Sports a Healing Force as Many Commemorate 9/11

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Ten years after the Sept. 11 attacks, sports in America have not changed all that much. Security is tighter at stadiums and arenas. Metal detectors have been installed. A few baseball teams, such as the Dodgers, encourage the singing of "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. Military fly-overs have become common

But for many who were personally affected by the terrorist attacks a decade ago, sports have become a healing force. The sights and sounds, the rituals associated with playing or watching sports with siblings, spouses, other family members and friends, recall happier days. "These memories can act as a salve for emotional wounds," the LA Times writes. "For some people who lost loved ones on that day, sports have become an unexpected comfort and a touchstone, helping to keep cherished memories alive."

How do sports help to heal? Jason Black writes for the Washington TImes:


With nobody knowing what to do or how to get back to normalcy, sports took the lead. First it was baseball, then it was football. To say the sports helped us forget would be wrong, but to say that they helped us heal would be more accurate. When things go bad people want familiarity. They want to do things that remind them of what it was like before.


Erin Finnegan's husband, Mike, taught her to play golf. It was one of their favorite things to  do together before he was killed in the attack on the North Tower. For a long time after his death, Erin wasn't sure that she wanted to play golf anymore. but she's learned to cherish the game in a new way and in continuing to play keeps her close connection with Mike.  

Evan Cascio watched sports because he wanted to be like his older brother, Paul, who was at the World Trade Center the morning terrorists steered two jetliners into the towers.That is why Paul's old Giants jersey means so much to him. Same with his brother's Notre Dame jersey and Yankees memorabilia.

For Erin and Evan and so many others, the true value of sports has little to do with the final score. It's the memory of a father rushing home to watch the first pitch of a baseball game on TV or a sibling's obsession with a particular team or player. It's the memory of LIttle League games and family night at the ballpark.

In fact, it seems 9/11 and baseball are inextricably linked. In the years following that fateful day, the keys to healing for a group of adolescents whose fathers died would be found at Yankee and Shea Stadiums. Bereavement counselor Laurie Nadel writes in Baseball, Hope and the Children of 9/11:

One of the biggest losses that these young people felt keenly was not being able to go to the ballpark with their dads. The younger boys and some of the girls were also missing their fathers' support at their Little League games and after school when their dads would practice batting and catching with them before dinner. 

During three baseball seasons, from 2003 to 2005, Dr. Nadel accompanied teens and young adults to Major League Baseball games to watch beloved New York teams. She says there was something magical in the nature of baseball that allowed these young people who were emotionally closed off to open up to each other as friends who shared a tragedy. She maintains a connection with the group and when recently asked what it was about baseball that drew them together and gave them a new sense of hope. One response, in particular, struck me:

"The spirit of baseball is a spirit of hope and renewal. There's always another game. Another season. A new tomorrow."

With the 10 year anniversary falling on a Sunday, many professional teams are commemorating the date. The NFL and MLB are playing a slew of games. They will all have some kind of ceremony, patch on the jersey or special presentation. 

During the Jets season opener game against the Dallas Cowboys, fans will receive flags, there will be pregame tributes and 9/11 ribbons. The national anthem will be sung by Mary J. Blige. Robert De Niro will narrate a halftime moment honoring family members of 9/11 victims.

The Yankees held a pregame ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, where the baseball team honored veterans with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The US Open commemorated the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks Sunday with a ceremony featuring members of the NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority police, some of whom were involved in the initial response a decade ago.

A simple 9/11 logo was painted Saturday morning onto the Ashe Stadium court, outside the doubles line near the net.

The commemoration coincided with the women's final between home favorite Serena Williams and Australia's Sam Stosur (the ultimate champion) rather than the men's, as previously scheduled, following a series of rain delays.

NASCAR 9/11 Moment of Silence: NASCAR held a special in-race tribute – a three-lap moment of silence –  on Saturday, September 10 during the Sprint Cup Series race.

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman will carry the names of the 75 U.S. Army Pentagon victims on his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet at Richmond. In addition to the listing of the names, the race car will carry an inscription "We Will Never Forget" and sport a specially-designed logo featuring the World Trade Center twin towers, Pentagon and the American Flag.


And across the country, many many other professional and amateur teams, as well as sports fans and family members of lost ones, will be remembering as well. 

Because We Will Never Forget.




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