I’ll Never Forget 9/11…I Was With The Islanders In Lake Placid

Photo by Peter Schwartz/NY Sports Day

Never Forget.

If you’re old enough, you know exactly where you were on September 11th, 2001 and you remember how it affected you, what your feelings were and how that day shaped your life in the years to follow.

My 9/11 story actually begins in August of 2001 when I was excited about accepting a new job as a full-time reporter for 1050 (now 98.7) ESPN Radio here in New York.  As the station was getting ready to launch, it was announced that 1050 would be the radio home of the Islanders.  That was an exciting time for the Islanders and their fans because of the new ownership led by Charles Wang and the off-season acquisition of star players Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca.

(Islanders Training Camp in Lake Placid September 11th, 2001/Photo by Peter Schwartz)

The radio station launched on September 4th, 2001 and my first assignment was covering the U.S. Open.  A few days later I covered the press conference at Carleton on the Green in Eisenhower Park to announce the signing on Yashin to a new contract.   ESPN Radio also assigned me to cover a few days of Islanders Training Camp in Lake Placid, so I planned a trip for September 11th through the 13th.  In the afternoon on September 10th, I attended a company manded orientation for my new job and then that evening I was scheduled to cover a Yankees game which was ultimately rained out.

After a few hours of sleep, I left my home in Oyster Bay at around 6am and began my drive up north to Lake Placid.  This was still before the roll out of satellite radio, so the further I drove away from the New York City area, the harder it was to find a radio station to listen to in the car.  Just before 9am, I was in the Albany area and listening to a small local radio station when a news report indicated that a “small plane” had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

There weren’t many details at that point, but the report indicated that it could have been an accident and I just kept trying to find radio stations with a clear signal while I continued to drive.  Then, less than twenty minutes later, another plane crashed into the South Tower.

This was no accident.  The United States was under attack.

A stop to get breakfast was already planned and I eventually pulled into a service area to go grab something to take with me in the car.  When I stopped at a service area, the television screens in the building were all showing what was going on in New York City and then ultimately at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and also in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.   At this point, I knew that any reports from Islanders Training Camp were of zero significance so I wondered what I should do.

Should I turn around and go home or do I continue driving to Lake Placid?

I was about an hour away from Lake Placid, so I continued my drive and arrived at my hotel around 1130 that morning.  After I checked in, I tried calling the radio station to see what was going on and I learned that ESPN Radio was carrying a simulcast of WABC Radio because there was only one thing that anyone needed to know about and that was the attacks.  Major League Baseball postponed games for that night and ultimately postponed an entire week while the National Football League would eventually postpone all games that weekend.

But there I was in Lake Placid, so I walked over the arena to cover Islanders Training Camp.  As I took a seat in the arena where the “Miracle on Ice” took place at the 1980 Winter Olympics when the United States hockey team upset the Soviet Union on their way to the gold medal.  I was sitting in a venue that hosted one of the great moments in United States history on what was one of the worst days and arguably the worst day in United States history.

(Islanders Training Camp in Lake Placid September 11th, 2001/Photo by Peter Schwartz)

After practice, new Islanders Head Coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t in any mood to talk hockey.  I remember the angry look on his face, a feeling that all Americans were feeling that day.  To their credit, Yashin, Peca and some of the other players talked to reporters so that there were quotes for any stories that they may have been able to file given the circumstances.  There were monitors in the arena showing the news coverage, so hockey wasn’t close to be an important subject to anyone.

I covered practice again the next day and I was scheduled to cover practice again on September 13th, but when I woke up that morning I decided to just drive home.  I wanted to be back home on Long Island to be with my family and friends but also make myself available to work in case WABC/ESPN needed me to cover anything related to 9/11.  That Friday, September 14th, I took the train in New York City to visit the radio station and just take a walk around midtown.  You could still see and smell the smoke and you could feel how the life was ripped out of the city.

It was so sad.

(Islanders Training Camp in Lake Placid September 11th, 2001/Photo by Peter Schwartz)

The following week, sports made it’s return with Mike Piazza’s dramatic game winning home run to give the Mets an emotional win over the Braves.  There were also hockey pre-season games to cover and the NFL made it’s return after a week hiatus.  The cleanup at Ground Zero was still ongoing and would be for a long time, but New York was showing its resiliency by showing signs of getting back to normal.

My overall emotion back then about 9/11 is the same emotion I have today and that is anger.  It was sad to lose so many innocent lives, but I just feel so angry that there were people who felt the need to do what they did.  Sports is always an escape from reality for many of us, but on 9/11 there was no escaping what the reality was that day.

Our nation was under attack and everyone that is old enough to remember can tell you everything about where they were that day.

I was with the Islanders in Lake Placid and it was the only time in my life when being at an Islanders event didn’t put a smile on my face.

How could anyone smile that day?

Never Forget.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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