Anniversary of attacks rekindle powerful emotions

Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Bob Schiavone was a Ladder Company 39 man, New York Fire Department.

He was there on the day it all came down, like a lot of other guys.

His job was to rescue people.

"I learned very quickly there weren't going to be a lot of rescues," he said.

Then he'd rescue the rescuers. It's what they did, everything working backwards.

"Total chaos," he said.

Sunday afternoon, 10 years and a continent away, he stood just beyond right field at Angel Stadium. Shade cast from the bill of his hat cut across weary eyes.

Nearby, dozens of police, fire and rescue men and women readied an American flag that would span the outfield. Among them: firefighter Chris Suprun, one of the early responders at the Pentagon, and firefighter Joe Torillo, a survivor of the World Trade Center attack.

Having arrived early, they'd milled around in the stadium's dank loading dock and tunnels, where they greeted each other with handshakes and stiff hugs. A few, their hands in their pockets, gathered around a lone television and a football game. Some led children by the hand, introducing them to men wearing the same deep blue as daddy, the same medals dangling from their chests.

Reggie Jackson, in a white cap and sunglasses, strolled past, pulling his luggage behind. He paused for their cell phone cameras.

Schiavone watched it all pass.

"It's weird," he said. "Does it make sense if I say it feels like it was just yesterday and it feels like it was such a long time ago?"

He shook his head, as though he'd come to a conclusion.

"I can't believe 10 years have passed," he said.

In a pregame ceremony not unlike many across baseball, the Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees observed that day, the many that followed, and the horror and heartache that chased them. They thanked men such as Shiavone, Suprun and Torillo. On the video board, they scrolled the names of the men and women who wouldn't be here to thank.

"It doesn't matter if it's 10 years or one day," Yankees veteran Jorge Posada said. "Ten years, 20 years, 40. It's still today. We all went through the same tough times."

They were scared, Posada said. Everyone was. Today, too, even.

"A plane goes by," he said, "and you still look up."

Wondering. Remembering.

Baseball had been in the right place at the wrong time.

When words wouldn't do, it spoke to the wounded.

When life would never be the same, it played a familiar game.

It wasn't much. It was something.

And so it was again in 2011, not life but a three-hour respite from it, preceded by one long and sad sigh.

Suprun awoke suddenly at 5:40 a.m. Sunday, six minutes before the national moment of silence.

Ten years, he thought. Ten.

It didn't seem possible.

He'd been working in Virginia, had grown up there an Orioles fan, when his pager came alive.

He'd called his wife in Washington D.C.

"It's time to get out of there," he'd told her.

He was going to New York. Then, no, he was needed at the Pentagon.

Ten years.

"For me," he said, "I'm happy that on the anniversary it seems we have a greater national consciousness of the hit we took as a nation."

So many of his brothers and sisters perished, men and women he knew and didn't. "The tone dropped," he said, and they reported to work, to pick up what had broken and put it back together, like always. Only this time little fit, or ever would again.

Just past noon, those who continued – or took up – the job pulled a flag tight across the grass, from foul line to foul line, from infield to warning track. Bugles called out. The stadium announcer asked the people to stand. They'd been standing for 15 minutes.

"It's a tough day for our country," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "A lot of people are sad."

Schiavone, Suprun and Torillo stood near the pitcher's mound. They'd throw ceremonial pitches to ballplayers. Three Navy SEALs stood on the first-base side of the mound and did the same.

Three Angels and three Yankees waited. Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees then, watched from nearby.

"Even now," Derek Jeter said, "it means a lot to us."

The day, what it meant, what it will always mean, it's bigger than all of them, of course. The game, it's just a game. Just a stinkin' game.

Yet, if it makes sense for one person, one ladder company, one city, then it's more.

Bob Schiavone owns a DVD of the 2001 World Series. His team lost. He's watched that DVD, by his estimate, a hundred times.

"I just stop watching it after Game 5," he said, shrugging as if any true Yankee fan would.

His DVD of The Concert for New York, he's gone through that maybe a thousand times. He watches for the music, but, more, he waits to hear the cry that goes up from the crowd.

"Let's go Yankees!"

Nearly 10 years later, he still had to rub out the goose bumps.

Nothing's changed. And everything has.

New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher (Getty Images).
New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher (Getty Images).

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