Flip the switch, pull the curtain down and tear it up already.
Shea Stadium was given an early farewell last night, thanks in part to yet another devastating loss by the New York Mets.
In falling 9-6 to the Chicago Cubs, this loss hurt as much if not more than any other this season.
And for all the blame the bullpen has (rightfully) earned this season, last night’s loss primarily gets credited to the offense, who failed miserably late in the game.
In the 7th, 8th and 9th innings, the Mets had runners on third base with nobody out, yet combined, they were able to muster only a bases loaded walk in the 8th, which at the time tied the game at 6-6.
There were two very questionable decisions made by the manager and one of his coaches, which were not sending Jose Reyes- the franchise’s all time stolen base king in the 7th inning which in turn led to Daniel Murphy lining out into a double place, as his rocket line drive landed harmlessly in the glove of first basemen Derek Lee, who stepped on first to retire both Murphy and Reyes.
In the 8th inning, following a Carlos Delgado lead off double, Carlos Beltran ripped a single to center, which could have potentially scored Delgado. Unfortunately, third basemen Luis Aguayo held Delgado at third without hesitation, preventing the tying run from even attempting to score. While Delgado would eventually score following a bases loaded walk, Jose Reyes couldn’t produce any bases loaded magic two nights in a row, grounding out weakly to second to end the threat.
And then came the ninth inning, where its safe to say and hope of the Mets making the playoffs came to a near dead end.
Murphy lead off, and laced a ball into right-center field, hustling his way all the way to third for a triple. Nobody out, runner on third, and up came the face of the franchise, the captain in waiting, the guy Mets fans wanted at the plate: David Wright.
Lou Piniella decided to allow his reliever, Bob Howry, to pitch to Wright instead of walking him and Delgado, in attempt to set up a potential double play with forces at any base.
Despite the fanfare surrounding him and the MVP talk which once again picked up some steam during the last week, Wright has been anything but valuable this season with runners in scoring position, hitting an inexcusable .242 in those situations, worked the count to 3-0, before fouling off a couple of very hittable pitches, only to chase a fastball well out of the strikezone, stranding Murphy at third. Piniella decided to have his reliever walk both of the Carlos’ to load the bases, and Howry proceeded to get Ryan Church to ground out to second, forcing Murphy at home, while Ramon Castro struck out.
If all of the air wasn’t sucked out of Shea following the Mets’ inability to score more than one run during those final three innings, it certainly was a half inning later, when with two outs and nobody on, Luis Ayala , in his second inning of work, allowed a single to Ryan Theriot, who after stealing second, scored on a bloop single to right by Lee. The final knockout punch was delivered by Aramis Rameriz, who crushed a home run off Ayala with a runner on, punctuating what would turn out to be a very forgettable night at Shea for New York.
The loss was crippling, not only becasue it was once again of the self-inflicted variety, but because with the Phillies getting mauled at home by the Braves, the Mets could have tied up Philadelphia in the loss column, while also maintaining their one game edge in the Wild Card- something of course they were unable to- as the Brewers took care of the Pirates in Milwaukee.
This loss certainly tops them all, and despite how bad the bullpen has been, and even despite Oliver Perez coughing up the 5-1 lead his team gave him, the Mets were gift wrapped an opportunity to put themselves in prime position to erase the nightmares of last season, needed nothing more than a fly ball from their third basemen.
For what it’s worth, and its hardly consolation after a loss last night, Carlos Delgado all but put penciled his name in next seasons opening day line-up after coming up huge once again last night. With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the third, Delgado took advantage of a distracted Carlos Zambrano, who seemed to allow Reyes’ antics running down the third base line get into his head, as he served up a grand slam to the Mets first basemen.
Delgado also doubled to lead off the 8th, and eventually would score on that bases load walk, and did all he could to help get his team past the demons of last season’s collapse which seem to taking in Shea’s final days along with the fans.
Johan Santana can’t pitch every night, but it seems like down the stretch unless he’s on the mound, the Mets find ways to lose these pivotal late season games. Jerry Manuel seems hesitant to pitch his ace on short rest this weekend, although the situation may force his hand if come Saturday the Mets find themselves in an elimination game.
It just doesn’t get much worse than it was last night at Shea Stadium, which will now likely host it’s finall games Sunday, following another brutal loss which took the Mets’ playoff destinty officially out of their own hands, and puts their postseason hopes very much up in the air. And ironically, had David Wright done just that with a fly ball, we would likely be having a very conversation this morning.
But he didn’t, and the team took one step closer to missing out on playoff baseball for the second time in as many years, doing so in an eerily similar fashion, while taking all of the life out of ballpark dying to breathe some October air one more time.
Sadly, it appears those hopes, along with the team, are already flat lining.
Here we go again.
I know I’m beating a dead horse, and come to think of it, thats more or less what the Mets resemble, but Jerry Manuel’s ballclub seems to be flatlining once again despite being an arms reach away from a postseason berth.
Last night, the Mets found yet another way to reach rock bottom, as the fatal blow came from the opposing teams starting pitcher, who took rookie Jon Niese deep from a fourth inning grand slam which broke open a 2-2 game.
It’s tough to say whether or not this is deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said, or whether or not the Mets will stop this lateseason landslide before they find themselves on the outside looking in for a second consecutive October.
Once again, the Mets control their own playoff destiny, as they maintain a one game over a Milwaukee Brewers team who has been trying its best to avoid a late season meltdown of their own.
And while the Mets will wake up this morning still holding onto a playoff spot, you wouldn’t know it by the vibes surrounding them.
Last night, Shea Stadium, beginning it’s final week of regular season baseball it’s rusting and rotting walls will ever witness, saw its crowd turn quickly on their favorite choke artists, as cautious cheers turned into defening, sustained boos.
The one big difference between this season’s late season slide and last is the absense of Willie Randolph, who ended up being the scapegoat for the 2007 disaster, losing his job in the middle of June earlier this season after his team failed to show an ability to get out of its own way through the first 70 games or so.
And while Randolph was enjoying the festivities Sunday night saying goodbye to Yankee Stadium, his successor may have to start preparing to say goodbye to more than his current ballpark come Sunday.
He may lose that interim tag after all- along with his chance of coming back next season.
But just as the blame was somewhat unfairly placed on the shoulders of Randolph, Manuel has done his best to weather this storm that only seems to strengthening by the day.
Once again, this falls on the players.
The bullpen has been putrid, but the offense continues to leave far too many runners on, notably in late game situations.
It would be a shame to spoil some of the feel-good stories around this team, whether its the resurgence of Carlos Delgado or the brilliance of Johan Santana.
And despite those, a failure this season to clinch a playoff spot would be nothing short of apocalyptic for this franchise, which is still very much trying to heal its emotional wounds from how horribly last season ended.
And yet with a chance to atone for their shortcomings last season, the Mets seem to be lacking the same killer instinct they needed last season, along with the mental toughness the team their chasing manages to find a nightly basis.
The Phillies, who were last season’s beneficiaries of the Mets collapse, have once again this year come from behind while leaving the Mets in their rearview mirrors, now holding a 2.5 game lead with the Mets having only 6 games left to play.
As Joel Sherman states in today’s New York Post, a second consective collpase would be “two much too handle”.
6 more games, at home, with the Cubs and Marlins at hand.
The Mets will start Santana tonight, and again on Sunday in Shea’s finale.
This is why the Mets went out and got him, and why GM Omar Minaya isn’t just yet preparing a resume for job interviews.
Santana’s maginificant season has come down to these last two starts, where he can help pitch his team into the playoffs and put the nightmarish memories from last season.
Succeed, and Shea Stadium will be given a stay of execution.
Fail, and everyone from Minaya to Manuel may not be so lucky.
I hate the New York Yankees.
It’s no secret and anybody who knows me knows that I hate the Yankees about as much if not more than I hate anything.
However, I’ve always held a great deal of respect for the history of the franchise, and my experiences going to Yankee Stadium have always been enjoyable, usually regardless of result.
That said, despite my feelings towards the team that calls it home, Yankee Stadium has been the site of a number of my greatest sports memories, starting way back when in 1996 when I took my first ever trip to The Bronx, late in October for game 6 of the World Series.
That’s right, myself- 9 year old kid without any real emotional connection to the team I was going to see- was introduced to the hallowed grounds on 161st street and River Avenue.
There was the first time I saw Monument park a few years back, along with day-night, two stadium doubleheaders.
There was watching my favorite player take a fastball to his head, and most recently, baseball’s midsummer classic, the All Star Game.
Any sports fan, regardless of team affiliation, can appreciate the history surrounding Yankee Stadium, and the seemingly endless number of legends who have graced its batters boxes and pitching rubbers.
From Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle and Berra to Munson and Jackson and Mattingly to Jeter, Rivera, Williams and Rivera, some of the games greatest have donned the pinstripes and had the honor of calling Yankee Stadium home.
Since I was 9, I’ve been going to Yankee Stadium with absolutely no regularity, however the times I’ve been lucky enough to have been there, have generally been unbelievably special.
In honor of the closing of baseball’s most prestigious stage, here are my ten most memorable trips to the house that Ruth built.
10. July 24th, 1999
Yankees beat Indians 22-1; I watch all of it from a Luxury Box
This game stands out for two reasons (which I guess I gave away in my little headline), but it was the only time I dined at the Stadium club restaurant and sat in one of it’s luxury suites. As a pure baseball fan, I absolutely detest luxury boxes. They take you away from the crowd, and while the food is great, the experience isn’t. It also isn’t often you see a team score 22 runs in a game, and on this particular July afternoon, the Yankees did just that, highlighted by Chili Davis (you’re gonna hear his name again later…if you can believe that) drove in 6, while every Yankee starter with the exception of Paul O’Neil drove in at least one run. And for what it’s worth, Ricky Ledee, who came in as a replacement for O’Neil, drove in 3.
9. September 25th, 1998
Yankees earn 112th victory of the season
On pace to setting the American League mark for wins in a season (until they were surpassed by the Seattle Mariners in 2001), the Yankees won their 112 game of the year that night, and the atmosphere was playoff like despite the Yankees being heavily favored to win their second world series in 3 seasons. Orlando Hernandez pitched, and the Yanks took care of the Tampa Bay (still at the time) DEVIL Rays.
8. June 27th, 2008
2 Games, 2 Stadiums and 9 RBI’s for Carlos Delgado
The first day of the rest of Carlos Delgado’s season would turn out to be the last regular season game I would ever see at Yankee Stadium, and what a way to go out. The Mets, mired in mediocrity and less than 2 weeks into the Jerry Manuel era, Delgado decided to extend batting practice and go off, hitting two home runs that still haven’t landed. He came into the day with 36 RBI, and left the ball park with 45. As I’ll get into greater detail discussing later on, leaving Yankee Stadium having seen the Mets win a game there always put a big, fat smile on my face. Making the day even more special was leaving the Stadium, heading for the subway, and taking two of them back to Queens, arriving in more than enough time to catch the second game of the two stadium doubleheader. A very unique experience for most, but it actually was the second time I would be completing such a feat.
7. June 25th, 2004 and June 26th, 2005
Mets fans take over in two Saturday thrashings
I listed two dates here because on virtually the same day a year apart, the Mets played the second of three games during their annual visit to Yankee Stadium, and for the first time I was able to remember, I left Yankee Stadium to the sweet sounds of “Lets go Mets”, as the visitors from Queens won 9-3 in ’04, and 10-3 in 2005. In both games, by the late innings, the stadium had mostly cleared out, with Mets fans staying behind and making themselves feel at home (myself included, both times). The chants were loud and the house that Ruth built was temporarily being overrun by Mets fans. It was a wild time, and after years of making the trip to the Bronx and either leaving with a loss or a hard earned win, it was nice walking out with a victory, being serenaded with a chant unfamiliar to the ears of fans who usually fill Yankee Stadium.
6. August 10th, 2005
Yank’s edged out by White Sox; I’m Introduced to Monument Park
The game was exciting, going 10 innings and seeing the Yankees lose a close, 2-1 game to the visiting White Sox. However, this day was defined by my first ever stroll through Monument Park. If you haven’t been there, Monument Park is located out in left field, underneath that netting that are often the recipient of home run balls. While all stadiums retire numbers and honor their history in one way or another, Yankee Stadium is extra special in this manor, having their own hall of fame which contains not only the retired numbers and plaques of legends past, but honors the Pope’s visits, Stadium voice Bob Sheppard along with a moving plaque commemorating both the victims and heroes of September 11th, 2001. Walking around and seeing the plaques of Ruth and Mantle sent chills up my spine, however it was overwhelming to see how many great players have been part of the Yankee family, and for all of the terrible things I’m quick to say about the team, their history is second to none and earns all of my respect. Visiting Monument Park is something any baseball fan needs to do, and with all of the monuments and plaques moving across the street, anybody who didn’t get the chance to see it at the old ballpark needs to make sure they make up for it by visiting them in the new stadium.
5. July 8th, 2000
Two Games, Two Stadiums, One Memorable Hit-By-Pitch
On a long day of New York baseball that started in Queens with Doc Gooden toeing the Shea Stadium mound for the first time in his second stint as a Yankee, pitching well and earning a victory in the first game of the first ever Mets-Yankees two-stadium doubleheader. I made the drive from Shea to Yankee Stadium for the second game, which was a make up for a game I was supposed to have seen a month earlier but was rained out (for anybody who can remember, that rain out was made memorable by Robin Ventura dressing up, facial hair and all, like Mike Piazza and rounding the bases in the pouring rain with the tarp on the field, emphatically sliding into home). That night, Piazza himself was on the field, although not for long. Roger Clemens was pitching, and after being worn out by Piazza in recent years, he threw a fastball at Piazza’s head, drilling him and knocking him out of the game, and eventually the All Star Game. I will never forget the sound of the ball hitting Piazza’s helmet, as I was sitting in the upper tier between home and third with a clear shot of what was happening. In addition to losing their star catcher, The Mets would go on to lose the game, with Piazza’s beaning simply adding injury to insult as the Mets were swept in the twin-bill. Not the greatest Yankee Stadium memory of mine, but one I’ll always remember, for all the wrong reasons.
4. September 10th, 1999
Pedro nearly perfect, strikes out 17 in Red Sox Victory
In what many describe as the most dominating pitching performance by any visitor in the history of Yankee Stadium, then Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez was electric. Being only 12 years old, I sat there not fully aware of how well Pedro was pitching, but inning after inning, strike out after strike out, I started to get it. With the exception of a Chili Davis (there’s that name again) solo home run in the second inning, Pedro was perfect. Literally. He faced 28 batters, allowing only the one run on the one hit, and nothing else. He threw 120 pitches, 80 of which were strikes, and fanned 17 Yankees in the process. In 1999, Pedro ended up winning the Cy Young in what many also consider to be his greatest single season, finishing 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA. In addition to winning the American League Cy Young award, he was started the All Star game in Boston that year, winning the game’s MVP award, and also finished second in the overal American League MVP voting. I was lucky enough to see his 21st victory of that magical season he had, while witnessing perhaps the greatest single pitching performance by a visiting pitcher in the history of Yankee Stadium. Not bad.
3. June 17th, 1997
The Inaugural Mets-Yankees Subway Series (Game 2)
No, I wasn’t in attendance for the first ever regular season meeting between the inner city rivals, but I was there for the second game. While the Mets won 6-0 in game one of the series, I wasn’t so lucky, watching my team fall 6-3. However, among the things from that night I’ll never forget was the crowd and the playoff atmosphere in June. At 10 years old, I probably had no business being there, but that was at the point in my childhood where I was coming into my own when it came to understanding and appreciating baseball, and I knew I was part of something pretty special. If you haven’t caught on, most of my trips to Yankee Stadium over the years coincided with the Mets being there, and that Tuesday night in June back in 1997, my first ever exposure to regular season, Mets-Yankees baseball that was anything by regular.
2. July 15th, 2008
Yankee Stadium hosts the All Star Game one final time
Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity. Yankee Stadium, in the midst of it’s final season, was hosting baseball’s midsummer classic. Not only was this an All Star game being played in my city, but with it being the lats one ever at Yankee Stadium, I figured they were going to be pulling out all the stops. Sure enough, by the end of a very, very long night, not only had I watched the longest game in All Star Game history (the game ended at 1:40 in the morning after 15 innings of baseball, but I was able to enjoy the largest on field collection of Living Hall of Famers including Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. The game itself, while it started slow, had a thrilling conclusion, ending with a walk-off sacrifice fly off the bat of Michael Young. Extra innings saw great escapes, outstanding defensive plays and guys being thrown out at home, and I sat uncomfortably in the left field bleachers all night, enjoying every second of it. I had never sat out in the bleachers before which only added to the uniqueness of the whole experience, and between the game, the hall of fame players and the fact that it was an All Star game- and the last to ever be played at Yankee Stadium- it was a memory nearly impossible to top.
1. October 26th, 1996
A Dynasty is born; I make my first ever visit
The fact that (to the best of my memory) this was the first time I had ever stepped foot in Yankee Stadium, I couldn’t have asked for me. Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, and not only was I- a 9 year old- going to be there, I was sitting in the lower level down the third base line. A few points to make. First of all, at 9 years old, I was a Mets fan but hadn’t developed any hatred whatsoever for the Yankees, which would explain the Wade Boggs jersey and Yankees cap I showed up to the game wearing. Secondly, the fact that it was my first ever time in Yankee Stadium was secondary to the fact that when I saw Charlie Hayes snag that final foul pop off the bat of Mark Lemke (yea, I remember), I was watching the start of what would be a powerhouse Dynasty in the Bronx, and first real postseason success during their course of 12 consecutive playoff appearances. It was Joe Torre and Derek Jeter being officially welcomed as ‘true Yankees’. It was watching Wade Boggs ride around on a police horse, celebrating his first ever taste of championship glory.
In thinking back, I have no idea why I was lucky enough to experience some of these great Yankee moments, especially considering how much I despise the team.
That being said, as a baseball fan, I will always cherish the chance I had to live so close to a place so special, and witness some of the greatest moments in the history of a franchise that, like it or not, stands second to none when it comes to baseball royalty.
And so, as the gates come down for a final time tomorrow night, in a late September game that is unusually irrelevant, Yankee fans and baseball fans will say goodbye to a stadium that was anything but. And regardless of who you root for, anybody who calls them self a baseball fan- especially in New York- is going to miss baseball’s cathedral, and in that spirit, here’s a confession of mine:
I know I will.
The great thing about sports is how often history likes to repeat itself.
Off the top of my head, I think of the countless times the great athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger woods find ways to overcome adversity and come out victorious.
I think back to 2001, when the Yankees found themselves in the same situation on back to back nights, trailing the Diamondbacks in the ninth inning and hitting two out home runs to help win World Series games.
I recall Adam Vinitiari drilling not one, but two game winning field goals to clinch Super Bowl victories for the Patriots.
And wouldn’t you know it, here in 2008, history has once again poked it’s ugly head up, this time in the case of The New York Mets.
I don’t think anybody can forget their epic collapse last season, which of course is highlighted by the fact they could not capture a division crown, no less a playoff birth, despite having a 7 game lead with 17 games left to play.
The fell harder and faster than a brick off the top of a hundred story building, and sure enough, a full calendar year later, they find themselves with a healthy (although not as hearty) lead in their race for a National League East title, with- you guessed it- 17 games left to play.
They’ve played 145 games to this point, splitting them between a season that has really been the combination of to individual era’s: The end of Willie Randolph’s, and the beginning of Jerry Manuel’s.
Of course you could also argue the Mets really picked things up when their first basemen decided he had been hibernating long enough.
Carlos Delgado has gone from being asked out of town to the talk of it.
His numbers since June 27th are eye-popping, as it was that afternoon he hit two home runs and drove in nine against the Yankees in the first half of a two stadium double dip in the Bronx.
That would be the final game the Mets would ever play at Yankee Stadium, preparing to lower its curtain a month earlier than expected with the Yankees all but dead, and their slugger left it looking an awful lot like the guy they claimed built it.
OK, so Carlos Delgado is no Babe Ruth, but his performance down the stretch has put the Mets in prime position to put the nightmarish end to last season behind both his team and their fans.
These Mets can’t seem to figure out whether or not they are in fact a reincarnated version of last year’s losers. Despite many of the same faces, it’s the fresh ones who seem to provide the most hope in avoiding another dreaded September disaster.
They have a new manager (Manuel) who has a new go-to guy (Johan Santana) in his rotation, which is something the last guy (Randolph) didn’t (no, Tom Glavine fell a bit short).
Ryan Church, Dan Murphy and Luis Ayala have all helped their new team in a variety of ways, however it’s also been the guys who were hear that have been contributing.
Jose Reyes, who seemed to fall in love with popping out for the last month of last season, looks fresh and energized, and has continued his potential MVP pace (that’s right, Delgado isn’t the only guy who should be in that discussion).
Carlos Beltran has been ever so quietly putting up the same consistent numbers he has the last two seasons, and while his home run numbers are down, his batting average is up.
A quick note about Beltran- for all the talk about him being overpaid and out of place in New York, the guy will once again finish the season with over 100 runs scored and 100 RBI, while hitting between 25 and 30 home runs and (at current pace) hitting between .275 and .285. You can debate whether or not that’s worth the contract he signed, but the fact of the matter is he has been playing his best baseball over the last 3 weeks (when the games have counted most) while also continuing to play gold glove defense in center field.
Mike Pelfrey, whose face we saw last year but without the results, has been a savior of sorts with his solid numbers since June, winning 11 games to an ERA of less than 3.00 since.
With 17 games left, the team also has a number of question marks surrounding it.
Their closer, Billy Wagner, underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week and likely has pitched his final innings as a Met.
David Wright, despite his 4-4 performance the other night, still needs to cut down his swing and go back to driving the ball up the middle and to right field. Doing that successful with runners in scoring position wouldn’t kill him either.
The bullpen? Still a heart attack waiting to happen each and ever night, and can certainly be credited with Manuel’s recent anointment of his team as “Team Tightrope”.
Forget about the velocity issues with Pedro Martinez, right now he needs to remember where the strike zone is if he wants any hope of getting another contract offer from the Mets, as he becomes a free agent at seasons end.
Oliver Perez has been relatively reliable since Randolph’s firing, however another recent meltdown against last place Washington signaled a potential warning for the organization. Perez is also in his contract year, although based on his potential and agent (Scott Boras) he’s likely all but assured an overpriced deal.
The Mets have 17 games left to do what they were unable to last season, which is simply hold on.
They lead the second place Phillies by 4 games in the all important loss column, and wrap up their season playing 13 games against the Marlins, Braves and Nationals, teams a division winning team should beat.
Then again, facing the same teams down the stretch last season, the Mets were unable to take care of business, making unprecedented, unwanted history.
The Mets now look to make sure what happened last season isn’t repeated.
“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind”
Today marks seven years since that fateful September morning.
I’m not sure why, but seven years later, and for the first time in a number years since that tragic day I’ve been unable to get 9/11 off my mind.
It’s sort of scary how fast time has flown, but at least in my lifetime, and I’m sure this holds true for almost everybody else old enough to appreciate it, September 11th, 2001 will forever be a day nobody forgets.
You’ll never forget where were you when you first heard or saw what had happened.
You’ll never forget any of those heart wrenching images that have been forever etched into our minds.
You’ll never forget the feelings of helplessness and shock, accompanied by devastation and fear.
You’ll never forget the outpouring of spirit and resolve this country showed in the days, weeks and months following.
You’ll never forget the heroism and reaffirmed respect for the everyday people many of us to that point had taken for granted.
No, seven years later, we’ll never forget a day that in one way or another changed us for the rest of our lives.
Following the events that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, American citizens were given a collective wake up call, shook to their very cores and foundations, aware, perhaps for the first time, that the freedoms and liberties we’ve always overlooked were being threatened.
Personally, I was only 14, and starting my high school career.
I live in Queens, and I was on my way to school at around 9:30 (late for a city public school, but thanks to 4,500 students, I was on a split schedule which had my first class starting at 9:50).
I bring that up because when the first plane hit Tower 1 at 8:46, I was unknowingly sitting in my living room, watching SportsCenter.
I left about a half hour later to catch the bus, completely unaware of what was going on only miles away from where I live, and prepared for just another day.
I’ll never forget, nor do I think anybody else will, how stunningly perfect the weather was that day.
I can’t remember ever seeing a sky so clearly blue, and I remember pointing out to a friend of mine how gorgeous it happened to be that Tuesday morning.
Waiting for the bus, another friend of mine who was himself just arriving at the bus stop, asked me if I
had heard about what was going on at the World Trade Center, to which I naively replied no.
The bus stop happened to be at the bottom of a hill, the top of which gave (and still gives) anybody a picturesque view of Manhattan’s skyline.
We walked no more than half way up that hill, and looking out, I took what would end up being one final look at the Twin Towers.
Thick, billowing black smoke stained the cloudless sky, and for the first time in my life I was overcome by indescribable emotions.
Without knowing anything more than one of the most symbolic images I had come to know was up in flames, my friends and I got to school, where there was a surprising sense of calm, or perhaps just a widespread unawareness.
Whatever it was didn’t last long, as rumors fly through high school faster than light travels, and I can’t begin to tell you some of the absurd things students were saying.
Teachers had radios on, and there was a heightened sense of panic that began to spread.
I went to my first two classes of the day, the first of which was gym which consisted of nothing more than listening to the radio. After that was math, and for whatever reason, one of the things about that day that stands out personally was just writing the date on my page.
At that moment, scribbling 9/11/01 on the upper left hand side of my notebook page, it all sort of hit me that what was going on today was going to make this date pretty darn important.
Among the few things about that day I don’t remember was whether or not I took notes that period, although I do remember asking my teacher if he had heard anything new by the time I got there.
After that second class, my best friend Joe and I made one of those in the moment decisions I doubt either of us will ever forget. At only 14 years old, and in only our very first week in a new school, we agreed there was no way we could stay in school, completely left out in the dark with everything going on.
Both of our fathers worked in Manhattan, and his was a high ranking city government official who ended up being called down to the scene to set up a command post.
(While everybody we knew ended up being ok, we knew many others weren’t as fortunate.)
With the uncertainty on both of our minds, we walked out of school, without telling any teachers or more importantly, getting in touch with our parents, which in hindsight probably was among the dumbest decisions we could have made, especially considering his mother showed up less than an hour after we left to pick up both up.
Regardless, we walked home, and I’m typical, immature high school freshman form, I started cracking jokes, both because of how immature I know I was but also because with everything going on I figured it wouldn’t kill either of us to smile, even for a minute.
Walking from our high school to his house was anything but a short stroll, and under the circumstances that 20 minute walk felt like hours.
By the time we finally got home, only one network television station was coming in, as the antennas on top of the World Trade Center towers was used to send out those signals.
The headline running along the bottom of the screen was short but profound.
“World Trade Center Destroyed”
If you step back for a second and just think about that, seven years later it still gives you chills.
Nobody in their wildest dreams when seeing those buildings- whether it was up close visiting, noticing it from a distance or simply recognizing them as the symbolic columns of freedom they were- could have ever fathomed that in the span of less than 2 hours, they could be taken away from us.
Of course as symbolic as they were, they were merely buildings when putting in perspective the massive loss of life that day.
2,974 deaths which have been accounted for, with 24 names still considered missing (hijackers excluded). More than 6,000 injured.
Thousands more who knew these people, and millions around the world who, to this day, who had the proverbial “first day of the rest of their lives” start that morning.
In the midst of one of the most historic Presidential campaigns going on- and let me join those, particularly New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, in saying that neither Barack Obama or John McCain belong at the site today as regardless of how united they may appear (I’ll even be bold enough to say the current President has more of a right to be there than either of them)- this country deserves a day to remind itself how united WE are, and how despite the differences we have, the one thing we have in common is our privilege to call this country our own.
Seven years later, I can’t figure out why this seems to be hitting me harder than it usually does on this anniversary, but for what its worth, I stood proudly for the moment of silence my school had this morning.
I stood there remembering a day when thousands of innocent lives were lost, and millions more changed forever.
I stood there remembering the first day of the rest of my life.