But truth be told, everything starts to get hazy after that. I don’t remember President Bush’s address to the nation that night, or any of his speeches to Congress. I remember him giving a moving address at the National Cathedral, but I couldn’t tell you what he said. Many hundreds of miles away, life began to go on as usual the next afternoon. There was school to go to and football practice after that. Homework assignments to do and tests to study for. I vaguely remember a very surreal feeling hanging over everything for at least another couple of weeks, and the half-masted flags serving as a constant reminder that life wasn’t quite the same, but life was nominally going on as usual in Southwestern Ohio.
But I remember October 30th.
On October 30th, the World Series made its way to Yankee Stadium. The three-time defending champions were down 2-0 in the series, having been dominated by the Diamondbacks in Arizona. At times, it didn’t look like the Yankees even had a chance. And yet, for a brief moment, none of that mattered, even to the most die-hard of fans. Because the first World Series after the attack was coming to Ground Zero, and to Yankee Stadium, exactly as it should have. And then, before baseball could officially get underway, the President of the United States came to throw out the first pitch.
There will be a lot of paeans to “national unity” written today, and tomorrow, and all through the week, as pundits urge us to “remember how we felt” after 9/11. I don’t really have a lot to add to that, if only because I don’t think we’ve ever not been united. We might disagree, but what’s so wrong with that?But you don’t need to look any farther than that moment on October 30th to see what national unity looks like.
You almost couldn’t script the moment any better. As the President approached the mound, he was greeted by a full crowd in the house built by America’s most famous athlete. He walked across the same ground Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, icons of American pop culture, walked across. And then the American head of state took the mound in our national pastime’s most hallowed cathedral on behalf of all of us.
And he threw a strike.
The rest of that World Series is still a blur an, in retrospect, it’s hard to remember it was in the same Series as that first pitch. Perhaps that’s because those five games made up the most unbelievable stretch of World Series baseball. Maybe it’s because Mystique and Aura did their best to make sure those three games in Yankee Stadium stood out for what happened during the games themselves. Maybe its because Game 7 was in Arizona, not New York. Maybe it’s because of that damned blooper. Or maybe this is when things started to return to what passed for normal at that time, with classic October baseball at Yankee Stadium and an unforgettable end to an unforgettable World Series. I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but I’ll never forget those five games.
And I’ll never forget that strike.