Like many of us on this date, I sit back and reflect at what was going on the morning of September 11, 2001. It’s a date that will forever be engraved in the memory bank for not only the loss of life, but also for how vulnerable we all were.
For me it was another typical morning in downtown Newark. Up early, I decided to get to the Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium to shoot the breeze with Rick Cerone (the former Yankee & owner of the Newark Bears at the time). Our offices were on opposite sides of the building with Rick’s looking out toward Broad Street and mine butting up against the concourse. It was a normal morning…bright, beautiful morning with the city bustling.
It wasn’t until I walked down the hall to Rick’s office (we were the only ones there) to say good morning that I realized something was going on in New York City. Rick always had his TV on with the sound down and he always had his head down looking at spread sheets or looking at the computer (he was, after all, an accounting major at Seton Hall). When I walked in and said hi, I looked at the television and saw a little puff of smoke coming out of one of the World Trade Center towers. I asked Rick what happened and he dismissively said that it had looked like a small plane had run into the building (American Airlines flight 11). I thought it was interesting enough to head over to the concourse to check it out.
See, in Newark, the World Trade Center towers were just to the right of our batter’s eye. Regardless of how many miles away they were, they appeared as if they were just beyond our fence in the outfield. At night, they were beautifully lit up and it was part of the “charm” of that ballpark and something we were all very proud to talk about when trying to sell sponsorships.
After walking out on the concourse, I could barely see the “puff” of smoke…it looked larger on TV. So I took in the brisk morning air, looked around the yard and then went back inside to report to Rick what I really hadn’t seen. As I walked back into Rick’s office, I first noticed that he was entranced by what he was watching on television…there was a serious look on his face. Before I could get a word out about what I had just seen, Rick says to me, “another plane has hit the World Trade Center and it wasn’t a small plane.” That was United Airlines flight 175. From that moment on, my world almost slowed to a halt…as if my movements were constricted by quick-sand.
My wife also worked at the Bears as the Office Manager and she had just arrived…as a matter of fact, through Rick’s window, we could see some of our employees beginning to park their cars to start the day. What was supposed to be the beginning of yet another ‘baseball day’, turned out to be anything but.
After dropping several expletives in Rick’s office and in front of my wife, I decided to walk back across our offices towards mine and onto the concourse…my wife in tow. We stood out on the concourse and this time we could see the smoke. Joined by a couple of ticket staffers (who’s offices were located down the right field line), we just stood there shocked at what was happening…two planes had crashed into “our” right-center field monuments. After a few more moments, I hustled back to Rick’s office to see what was going on. We talked about the gravity of the situation as we watched the pictures on his TV. We couldn’t believe what was happening and in what seemed to be just a few minutes, there was word on a plane that had crashed into the Pentagon (American Airlines flight 77).
Completely in disarray with almost an entire staff now at work, we didn’t know what to do. Footage was cutting in and out with reports all over the map of the city of New York being shut down, mayhem ensuing and everyone wondering. Minutes later…United Airlines flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania. Two minutes later, at 10:05am, the South Tower collapses. We’re stunned…silence throughout. A group of us left Rick’s office and headed to the concourse. All we could see was a giant cloud of dust…but you could still make out the North tower. At 10:28am, standing on the concourse and staring beyond our outfield fence, another huge cloud of smoke erupts as the North tower collapses…
Our studio apartment was located in downtown Newark. Every single night, for what seemed to be 6 months, we’d be sitting in our apartment and the reflections of red and white lights would bounce off the walls as ambulances would continue to pass by. No sirens, no horns…just the lights…it’s what I remember.
I was raised by two people that had to leave their country to start a new life with new friends and new surroundings while trying to learn a new language. I understand how excruciatingly painful it was for them to leave family behind so that they could seek out “the opportunity” by coming here. It is because of their struggles and triumphs that I am deeply patriotic. This country embraced my parents…and every year on this date, I remember that there are people out there that want to take that away from us.
It’s September 11, 2009 and eight years ago today, my world…our world came to a halt. To the families of lost ones, I want you to know that I remember…and I’ll never forget.