Sports helped 9/11 begin recovery | News, Sports, Jobs – Altoona Mirror

Sep 11, 2021
By Jim Caltagirone
For the Mirror
For those who lived through the nightmare that enveloped the country on September 11, 2001, there may be specific details of the multiple terrorist attacks that have escaped from memory.
However, it’s fair to assume that most Americans recall the emotional devastation that they experienced when the first images of the attacks were aired on television.
As the country observes the 20th anniversary of 9/11, minds will once again be transported to that horrific morning. Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor had a coordinated attack of that magnitude been perpetrated on U.S. soil.
The nation’s resilience took many forms in the days and weeks following 9/11.
One of the most visible was the sports world’s return to play. Sports were an essential component of the healing and recovery processes and offered a necessary outlet for an expression of pent-up emotions.
Tension was palpable throughout the country, especially in big cities, and nerves were frayed.
Even with heightened security at sporting events, large stadiums were viewed as potential targets. It took courage on everyone’s part to stage the events, including the president of the United States.
President George W. Bush’s first pitch before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium has been described as “the most memorable and most important first pitch thrown by a president.”
In an article for Newsweek, Marina Watts wrote, “With that throw, Bush helped heal a city and a nation. The sport’s unifying power and Bush’s display of leadership made such an impact on many. Baseball is America’s pastime, and gave everyone a sense of normalcy even in the aftermath of September 11.”
Closer to home, Penn State’s first football game after the attacks was at home against Wisconsin on Sept. 22 and featured players from both teams crossing the field to shake hands prior to the kickoff.
“It was a very powerful moment for me,” said Wisconsin running back Anthony Davis, who rushed for 200 yards in his team’s 18-6 victory. “As a matter of fact, it was a moment that I’ll never forget and something that helps define my experience at Wisconsin.”
The resumption of play across all levels of competition was symbolic of the country’s resolve. But for the children of the innocent victims who lost their lives, their own participation in sports would never be the same.
Where once a loved one’s physical presence loomed large, only their memory remained.
Some lost a father who they welcomed home from work with a game of catch; or a mother whose smile radiated her unconditional love from the stands; or a grandparent who could always be counted on, win or lose, for words of praise and a pat on the back.
It was no coincidence that spectators in sporting venues across the country sang the national anthem with fervor after 9/11.
They were sending a message to the world.
Reflecting on Marc Anthony performing the anthem before the Braves-Mets game on September 21, which was the first baseball game played in New York City after the attacks, Chipper Jones said, “I don’t know that there’s ever been a moment, at least in my life, when being an American and being a patriot meant more to me.”
That sentiment has enabled the country to prevail in times of crisis for nearly 250 years.
It will again today and forever more.
Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan.
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