Steve’s Storm Tracker- Sports Gives Hope

In my relatively short lifetime of 19 years, I have seen two terrorist attacks on United States soil that have pulled at the heart strings of every American young and old. Sept. 11, 2001 and April 15, 2013 are two days that this nation will never forget.

9/11 was the day that two airplanes were hijacked and flown into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, forcing both buildings to collapse. United Airlines Flight 93 was also hijacked, but the heroic passengers were able to overtake the cockpit and crash-land in Pennsylvania, preventing the deaths of many more people. The Pentagon in Washington D.C. was also attacked as a plane was flown into its western side.  On 9/11, 2,977 people died because of these attacks.

April 15, 2013 was the day of the Boston Marathon bombings. Two men placed backpacks on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Marathon and at 2:49 p.m. set off the bombs, killing three people and injuring over 140.

In the days following these tragedies, the nation was left grieving and asking why these things happened. But what gave the people a sense of normalcy, brought people together, and allowed them to forget about the tragedy that was surrounding them – if only for a few short hours – was sports.

Ten days after the terrorist of 9/11, the Mets returned to New York to play the first major sporting event in the city since the attacks. The Mets were playing bitter rival the Atlanta Braves, and with a runner on first and the Mets down 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Mike Piazza stepped up to the plate. On a 0-1 count, Piazza got his pitch and drove the ball deep into the night over the centerfield wall, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead, a lead they wouldn’t let go. The crowd exploded, not in “Let’s Go Mets,” but in “USA! USA! USA!”

Later that fall, the Yankees would play in the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Yankees continued what the Mets started in September as they returned to Yankee Stadium down in the series 2-0.  But they came back to a Yankee Stadium crowd that was roaring behind them after a ceremonial first pitch right down Broadway by then-President George W. Bush. The Yankees won all three games at Yankee Stadium in walk-off fashion. The Yankees would lose the series, but for that week and a half at the end of October and the beginning of November the nation was engulfed in baseball and not in the wake of the attacks.

The professional sports teams up in Boston had the same impact after tragedy twelve years later.

Two days after the Marathon bombings, April 17, 2013, the Boston Bruins returned home to play the Buffalo Sabres. The Bruins honored the victims of the Marathon by projecting the Marathon Memorial ribbon on the ice with “Boston Strong” on it, a motto that carried the city through the tragedy. Before the game, Rene Rancourt sang the national anthem. But as he started the crowd stood united and boisterously sang the anthem with Rancourt. Rancourt proceeded to take the microphone away from his mouth holding it up to the crowd as he allowed them to sing the anthem. This inspirational scene showed the strength of the city.

On April 20, the Red Sox returned home to Fenway Park and had a massive ceremony to honor the first responders and the victims of the Marathon Bombings. Before the game, fan-favorite David Ortiz gave a speech only he could give, really expressing what the city of Boston felt.

“This jersey that we wear today, it doesn’t say Red Sox. It says Boston,” Ortiz said. “We want to thank you, Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department, for the great job that they did this past week. This is our f–king city! And nobody’s going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

The Red Sox continued to be a great distraction from the tragedy of the Marathon, as they went on to win the 2013 World Series behind the “Boston Strong” motto.

Sports have always been an integral part of American culture. Sporting events are something that people love to watch and attend because they’re fun and make you feel good. But I and millions of others have seen what else sports can do; they can heal.