Normalcy in a Post-9/11 World

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, the nation desperately needed a boost. It needed time to heal and a feeling of security, but most of all, the nation needed hope.
It took a baseball game, of all things, in the same city where the terrorist attacks occurred, to turn around the spirits of not only New York, but the entire country.

It was on a crisp night in Queens just ten days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center that the New York Mets gave the nation something to cheer about.

For the first time since Sept. 11, sports returned to New York City at Shea Stadium, a place that was used as a temporary refuge for victims. The Atlanta Braves, the Mets archrival and the team that had dominated the NL East for the past eight years, were in town with the Mets nipping at their heels for the division lead.

Despite the fact that the Mets had swept a series on the road in Pittsburgh just days after the terrorist attacks, they still trailed Atlanta by five and a half games in the division. A loss would all but seal their fate for the postseason. But the series in Pittsburgh wasn’t much on anyone’s mind, and why should it have been? After all, the events of Sept. 11 overshadowed everything, including baseball.

With the Braves in town, however, in addition to the opportunity to gain ground in the division, baseball provided millions of New Yorkers with a way to get their mind off of terrorism.
After an emotional pre-game ceremony dedicated to the victims of 9/11, the Mets took the field for what would become a thing of baseball lore.

It was a tight game from the beginning, with the score tied at one through eight innings. In the top of the eighth, the Braves took the lead by a run, instilling a somber mood into the Shea faithful, something that had become commonplace in recent weeks. It took a future Hall of Famer and Mets living legend to turn the spirits of the city in just a few seconds.

With one on and one out in the bottom of the eighth, Mike Piazza came to the plate and launched a two run homer over the left center field wall. Piazza carried an entire city on his back as he rounded the bases, as the 41,325 on hand at Shea Stadium were in a frenzy for minutes even after Piazza’s curtain call.

For the few seconds the ball was in the air and on its way to providing the Mets a 3-2 victory over the Braves, New York was able to rejoice, which had been a rarity the previous week and a half. For those precious moments, there was no genocide in downtown New York, no destruction, and no cloud of debris looming over the city, taunting anyone who dared to look where the towers once stood.

It’s tough to measure just what that home run did for not only New York, but for the nation. Piazza’s homerun didn’t bring back the Twin Towers or annul the atrocities that had taken place ten days earlier in lower Manhattan, but it did allow New York to put aside its stress and anguish, if only for a few moments.

All New Yorkers, even Yankee fans, could once again smile. For the Mets had conquered their demons that night in their rivals, and in doing so provided themselves the hope of a playoff birth. But more importantly, it provided not only New York City, but the entire nation, a chance at the hope of recovery.