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September 11, 2001....A sportswriters memories. Timothy W. Gaffney

POSTED September 07, 2011
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

NOTE: As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, each of the writers from Litchfield County Sports.com will be giving you their perspective on the day.

Not just from a personal stand point but from a local sports one as well.

Timothy W. Gaffney leads off.

Torrington: As with most everyone else old enough to remember it, I recall where I was and what I was doing on that fateful day that changed all of us, forever.

I was working in Danbury for my day job, Frito Lay, in a store called Deeps Market.

Over the radio that was playing music throughout the store, an announcer broke in and said it had been reported that a small plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

Millions of people heard the same story and I like most, didn’t think too much of it. A small traffic plane or helicopter had a problem or something simple like that.

I made my way to my next stop, a nearby deli and was walking in when I saw something I could not comprehend.

It was the second plane flying into the World Trade Center. While I didn’t know what was happening, I knew one thing.

It was time to get back to Torrington and find all the members of my family.

This was pre-cell phone time for most of us, so I was on my own with terrible thoughts as I made my way back to first drop my truck off in Naugatuck before heading up Route 8 and home.

What on earth was going on? I tuned in to WPLR 99.1 F.M. as I usually did and was hearing updates that shook me to the bone.

A plane had hit the Pentagon? A few planes were unaccounted for? There were hijacked? Was this a bad 70’s dream?

As I looked up something struck me like a ton of bricks.

There was not a plane in the sky. On my ride to Danbury each morning, the sky was traditionally lined with vapor trails, but not that morning.

A gorgeous Tuesday morning was suddenly nothing like I had ever experienced.

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The first sporting event I covered when I started writing for a newspaper was a soccer game at Lewis Mills High School. I played soccer in high school and I was pumped to be able to write about it on a professional level.

I don’t remember the teams or the score, but I do recall being able to include my favorite band from the 70’s, Earth, Wind and Fire, in the theme somehow.

Soccer became a favorite of mine and I covered a bunch of games over the next two years leading into the fall of 2011.

After the attacks, everything stopped. It was a little more than a week later on a Wednesday that the high school seasons started up again.

I was asked to cover a Torrington girls soccer game at the high school.

Approaching the field, I found myself unable not to look up anytime I noticed a plane in the air. The silhouette of an airplane had been something to marvel at before 9/11. Now, it simply brings back memories of the day.

The National Anthem took on an even more special meaning that day and has ever since.

Being on the sidelines was both still surreal and comforting at the same time.

All those awful images were still fresh in my mind; it was hard to concentrate on anything.

Nothing that mattered the Monday before September 11 seemed to anymore.

For the players, it seemed like a great distraction. Doing something familiar that they loved seemed to take their mind off of things at least for the 90 minutes or so they would play.

Getting back to a game assignment was good for the reporter also. Concentrating on something else gave me a needed break.

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I got home and found my wife and kids were all accounted for, so I branched out to the larger family picture.

My mother was on vacation at the New Jersey Shore and I didn’t have the number but thought she was safe.

My nephew Jamie though, was another story. He worked in the city on high-rise elevators.

Where was he? What job was he on?

Soon my sister Pat called and said Jamie was okay and had been on the Jersey side that day. He has pictures he took while stuck in traffic. Chilling.

Nobody we knew was scheduled to fly that day so that worry was put aside.

All I could do was what millions did that day. Stay clued to the TV while trying to make sense of what had just happened.

We were all safe. Too many others were not as fortunate and you could feel their pain as they searched for their loved ones.

What could we do to help? I spent many a day and night in the New York City growing up and felt like those were our friends, our buildings that had been taken away.

One thought was to go down and give blood. Hospitals were certainly going to be overwhelmed and would need blood for transfusions.

Tragically, their was no need to travel, the hospitals were not seeing patients and our worse nightmare was occurring right before our eyes.

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It was even longer before professional sports came back.

I’ll never forget the night the New York Mets played the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium.

The players wore the NYFD or NYPD hats while what seemed like a million American Flags were waving throughout the stands.

It’s when we first started hearing “Go Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. I remember I cried.

The game played out just like it should. Mike Piazza hit a long three-run home run into the camera’s in centerfield and the crowd that could still see the smoldering ruins of the Trade Center in the backround, erupted with an energy that spread through the television.

Nothing had been solved, we had not caught who had done this to us but we were allowed to let a out a much needed scream of joy.

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Today, the big buildings are starting to rise back up into the sky. As it should be.

We will not be bullied or intimidated into changing how grand and enormous this country is.

New York City has been back for a long time. The large bookends that once dotted the skyline of lower Manhattan may be gone but new ones are rising and will continue to grow until the shade returns to the South Street Sea Port. As it should be.

 

 

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here