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Today, 9/11

September 11, 2008 - John Mehno

NOTE: I wrote this two years ago, but I think it's worth reposting on Sept. 11, 2008.

The Pirates were supposed to play the Mets at 7:05 and I was supposed to get a haircut at 1:30. It was simple enough. Get a haircut, then walk across the bridge to the ballpark on a nice, sunny day.

When you don't wake up before 11 a.m., you're often late to what's happening and that was the case on Sept. 11, 2001. I first tried to make sense out of the insanity that was coming out of the radio. Then the TV provided the horrific pictures.

Obviously there was no game. No haircut, either. I called Phil to tell him I wouldn't be in and he seemed surprised. I told him to take a look outside, where downtown was being evacuated and people were being prevented from entering.

 I found out the next day that a friend's uncle had been in his corner office on an upper floor of the first World Trade Center building that was hit. He went to work on an ordinary Tuesday and an hour later was gone without a trace. Tragedy compounds when you can attach a name and face to it.

 Baseball was ready to come back that weekend, but wisely followed the NFL's lead and stayed out. Bud Selig was on TV, blathering on about how baseball is a "social institution" that needs to be sensitive and I wanted to choke the gasbag for using that moment for self-congratulations.

All I remember after that is watching TV constantly. When the weight of the grim news was too much, I'd escape to TV Land for a random half hour of "Leave It To Beaver" or "Gomer Pyle." The loopy innocence of the Cleavers and the silliness of Gomer provided an oasis.

Eventually we went back to the ballpark and it was strange. The loud music had been toned down. Vince Lascheid was playing soft cocktail lounge music on the organ. A freelance assignment had me collecting fan in the stands reaction. I remember one well-dressed guy telling me he was there because the President said Americans should go back to what they normally do. "I have season tickets," he said. "I go to ball games."

The Mets wore caps saluting New York's firefighters, police and emergency workers. Manager Bobby Valentine was late getting in because he'd helped the relief efforts staged in Shea Stadium's parking lots. The Pirates went to New York a couple of weeks later. A few members of the traveling party went to Ground Zero. I remember Lloyd McClendon saying the scene made him mad enough to want to fight and sad enough to want to cry.

Seven years later, we have bag inspections and patdowns as we enter Heinz Field for a Steelers game. A guard who addresses you by name insists on seeing photo ID. Every day has changed in some way because of that day.

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