Normalcy in a Post-9/11 World

I was at the first game back in Yankee Stadium after Sept. 11. The decision to go was protested by my family. They thought it would be dangerous, that maybe something else would happen there.

But my father would not buy into the paranoia that had fostered in the city after the terrorist attacks. Instead, he bought two tickets to the Yankees game.

The first noticeable difference at the game was the security check at the entrance. Whereas it used to be a quick and casual check, now it was a full search for everyone entering the building.

But, even that did not soothe the suspicions and worries I had. As we waited for the game to start, I imagined scenarios in which terrorists would be able to smuggle something in or use another vehicle as a bomb.

With every sound emitted from above, 33,000 heads would instinctively look up, their ears trained to be wary of airplanes.
But then the game started and we weren’t so worried any more.
Just by being out there and playing, just doing something normal, the Yankees improved the mood of millions around the city. It was great to feel the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with a baseball game because it meant all the other emotions were put aside.

Perhaps Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams said it best: “When we started playing, I didn’t see the sense of it,” Williams said, according to mlb.com.

“[But] it started making sense when I saw the faces of people who had lost loved ones, people who needed something to take them away for a few minutes and see something else,” he added. “We helped bring some sense of normalcy to the whole thing.”

Despite losing the game 4-0, the Yankees clinched a playoff berth after Boston lost.

But the best was yet to come for the Yankees. In the World Series, they were down 2-0 after two games in Arizona. When they came back to Yankee Stadium, George W. Bush threw out the first pitch: a symbolic strike, and walked off the field to a tumultuous applause.

They won that game by a score of 2-1. In their next meeting, the Yankees trailed 3-1 going into the bottom of the 9th inning. Diamondbacks stud closer Byung-Hyun Kim came in to close out the game but couldn’t do the job. Tino Martinez hit a dramatic 2-run homerun for the Yankees to tie it up. Then in the bottom of the 10th, Derek Jeter hit the winning homerun.
All of a sudden, New York’s “mystique and aura” that was ridiculed by the Diamondbacks looked very real.

On the very next night, Kim returned to try to save a 2-0 Diamondback victory and again failed. With two outs, Chuck Knoblauch hit a two-run homerun to tie it. I remember watching at home in disbelief, wondering if I had accidentally been watching a re-run from last night’s game.

The Yankees went on to win that game in the bottom of the 11th and a fan in the crowd held a sign that read “Mystique and Aura Appearing Nightly.”

And even though they went on to lose that World Series, their impact was felt by everyone in New York. They showed true spirit and gave us all some hope. They made us focus on something besides our losses and our grief.

We all just needed some normalcy: to grab a bag of Cracker Jacks, watch America’s pastime and maybe even experience some “mystique and aura.” We just needed some baseball.