering by the citizens of this Metro region, a first step towards healing emotionally and spiritually for baseball fans and citizens of this great town. It was a visual congregation of a city and its people trying to get back to normal, or trying to again figure out what normal was anymore. It was a game where the final score really did not matter. It was their time to grieve, celebrate, and honor collectively.
The Rays considered it an honor that they could be there that series to help this healing process along for the city. Everyone knows the outpouring of the entire country for the citizens of New York City, but the action of the Rays and Yankees playing a simple ballgame brought a sense of getting back to life, starting to rebuild from block one. I still have the cap Rays pitcher Brian Rekar gave me a few weeks later that had his number 35, and the “FDNY”, and “NYPD” emblazoned under it’s brow in black Sharpie. He gave me this symbolic cap after the last home game in 2001, and I have displayed it in a case ever since that day.
It was a day that this Nation as a whole will never forget, or can forget. But isn’t it a great thing to know that baseball helped the healing process in that time of grief and suffering. And for that reason, I still think about the members of the Port Authority, NYPD and FDNY who rushed into that building as so many ran out. So many heroes on that day both professional and causal citizens just trying to help their fellow man. It has been heralded as the greatest rescue effort in this nation’s history with that day’s emotional effect still haunting some of us today.
The city has healed, the site of the World Trade Center complex has been excavated and is still evolving and undergoing change, but the memory and the emotional pull of Ground Zero will always grow heavy on this nations heart ans mine. That day changed all of our lives from sea to shining sea. This date will always reminds us of this event, but also illustrated the strength compassion and resolve of this Nation. WE CAN NEVER FORGET…period!