9-11: Hope and Healing

Tribute lights representing the World Trade Center in New York City (photograph by DiGitAL Gold)

As I write this, ceremonies are underway marking the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Former New York Mayor, Rudy Guiliani, is reading from Ecclesiastes:

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under heaven;
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time plant and a time to reap;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up …

It strikes me that after tragic events — whether in the life of an individual, or an organization, or of a society — there are moments that occur and images that are created which serve as symbols of hope and vehicles of healing.  So often, these images aren’t spurred by leaders, but by “ordinary” people.  Here are a few examples:

The Power of Images: Raising the Flag

For the Greatest Generation, after coming through the rigors of World War II, there was perhaps no greater symbol of resolve and triumph than the iconic photo showing the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

For the 9-11 generation, there is perhaps no greater symbol of the hope of tomorrow and the resolve to rebuild than the photograph of firemen raising a flag amidst the ashes of a still-smoldering Ground Zero — eerily reminiscent, as it was, of both the Iwo Jima photo as well as Francis Scott Key‘s immortal words:

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

(photograph by Thomas E. Franklin, The Bergen Record)

One of the beauties of baseball is that, like life, you get the chance to try again tomorrow.  In a very powerful way, baseball helped the people of New York find some measure of hope and healing in the days after 9-11.  On September 21, 2001, the New York Mets were scheduled to play the Atlanta Braves in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks, in a game carried nationally on ESPN.

There was an electricity in the crowd that night unlike many others before or since.  Unsure quite how to act at the beginning– whether to celebrate, or mourn, or cheer, and for what or whom — the game soon proved to be a group catharsis, giving voice to all of these emotions, and more.  As the Mets took the field wearing caps emblazened with “NYPD” and “NYFD” for the brave first responders,  there was a sense of how vital it was for the home team to win this one, as we had all become “New Yorkers” in effect and in spirit at that time.

With the Mets trailing 2 – 1 in the bottom of the 8th inning, time was running short.  Then Mike Piazza, New York’s star catcher, stepped to the plate with one man on base.  Here’s what happened next (click here):

Click on the image above to view video

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