A Post 911 Requiem
As I reflect back on that day of horror and disbelief, I am reminded of just how important sports are to the American landscape and psyche. Sports are normal. Watching baseball is normal. Feeling sad when you team loses is normal. For millions, however, September 11, 2001 was anything but normal. How would we cope? How would we recover? For me, it was my love of hockey and my sacred New York Rangers that helped keep me centered.
On 911 I sat trapped on Long Island, NY with my wife and 3-year old son as public officials shut down every artery that could possibly take us islanders to the main land. A boat was the only way off the 100-mile glacial remnant that I was born and raised on. The anxiety grew to a violent boil as everyone anticipated more attacks on home land after terrorists had used airplanes as weapons of war and caught America napping with their gutless sucker punch.
Eventually the smoke would stop and the dust would settle. War would be declared and America went on High-Alert. How were we going to get on with things like they once were? For me, it was as easy as 3 letters. N-Y-R. New York Rangers Hockey, that is. As our wounds scabbed over, I needed it more than I ever. I thought I was really starving for it that August, when it was 95 degrees, the Yankees were going to yet another post season and the Rangers were toying with an Eric Lindros & Mark Messier combo. But, after the atrocities that took place in our red, white, and blue back yard, I was fixing for it like a strung out addict. 911 had changed everything.
Watching, playing, and reading about hockey are what my child hood was made up off. It was an era forever frozen in time that I needed to get lost in if I was ever going to recover. It was the sanctuary that my child hood provided that I now longed for. I needed that tucked away blanket of security that I once hid under. It was a woven fabric of innocence and naivety I lived under while I arranged my Topps hockey cards. You see, back then my only real worry was if the scratch-off puck was going to wear off and reveal the players name if I handled them too much. Now that would have been tragic. That would have been the end of the world. 911 took that blanket and set it on fire. I was left out in the cold.
As time goes on, we lose touch with the things that made us feel young, excuse me, sheltered. I continue to hold 3 things that provide that internal buzz; Christmas morning, the first snow fall, and hockey. Hockey hits me in the gut and takes me back to a time of tomfoolery, shenanigans, and carefree living. It was a time where countless hours were burned up playing on a frozen pond until you could no longer see the puck glide across the ice because the sun had left an hour too soon. Thank you, Hockey. I will forever be indebted to you. I will always associate your annual arrival with the faces of yesteryear. It is a home coming for me; a reincarnation of a past gone by.
It was this arrival that helped nurse the after-shock of 911 into some kind of normalcy. When the boys in blue did finally hit the Garden ice after a long summer of being choked to death with 162 baseball games, well, it touched a nerve ending that could reach down into the belly of any beast and tickle it. I always struggle to get through the NHL off-season. I poorly filled the void left by the Rangers departure with old replays, message boards, and full seasons on XBOX. However, thanks to 911, I needed hockey to back more than ever.
October blew in and finally there was no need for a substitute. My boys were back and they could not have showed up at a better time. They were truly a sight for the blackest of eyes. I remember saying to the TV, “Bring me back, boys. Bring me back to when it all seemed to feel just right. For 3 hours a night, take me away from this place and remind me again what being 10 years old was like again.”
I was at Madison Square Garden on Sunday October 7th, 2001. I entered the building, unfamiliarity cautious and awkwardly anxious. My heart was heavy as I realized that I was but a few blocks away from Satan’s playground. With a trembling hand, I passed my token of admission to the elderly ticket collector. After it had been checked he handed it back to me and calmly said, “Enjoy the Game.”
But all I heard was, “Welcome back.” Damn right. Welcome back to hockey. In other words, welcome back to life.
Rich Currao is a Content Writer for Rantsports.com. A life-time rink rat, Big Bipper covers the NHL, AHL, and NCAA Hockey. He also covers the NFL and High School Football. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on Facebook.