The Yankees rebuild the city

I have many vivid memories from the fall of 2001.

I remember being in the dining hall at Astrocamp, a space camp in Idyllwild, Calif., where my elementary school was on a class trip, and wondering why the radios were all turned to New York stations.

I remember sitting in front of one of Astrocamp’s buildings wearing a wetsuit hysterically crying because I had been told that planes had hit the World Trade Center. I remember thinking, was my maternal aunt, whose office was in the first tower, safe? Could my grandmother have been in the neighborhood?

I remember coming back to school, getting in the car with my mother and her telling me that her sister, my aunt, was okay, but my uncle on the other side of the family, Uncle Alan, was missing.

I remember waiting in my kitchen for a call from my father’s sister, Nancy. I remember crying while getting breakfast at school and another schoolmate, who I always thought hated me, say he heard and was sorry.

I remember sitting in a family friend’s apartment in Los Angeles during a party, crammed with my father and some others in a tiny room, watching the Yankees win a baseball game and springing up in joy.

A lot has been made about the impact baseball had on the country and most specifically New York after the attacks on September 11 — how the Yankees brought the city out of the gloomy haze that had permeated it as the dust settled around Ground Zero. For my mother, my father and me the game was what kept us sane and happy. We set out trailing the Yankees. We drove from our home in California to a playoff game in Oakland and even went to the first game of the World Series in Arizona.

At that first game something magical happened. A moment almost out of “Field of Dreams.” We had just arrived at our seats and batting practice was still underway. The Yankees were out in the field and I ran to the front of our section to get a better look. I was an 11-year-old Yankee fan, decked out in full regalia, in a sea of purple. The Diamondbacks fans did not mock me. Instead they let me slide my way into the front of the throng of people, my tiny glove outstretched. People were calling for the players to hand them old balls that had been hit by some slugger into the outfield. Someone pointed to me and said “just give it to her.” A newbie pitcher, Randy Choate, caught a ball and put it in his pocket. Just as the Yankees were leaving the field he ran over to me and placed it in my glove.

Until recently, I had not thought there was much significance to this moment other than that it was simply one of those great baseball stories, like my father having been at Don Larsen’s perfect game. But reflecting back on that confusing period, the months that would get our country into wars and forever change the landscape of our world, it seems prophetic, emblematic. A young player, not even from New York, picking out a young fan to give a dirty baseball to in solidarity for a city forever changed.

The Yankees would lose the game and eventually the series, but not before they gave hope to a city and a girl in desperate need of some.

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