The Mets honored the 22nd anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, on Monday ahead of their game with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mike Piazza, who will always be remembered for his game-winning home run in the first game in New York after the attacks, was at Citi Field. He was one of many members of the 2001 Mets to visit firehouses and police stations in the past couple of weeks.
Mets Manager Buck Showalter was asked about managing in New York on 9/11, and he said, “It’s emotional. There’s certain things in your life you remember vividly and where you were and the circumstances, first time, and like, ‘geez, is this really happening?’ and very sobering, and this is a time not only to remember that and the people that left us, but the heroes that worked their way through it in our city, and I knew kind of going through some of it, initially, Yankees and Diamondbacks were in the World Series at that point, and I had relationships with both of them. I think everybody remembers the President throwing out the first pitch there at Yankee Stadium, and I think a reminder of the responsibility we have in sports, baseball in this case, you know, there’s a rallying point there. There’s some things, obviously you guys will ask Mike about it and he’d be a good, better voice on it than I would be. From afar, anything that brought back some form of normalcy in our lives; you know, in a lot of cases, it’ll never be normal again. It was like yesterday, we had the Armed Forces Day (in Minnesota before the Mets played the Twins), and the flyover and different stuff, that still gets me. My Dad and his two brothers were in World War II, Army, Air Force, and another branch, and they all went over for three years, and all got back within a day of each other at my Granddad’s house. So, days like yesterday, everybody has a certain connection to them. There was a lot to be proud of the way the city responded. I didn’t think anybody can sit here and say they know exactly what everybody’s feeling.”
Major League Baseball shut down for a full week after the 9/11 attacks, and they returned to action in Pittsburgh against the Pirates on September 17, where they originally were set to play six days earlier.
The Mets’ first game back in New York was on September 21 against the Atlanta Braves. With the Braves up 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Piazza came up with one runner on (Edgardo Alfonzo walked ahead of Piazza) and one out against Braves pitcher Steve Karsay.
Piazza blasted one into the left field bleachers for a two-run homer to give the Mets the lead and they held on for the 3-2 victory.
On Monday afternoon, Piazza was asked about the resonance of that home run to this day, and he said, “The more time goes by and the more I reflect on it, I also understand that, sort of, it wasn’t just me. I mean, I was in that particular situation and was fortunate to come through, but as I was making a comment this morning, I’m a man of faith and I truly felt people pulling for me, I really did. I mean, it was something I can’t explain, I can’t crystallize it and explain it, but I did feel this rush of support emotionally, spiritually, whatever you want to say, and I really think, as the years have gone by, and also on a personal note, I think one of the most interesting things was, one thing that gets lost in the shuffle, is the impact it had on the Braves.
“Of course, we’re from New York, but the Atlanta Braves were involved as well, and affected as well, and the comments and stories and the way that they experienced it in the last three or four years has truly been touching for me, and something that we may not pay enough attention to. I mean, there’s some amazing stories and pictures. It was after the first game when we did hug and embrace together, we realized, of course, baseball is important, but it’s not as important as family and friends, and the bigger things in life, and so I think that’s one of the things that’s been sort of touching for me and emotional for me in the past three or four years, so yeah, that’s something that has evolved over time.”
Piazza was asked about visiting with firefighters who may have not been alive on 9/11, and how that has affected his message, “Going forward, we have a duty to educate the next generations. On a personal note, my kids were born after 9/11. The way we came together that week, as a city, as a country, and families, is, I hope, the way we enlighten or teach the next generation going forward, and the lessons learned so it never happens again, and also the stories of courage and bravery and self-sacrifice and all the things that are indicative of our country. I think that transcends any differences that we may have at this point, and I think, as you probably remember, the unity we had that week, and really what probably was out of a horrible tragedy, I think one of the finest moments in our country as far as people coming together to solidify, to help the grieving, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Piazza said of what went into hitting that home run, “One of the things I was blessed with, the ability to focus, and when I was trying to perform a task, it took every ounce of energy that night because of the emotional trauma we all suffered that week, and it was really difficult, so, and again, it is different now, I think back and I do, these emotions do rise again, the feelings of trepidation, at least as far as, what were we supposed to, was that the right time, and you know, obviously, people were still nervous about the safety issue of it and, when you go through something like that, there’s all kinds of other, sort of the rumors and things about other attacks and things, so yeah, I mean, it was a very scary time, and it was tough, but again, as Buck mentioned and I mentioned before, with that tragedy, there was triumph and bravery and courage, and I hope we can continue to solidify that in a positive way going forward.
“I don’t know, I hope, and I just was kind of thinking today that there should be a kind of national remembrance, I mean, I don’t know about holidays today because people work at home and stuff like that, but maybe from the federal level, there could be some incentive to try to crystallize it, and make it a day of not just remembering, obviously those that passed away, but as I’ve said, the bravery of the first responders that exemplifies what we are as a country, and that even though we can have extreme differences, we all do pull together at the right times when we need to, so we’ll see.”