I'm a native New Yorker. I'm pretty sure I've established that fact before. I was born in the Bronx, went through puberty on Long Island, started working at EW while I was living in Queens. Sure, now I live in New Jersey, but I'm a New Yorker, always will be.
So, like most New Yorkers, I've got my September 11th story. I was on the ground that day, when the Towers fell. Didn't lose anyone, but felt the loss nonetheless. But my story doesn't take place in Manhattan, or New York for that matter.
My wife has these friends, see, and they're huge Red Sox fans. So, once a year, they take a pilgrimage up to Fenway for beer, dogs, and baseball. Despite being a lifelong Yankees fan, I agreed to go because A) they're good people, B) my wife wanted to go, and C) I love a good ballpark hot dog. We made the arrangements in August 2001. We were set to head up the third weekend of September.
After 9/11, there was a lot of discussion about whether we should travel or not, whether it would be safe to go to another large city so soon after the attacks. It was eventually decided that, like so many other choices that year, if we didn't go then the terrorists have won.
So we got in the car and went to Boston. It was an uneventful trip in that nothing else blew up or fell down. But when we got to Fenway, it was something else entirely.
Now, I'm not a big baseball fan. I like the Yankees because I'm a New Yorker and that's my job. If I go to a ball game I go for lunch. The eats are good, it's a nice day in the sun, and I'm a fat bastard. I'm gone by the 7th inning, as I don't usually give a toss who wins. So I'm in Fenway, with my dog and my beer and ready to watch a team I didn't really care about beat another team I, if possible, cared even less for. The seats were decent enough, and it was a cool night. While all was, clearly, not right with the world, that evening would do.
Then came the 7th Inning Stretch. Usually, I'm gone by now, so actually sticking around was something new to me. So I stood. And stretched. And then the most amazing thing I've ever seen happened.
The announcer said that in honor of those who lost their lives at Ground Zero, they'd be playing a little song. The music began, and those famous vocals kicked in, and not a person in that ballpark was silent, every voice kicked up as high as it could. A shiver ran down my spine, a frog jumped up in my throat, and tears started splashing my cheeks.
We were singing "New York, New York."
Now I can't imagine, given the historic, legendary bad blood between the Yankees and the Red Sox, that that song had ever been sung inside Fenway Park before. Not on purpose, and not with such a palpable sense of love and respect. And remember, this was before Boston finally won a World Series, so those Sox fans were as righteously bitter as ever.
But that night...
That's the story I will tell my children when they ask me about 9/11. So that's what I tell you tonight.