Pop Fly Boys’ Tribute to 9/11

Posted on September 11, 2011

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By Jeremy Sickel and Geoff Ratliff

All too often we are reminded, either by some catastrophic event, or even a day-to-day occurrence, that we shouldn’t take sports too seriously and that ultimately, they’re just games; except when they’re not. Throughout the weekend, sporting events nationwide will offer tributes to September 11, 2001 with today marking the 10-year anniversary of one of our nation’s darkest days.  In the days and weeks immediately following 9/11,  many people voiced their opinions about how soon was too soon for sports to resume. No matter what the “right” answer was, there is no doubt that for a great many Americans, athletics played a major role in the healing process.

If it wasn’t a game that we played in ourselves, most of us have a memory of a sporting event that we watched or attended that continues to be a source of inspiration to this day. These stories are undoubtedly highly personal, and likely hold some deeper meaning to you that a lot of people could never understand. We’d like to share our 9/11 stories in hopes that it will lead you to reflect on your own memories and find some moment of happiness out of this otherwise ominous day.

Geoff’s Story

I remember where I was when I first heard about the attack on the Twin Towers. At the time, I was working in ticket sales for a professional, indoor soccer team in my native St. Louis. I’d been back in town less than two months after spending the previous two years in Reno and San Francisco. There were five or six of us in the office at the time and we were huddled around this four inch, black and white TV watching the news coverage of the event. At that point in time, I had never been to New York city, so I struggled to grasp the gravity of what was happening (it finally hit me about six years later when I finally traveled to the city for a wedding and took the time to visit Ground Zero. The mere size of it left me in awe), never mind the fact that the whole thing just seemed surreal. Trying to reach my friends in New York by cell phone was futile, although I was relieved to finally start getting safety confirmation emails early that afternoon. While the events of the day were undoubtedly disturbing, my more vivid memory surrounding 9/11 actually occurred a few days later.

From the time I started playing youth football at the age of eight, all the way through my final high school track meet, I don’t ever recall my father missing one of my sporting events, . We’ve also attended countless college basketball games together over the years, cheering on our beloved St. Louis University Billikens. However, I can probably count on one hand the number of professional baseball games that my dad and I have attended together, which is ironic because baseball is easily my favorite sport. That is part of the reason why attending the first Cardinals home game following the 9/11 tragedy is such a great one for me. While I don’t remember one word that he said, I do remember both the chills that went through my body as I stood next to my father, listening to Jack Buck deliver an eloquent acknowledgment of the horrific attack on our country, (again significant because Jack Buck died less than a year later, so this was one of his final great moments during an illustrious broadcasting career) and the connection I felt with every other American in that stadium. Me and my father’s relationship was in a state of healing itself at the time, and the circumstances surrounding my return to St. Louis weren’t exactly positive either, but at that exact moment, there was absolutely no place else I’d rather be.

Jeremy’s Story

My 9/11 sports memory actually began the previous night. It was opening weekend for the NFL with a seemingly insignificant early Monday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos.

I was living with my parents at the time having dropped out of college and needing a place to call home again. They had already gone to bed but I stayed up to finish watching the game. Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey was tackled after making a catch over the middle by Shaun Williams of the Giants and fell to the ground. I noticed right away that his left leg didn’t look quite right upon contact and on his way to the ground you could see the lower part of it dangling from where the break occurred.

Just another gruesome sports injury right? Well I made it a point to make sure my mom saw the replay of it the next day on Sports Center, so as I left for work the next morning (9/11) around 8:30 a.m. I told her that she needed to check it out.  She indifferently said “OK” as if it wasn’t a big deal to her.

While driving to work listening to the radio, like most everyone in the world does, the story broke about the plane hitting the first tower.  It seemed that the world had come to a complete halt all at once…cars pulled off of the road and I followed suit.  I immediately called home and my mom answered:

Me: Have you seen it yet?

Mom: The injury? why is it so important that I see this?

Me: Just turn on the TV (quivering as if I am starting to cry)

Silence for a few seconds as she must have seen video footage

Mom: Holy Shit! Oh my god, Oh my god!

Nothing else was said the entire time we were on the phone, sitting in pure stillness as I drove the rest of the way to work.  The peace and quiet was simply all we needed, knowing that each of us was still there and OK, unlike the world around us.

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