Monday, September 11, 2023

22 Years Later

As predictions go, you can't be more wrong than TigerBlog was when he wrote this Friday: 

Shelton is unseeded and Djokovic has won more Majors than any other men's player ever. Still, TB is thinking Shelton is going to win. He looks like he could possibly overpower Djokovic.

Yeah, it didn't quite work out that way. Djokovic won in straight sets. He basically chewed up Shelton and then mocked mimicked Shelton's postmatch phone gesture, including an imitation slamming of it down. 

Despite TigerBlog's skepticism, Djokovic now has 24 Majors. Coco Gauff, who seems really easy to root for, now has one. 

The U.S. Open is a New York event through and through. It has a New York personality, with loud fans (some of which crosses the line), wild outfits for the players and a much grittier atmosphere than the other majors.

TigerBlog grew up a New York sports fan. The city's history is well-known, with its legendary athletes, coaches, teams and games.

For all of that, there is nothing in New York sports that will top what happened in the first baseball game back in the city after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was 10 days later, when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets took the lead when Mike Piazza hit a towering two-run home run. The final was 3-2, but this was about so much more than that. This was about saying "we're still here, and New York will go on."

The emotions of that moment were incalculable. 

Today is the 22nd anniversary of those attacks. It's a far different world than it was on Sept. 10, 2001, but it's a world nontheless. On the night of Piazza's home run, that was far from certain. 

It's hard to believe, but there are hardly any Princeton athletes left who were even born by that date. To them, it's something they learned about in history classes, not something they lived through themselves.

Those who did live through it — and there was a lot of Princeton athletes who were in Lower Manhattan that day — were changed by it forever, whether they were near Ground Zero or not.

This is what TigerBlog has written about his memories of 9/11:

He was dropping off TigerBlog Jr. at the University League Nursery School, on the far side of the parking lot outside Jadwin. It was the most perfect weather day, crystal clear, sunshine, no humidity, not a cloud to be found.

TB dropped TBJ off at the school, and the woman who was the office manager said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

TigerBlog walked outside, looked up, and thought "how in the world did that happen?" By the time he got to Jadwin, he found out how.

Most of that day was spent huddled around the only television around, the one in the athletic training room in Caldwell Field House. It was a day where people spoke very little, where everyone had dazed looks on their faces.

By mid-afternoon, he went back to get TBJ at the nursery school. He can still see the children, swinging on the swings, playing in a sandbox, oblivious - happily oblivious - to what had happened to the innocence of the world outside that playground.

Later that night, after it was dark, TigerBlog walked outside to the end of his driveway and looked up. There were no planes in the sky. They'd all been grounded. TB remembers it vividly, the sight of the stars, without planes, above a world of confusion, angst, uncertainty, fear.

In fact, when TB got to Jadwin that day, the first person he saw was John Mack, now the Ford Family Director of Athletics and then in his first year of working in the department. 

There were 14 Princetonians who were killed on 9/11. There were hundreds more who were near Ground Zero when it all happened.

One of those who died was men's lacrosse player John Schroeder. TB wrote about him on the 20th anniversary.

When TB went to meet with John's father Jack, he was struck by the American flag that hangs in his kitchen. The stripes are composed with the names of every person who was killed that day.

It's an overwhelming thing to see them all there and to imagine all of their stories. And, each time the anniversary roles around, there are people who mark another year without them.

Sept. 10 is the last day of innocence.

Sept. 11 is the day it all changed. It's a day that always needs remembrance, and reverence.

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