This past Monday marked the 16th anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001. As our nation and her people move forward, year after year we are reminded of what is perhaps the darkest day in American history.
Following the events of September 11, the United States had to heal and they had to heal as one. For some the pain still stings as they have walked the past 16 years without a loved one by their side. Everyone from sea to shining sea had to heal.
Sports played a role in the healing process for some Americans and often how people choose to look back on that day. People remember President George W. Bush throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium. People remember Mike Piazza’s homer in the bottom of the eighth inning at Shea Stadium. The home run gave the New York Mets a 3-2 lead over the Atlanta Braves in the first game back in New York since the attacks. For many sports are the reason why they healed.
Sports have helped heal more recent tragedies as well. They helped heal the city of Boston after the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013. With the help of a Bruins Stanley Cup run and a Red Sox World Series victory, the city healed as one.
Each year we are also reminded of the events of September 11 by American’s “where-they-were” stories. The truth is I do not remember where I was when it happened because I was four years old. I think of this often. A part of me wishes I were older. I wish I were old enough to understand the magnitude of what had actually happened on 9/11.
The thing I do remember were the aftermath of the attacks. Suddenly my father had a poster of the American flag hanging on the front door with the words God Bless America striped below the Star-Spangled Banner. My mother began to dress me in Old Navy Fourth of July shirts despite the nation’s holiday being two months prior. I remember the patriotism. I remember the lone positive about the months and years following September 11, 2001; America became one.
A larger part of me, though, is happy I was a child when our nation changed forever. As a child I was naïve to everything that was going on around me. I am able to look back and see the good things about America in a time where our country was shaken down to her foundation.
In my mind that is the exact reason why sports help our nation heal during such sad and low times. When we watch a sports game we become naïve to the world around us. What is happening on the field, court, ice, etc. for a brief moment or two takes us away from the outside world. When I become engaged in an event whatever has happened in my day leaves my brain for the two to three hours I am focusing on the game.
People become children when they are consumed by a sporting event. Think about it. If you go to Fenway Park when Sweet Caroline echoes through the stadium everyone sings, dances, and losses themselves much like a child when their favorite song comes on in the car.
The love of sports cannot bring anybody back and that is the devastating part. The 2,996 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 now sit in the best seats in the house as their families and friends continue to struggle. Sports cannot take away the pain of losing a parent, child, or best friend. But, for some it lends a consoling hand during a times of sadness.
We can watch and cheer with the past hovering behind us for a bit, but unfortunately the pain stays. However for sports fans as they watch and cheer on their favorite team the outside reality is halted and they become unaware of the world around them. They become children, who just see the world from the best perspective. No child sees color, religion, gender, etc. They just see everybody for who they are. Children see everybody at their best. That is how it should be.