Remembering Mike Piazza’s Home Run that Helped Heal a City
Those are quite possibly the worst words that could be told to anyone who witnessed the events of September 11, 2001, whether it be in person or on television. As of 8:46 am that day, everyone’s lives would forever be changed; Forgetting will never be an option.
But this post isn’t to reflect about that day. This post is about one specific moment that occurred ten days later. What I consider to be the first step in the healing process for millions of people, including myself.
The New York Mets were playing a night game against their heated rivals, the Atlanta Braves, for what was the first professional sporting event in New York since the attacks. These teams had hated each other for years, but came together and exchanged hugs and handshakes after the lineups were announced. Although it was a beautiful symbol of unity, it very much showed that there was still a huge lack of normalcy in the lives of Americans.
The red, white, and blue flags which could be seen in the hands of the 41,235 in attendance, the fan created signs of support to all who were affected, and the members of New York’s Finest and Bravest both on the field and in the stands were more than enough to keep a well of tears on standby throughout the game. Overwhelming yet soothing images could be captured across every inch of the stadium. But these were all images that showed how deeply abnormal things still were.
Fast forward past the bagpipes, the moment of silence, and Liza Minnelli singing God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch, to the bottom of the eighth inning.
With the Mets down 2-1, Mike Piazza, who was noticeably emotional during the pre-game festivities, walked up to the plate with the heart of every New Yorker, and perhaps every American, weighing on his shoulders. This at bat was so much bigger than baseball could ever be, but no one knew it just yet. From the instant the ball cracked off of Piazza’s bat until it made its way over the center field wall, no one who was watching that game was thinking about what had happened a week and a half prior to that.
For just five seconds, lives were normal again. Natural reactions of excitement, relief, and pure happiness emitted out of people’s bodies. Raw emotion took over Shea Stadium, and for the first time in days, Americans experienced what it was like to smile.
As Piazza rounded the bases, reality of what had happened ten days before would set back into people’s minds. The visual reminders were still too strong and overpowering.
But that home run, that moment, that first fragment of time, I acted as I normally would have prior to September 11th, and that will always be the first five seconds of getting back to life as I knew it.
That, I will never forget.
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