July 4th weekend has always signaled the official start of Real summer fun for me. Schools let out in late June in the NY/NJ area, so July 4th weekend is always the start of fun in the sun. We celebrate the birth of our nation
with all things Americana: a family BBQ, a day by the pool, fireworks at the high school football stadium, and NYY
For July 4th weekend the NYY, along with all the other teams in MLB will wear patriotic caps. The cap is a marvel of red, white or blue with stars and stripes. What makes it a marvel is year after year, it just looks wrong.
It’s not that it is that ugly, although it just isn’t eye pleasing and I hear some of the players grumble about it.
It just doesn’t resemble the team colors and style I am accustomed to. I often think a blue NYY cap is pretty patriotic.
And, if a change is really necessary for increasing merchandising, then add some stars and stripes to the sides.
I’m always amazed when people buy these caps. I would think they have limited appeal. But then again, I don’t understand why people leave that label tape stuck to the bill either.
These caps appear year after year on Memorial Day, are brought back out on July 4th weekend, then they are
resurrected on Labor Day. All are holidays where people celebrate by joining family and friends for BBQs and pool parties, long weekends at the beach and fun in the sun. These are patriotic holidays that our society has turned into joyful, social events even though the history of Memorial Day would seem to preclude that. But when those hats are used on September 11th, they make me feel sick. September 11th isn’t about fun in the sun. September 11th isn’t
about beach vacations. September 11th isn’t about BBQs. I’ve never seen a Kohl’s 9/11 sale, or a Bob’s Furniture 9/11
deep discount. September 11th is like Pearl Harbor Day, there are not parties, luaus or streamers. There is
a somber dignity around 9/11 that other holidays lack. September 11th is a day of sadness and mourning. It is a day of remembrance. A day those of us who lived through just wish we could forget.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, I had taken off work to take Faith, my then 1 year old to her pediatrician for her checkup. We were moved from the waiting room and ushered into an examining room. One of
the Doctors was crying. Our doctor told me that something had happened at the World Trade Center, and the doctor was trying to contact her husband. This is how I heard the news. The day was filled with grounded planes, and quiet
skies. Highways and roads were closed. People were frozen wherever they were. Family friends were trapped for
days in Las Vegas. Diverted planes landed at airports across the country, and that is where weary passengers stayed until air travel was deemed safe again.
I remember spending the day checking on family and friends, especially those who worked in the city. One friend was late to work, as usual. I don’t remember the last time this girl was on time for anything. She was barely off
the ferry before racing back on and was transported to NJ. Her office was among the rubble. Another worked by the Empire State Building. She had trouble evacuating to NJ. Her day consisted of hours of walking, abandoning her heels and going barefoot thru Manhattan and finally getting a ferry to NJ. She gathered those going to her hometown area, and gave the bus driver directions thru every NJ back road so they could reach their destination well after dark without ever touching Route 3 or 46 . And these were the lucky ones.
My next days would be unusually busy. My job was at the local high school. We immediately went into crisis mode. A Thursday memorial ceremony in the school’s Peace Garden was interrupted by the school’s drug and alcohol counselor running inside to get word on a missing family member. Rumors went around that he was found, alive. Rumors would prove to be false. We would spend weeks talking to students, making sure everyone was OK. No easy
task when you have 3000 students in the building. And of course everyone wasn’t OK. No one was OK. No one would ever be OK. It was about learning how to cope.
My community is close to NYC. We are a suburb about 20 min out of the Lincoln Tunnel. From my church, we could
see the smoke rising from the toothless NY skyline, missing its crown jewel of the twin towers. When you stood at the
vestibule doors, the smoke rose through the glass etching of the Ten Commandments, right through commandment #6, at the top of the second page “Thou shall not kill”. I still look at that etching each Sunday, and even though the smoldering remains are long gone, I remember that for weeks, we could see the city and our future burn.
Everyone did what they could. The First Responders in NYC were outstanding. They worked tirelessly. So did many of the citizens around them. One of my biology teachers was also a podiatrist. He volunteered his time,
going to the city to work at ground zero tents to treat those working in the pit. His colleagues gave up their free
time to cover so he could leave our high school early. He would travel through the Lincoln Tunnel, alone as cars were still banned from traveling through the tunnel then spend hours treating those firefighters. Every
day we could see the agony of those working at ground zero etched on his face.
A history teacher’s husband was a welder. He and his friend loaded their pickup with their equipment and drove to the city. She tells of them being allowed through the Holland Tunnel, and escorted out on the NY side to the
ground zero site. There they helped at the ground zero site for days in work they wouldn’t speak of.
My sister-in-law had her CCD students bake treats for the FBI, which worked around the clock to find the terrorists
responsible. Some people prepared meals for others. Others checked on shut-ins. People donated food and water, clothing, whatever was needed. We became a community that cares. In the depths of desperation, we found hope.
September 11th is a special day in the history of our country. For all of us who lived through those eerie days of
skies bereft of airplanes, and highways closed to all traffic, September 11th will never be a day of celebration, but of mourning. Maybe more so for those of us in the NY metro area who live daily with its aftermath. For the death toll continues to rise from those who breathed in toxic fumes to those who have lost hope. Those who volunteered to help others continue to be repaid for their kindness with respiratory distress and disease. For those who gave their lives, and those who lost their future, September 11th is a day to remember, and honor those who serve.
Faith graduated 5th grade in June. As she left her elementary school with her went the last of the students who were actually alive September 11, 2001. Not that she has any memory of that day. Her thoughts about 9/11 will be on how we, as a society, explain those events to her. How we, as a society, portray 9/11 to the next generation. How
we, as a society, show respect to the people and events of 9/11. I never want her to think of this as a day of rejoicing, but as a day of sadness for all that was lost and pride in all that stepped up to the plate to help out.
So MLB I challenge you. Dump those ridiculous stars and stripes red, white and blue hats for September 11th. Make sure the Mets and Yankees are in NYC. Have the players wear first responder caps, Fire vs. Police; army vs. navy; EMTs vs. National Guard. Use the proceeds from these caps to pay for scholarships for those whose parents died during the terrorist attacks, or the fall out afterwards. Do not promote 9/11 as a day of Americana BBQ joy, but as a day of Americana sorrow peppered with pride. Do it because September 11th is a day of respect for those who have chosen to spend their lives helping all those around them, even at risk to their own lives. Do it because it is the way we want our society to remember those who gave so much. Do it to honor those who truly stepped up to the plate on 9/11. Do it for Faith and her generation so that they will truly understand.