9/11, Osama Bin Laden And The New York Mets

I wrote most of the following five days after Osama Bin Laden was killed, but it is just as relevant today (if not more so) as it was back in May.

Osama bin Laden has finally been caught and killed. And in a "where were you when it happened?" memory, I'll always link Sunday night's New York Mets-Philadelphia Phillies game with that great moment in history, as I was watching the ESPN broadcast when the announcement was made. The initial rumblings were the "U-S-A!" chants, which were confusing at first, until the announcers broke the news. Did I doze off and wake up to an Olympic hockey game? At my age, you never know when you're going to suddenly fall asleep -- or wake up -- so that wouldn't have been too surprising. But apparently I was awake the whole time, and as a sports fan, one of the first things your mind flashes back to when the subject of 9/11 comes up is the first baseball game played in New York City after the World Trade Center attacks.

 

The Mets defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-2, on September 21, 2001, thanks to Mike Piazza's dramatic two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, of course. On September 11, I went to work in Midtown Manhattan as always, but when I arrived, most of my fellow employees were gathered round a TV in a conference room as the first plane had already hit. And we watched live as the second plane crashed into the other tower, and then the buildings crumbled. And it was terrifying. We were then told it was probably a good idea to leave. I got hold of my fiancée (oh yeah, we were supposed to be getting married at a reception hall Downtown in 12 days), and we met near the entrance to the 59th Street Bridge. We walked over the bridge back to Astoria, Queens, with thousands of others, who all amazingly marched calmly and with a certain uneasy camaraderie. I kept looking over my shoulder at the Empire State Building. Maybe that was next. We had no idea if the World Trade Center was just the beginning or the end of the attack.

On that Friday, the 21st, I missed the Mets game because my family and future wife's relatives made it into town in the nick of time, as air space opened up once again and New York City below 14th Street had also finally opened up. We all ate dinner together, and when I made it back to my apartment, I watched the highlights of the game, and thought, as I'm sure everyone else did too, that things couldn't have ended more perfectly. The Mets win on a home run? Hit by Piazza? Did Hollywood write this script? For most of the game, the crowd behaved as if it were at a funeral. Only 10 days had gone by, and we (not just the fans at Shea, but everyone) weren't sure how to act yet. Can we smile? Are we allowed to have a moment of fun? But when the Met catcher drilled his homer over the center field fence, the crowd went wild, tears flowed and it was a cathartic moment for the whole city with a feeling of defiance thrown in for good measure. Even the Mets' arch nemisis Chipper Jones stated that this was one game he didn't mind losing. And the same sentiments ran through my wedding reception: After a week-and-a-half of being in a stomach-churning daze, it was finally ok to take a breath and drink, dance and laugh. Now we have another storybook ending, with the death of Bin Laden. Justice prevailed, and the bad guy was killed. This isn't the real ending of course. When Adolph Hitler died, that didn't end World War II. And the War on Terror goes on. But 9/11, the Mets and baseball are linked once again for me. And hey, the Mets won this time, too. Sometimes there is a happy ending, however briefly it lasts.

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