Sam Dykstra (COM ’12) was Fall 2010 Sports Editor for The Daily Free Press. He currently writes for MiLB.com.
It’s Wednesday, and despite what the talking camel on the television says, you know what day it really is.
Yes, this is a Sept. 11 column because it needs to be one.
See, this particular 9/11 represents a new milestone for myself and for others born in 1990. Most of us have been on this Earth for 23 years, and with today’s 12-year mark, the shadow of 9/11 has officially been cast for more than half of our lives.
Some of you freshmen were born in 1995 — God bless you for that, by the way — so I don’t know if you remember where you were in your first-grade classroom the moment you found out that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and another still into a Pennsylvania field. Mrs. Thurston’s class, third column, second seat for me. I remember running around at lunchtime recess under any airplane overhead because we were scared, but we tried to make it a game — an immature but innocent response.
Then, I remember what came in the days I followed. I was 11, and everything could be understood through sports. Rome and Sparta were the Red Sox and the Yankees. George Bush was George Steinbrenner, at least in our family. So, after 9/11, everything in sports stopped, and that’s how I knew the world had stopped, too. There was no baseball in the nights that followed nor was there football that Sunday. So many dead, so many questions, so much confusion. But that’s what I focused on.
And it was sports that brought us back. Baseball eventually came back, as did football, even if we were scared of what could happen next.
Then came the pitch.
If you have the chance today — and if you don’t, make the time to have the chance — watch George Bush’s first pitch from Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. Sure, I’m jumping ahead a bit, but that moment still sticks out in my mind. It sticks out because it was right over the plate, it caused us all to cry and it allowed us to close the chapter on the previous months as best we could.
It was the perfect strike.
We here in Boston know too well the healing power of sports. Two cowards tried to attack this city — may Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Officer Sean Collier, BU’s own Lingzi Lu and their families find peace wherever they are — and I still like to think they failed. This city came together, at once both like so many before it and like none in history, under the mantra “Boston Strong.” That culminated in 17,565 fans singing the national anthem in sync with Rene Rancourt at the TD Garden and David Ortiz exclaiming that this is “our f***ing city.”
Those moments, as great as they are, form just a part of my last 12 years looking to sports for solace. I don’t think of Super Bowl XXXVI as the first post-9/11. I remember it as when the Pats finally won a championship, the first captured by a Boston team in my lifetime. Iraq isn’t immediately what I think of for 2003. It’s Aaron Bleeping Boone. The list goes on, including today, when I’m kicking myself for not keeping Peyton Manning in fantasy football squad rather than debating whether the Russian proposal for Syria is okay or if it’s just delaying WWIII.
This is just how I’ve coped for almost half my life now, and I guess that’s hitting me on today of all days. Then again, maybe it’s okay too.
Thanks to this country of ours, we’ve been allowed our distractions during one of the scarier times in our history. And for that I’m forever grateful, especially come puck drop, kickoff or first pitch.
These last 12 years haven’t been nearly as bad as they could have been. For me, I thank our armed forces for that first, my family second and sports third.
Now back to your regularly scheduled Hump Day-related programming.