Every year, it seems I find myself returning to the same exact moment in New York Sports history at the end of the second week in September. This year, instead of diving right into the same rehashing of Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 home run, I reread those articles. I return to them, looking for answers. For signs of feeling. For a retrospective road map of how we got to another anniversary of “Day the Earth Stood Still.”
What I found wasn’t comfort. It wasn’t peace. In these articles, each one a glimpse into my psyche at the time, I found an overwhelming sense of hope.
Hope is a funny thing, especially in today’s world. Hope can be something you clutch close to your chest. It keeps you afloat, buoyant on the rough seas of life. Hope can uplift, carrying you when you are weary or when you are on the right path. But these days, hope has taken up a new game: feeling just out of reach.
Last year, I wrote about how the Covid-19 pandemic had ravaged New York City, the place I have called home for eight years of my life. Those early months were difficult, and we tried to manufacture hope daily. If you caught the passing feeling, you worked tirelessly to cultivate, grow and spread it as much as you could. It was terrifying to walk outside, to go to the grocery store, to take the train. Daily life in New York City stopped, but it took all of us to keep pushing forward.
Hope then transformed into a promise of security, communal safety, help, and support. Hope then turned into smiles, sometimes masking the fear of tomorrow, but always attempting to share itself with those who could see below the cloth mask we all wore. Hope was wearing a mask to protect the seniors living in the housing facilities peppered throughout Queens. It was a communal effort to raise joy and grow hope.
And in New York City, we had found that hope, let it grow, and we were ready to share with anyone who needed some. The city felt back on its feet, and we knew we could get through anything.
But that feeling wasn’t born out of the Covid-19 Pandemic. This city learned to cultivate that hope, and the readiness to share, after 9/11.
Every year around this time, I find myself learning about a new act of heroism on that day twenty years ago that I didn’t know before. There are millions of these stories, and the majority of them I will probably never hear, but they all share the same theme: hope is power.
“It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.” – John Kerry.
This year, as the Mets squared off against the Yankees, Bobby Valentine joined the SNY Booth for the third inning in which they all discussed the tragic events of that day. Valentine was the Mets manager back then, attempting to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year. After the attacks, Valentine knew he had to do something instead of standing still.
“I had never been that sad and that angry ever before in my life,” Valentine explained to SNY. “I needed to do something. I didn’t know what to do. I think I actually considered going down to the recruitment center and joining the fight.” Deterred from joining the efforts, Valentine delivered flashlights, protective goggles, face masks, and eye drops to Ground Zero.
A short time later, Valentine was leaving the ballpark when he noticed a group of exhausted volunteers struggling to put batteries into hundreds of desperately needed flashlights meant for the rescue effort. Valentine pulled over, helped create an assembly line of sorts, expediting production. And that’s when, in the distance, they heard the rumbling of motorcycles.
A biker gang approached, got off their bikes, and asked if Valentine and his crew needed help. Soon, everyone was unwrapping batteries, putting them in flashlights, and securing them for the shipment.
Hope is something that, when caught, cultivated, and spread, can change a community.
Each year, I have returned to Mike Piazza‘s home run, not because it helped the Mets win a game, nor because he was my favorite player. Instead, it was because it was the first time I knew what New York Hope could do.
The attacks on September 11th were horrible, tragic events that millions of Americans still feel the shockwaves of today. Every year in New York, we take a step back and return to the days following where none of us knew where to turn. No one knew how to move forward. And yet, hope carried us back then and still does to this day twenty years later.
Mike Piazza’s home run was just a moment in time. But it reminded all of us that we could still hope for a brighter future, we could hope to rebuild, and we could hope for peace and a return to normal. I recently heard someone say that 9/11 was the day the modern world changed, and that might be true. However, New York City’s ability to cling, float, grow, spread, and carry hope, is something that still to this day remains constant.
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