Flushing, NY -The lilting strains of a clear female voice singing “God Bless America” was heard throughout Citi Field as scenes of players on many major league teams standing at attention were shown on the big screens in the ballpark. As the film came to a close, chants of “U.S.A.” emanated from all corners of the stadium. Thus, began the special Remembrance Ceremony at Citi Field on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attack.
The devastation in lower Manhattan caused by the hijacked planes that were crashed into two towers of the World Trade Center ten years ago were the next scenes on the giant screen that jarred the eyes and the minds of those watching.
As the horrifying pictures were shown, the sound of pipes and drums were heard as a corps of uniformed musicians marched onto the field. Following the pipes and drums were a color guard. Representatives of each of New York City’s uniformed services, the First Responders, marched onto the field in time to the stirring music. The families of Tuesday’s Children carried a huge American flag into the outfield,
Ballplayers of the past and present joined the procession. Heading the lines of march were returning members of the 2001 Mets, John Franco, a native New Yorker, and Mike Piazza, whose winning home run on September 21, 2001 ignited Shea Stadium and let the world know the United States of America would not be destroyed, physically or emotionally. A large contingent of current Mets and Cubs joined Tuesday’s Children to help them hold and then unfurl the 300’ by 100’ American flag. Joining Franco and Piazza were other members of the 2001 Mets, Edgardo Alfonzo, Joe McEwing, Steve Trachsel, Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile. Other Mets alumni in the procession were Rusty Staub, Matt Franco and John Olerud.
With the processions ringing the field, lights within the stadium were dimmed and those on the field and in the stands were asked to light the electronic candles they were given. At that point, Marc Anthony, another New York City native, gave an emotional rendition of the national anthem, as he did at the first sports event that place in New York City after the national tragedy on September 21 at Shea.
The procession of important personages then marched off the field to end the moving and dignified remembrance ceremony.
The ceremony was especially meaningful to many in the stands as the Mets distributed complimentary tickets to New York City First Responders and their families and to members of the United States military to attend the ceremony and game.
Several of the former Mets shared their thoughts and their emotions with reporters during the game. Piazza shared his thoughts of a decade ago, “It’s definitely painful thinking and reflecting about that weekend. That week changed my life. It made me realize how important family and love is.” Of his own role, he commented, “It’s very humbling. I’m very blessed to have come through that situation. We know who the real heroes in life are, the First Responders. They ran into buildings knowing they would never come out.”
John Franco, born in Staten Island, has recently moved several blocks from Ground Zero. Of his new neighborhood, he reported, “It’s just amazing how it’s all just come together, how it’s rebuilding.” Franco gave credit for leadership to then Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who was in the stadium broadcasting for ESPN, “This is the guy you want to be in a foxhole with. He led us not only on the field, but off the field. He was relentless. We just followed him.” Of praise for the team’s efforts during that period, he remarked, “We were a little band aid on a big wound.”