Welcome to our world, Libby. I'm so glad you're finally here...even if it is 9-11.
I want to tell you a story. 9-11 always makes me think about the Yankees and the World Series that year.
On November 4th, 2001, all of New York became baseball fans. Even then-president George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on the day before All Hallow’s Eve. We all felt the importance of this event.
The city itself was festooned with handwritten or printed 8x11” flyers taped to any and every surface. Smiling faces looked out at passerbys, desperate to be found by the heroic members of the FDNY, the NYPD, Search and Rescue dogs and first responders amidst the smoldering, toxic rubble that was once two New York’s tallest monuments. Rain made the flyers cry black marker down concrete and marble building exteriors. By November 4th, there was a growing sense of grim reality.
Across the country in Phoenix Arizona, a monumental game was being played. Voted the greatest World Series in Baseball history, the showdown between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks had come down to a game seven. Worse than that…one game, one inning, and ultimately one pitch. Derek Jeter won game four with a walk-off home run giving morning commuters reading the back page of the NY Post instant hope and Scott Brosius had already won game three with a RBI single, making him a NY hero. Then Arizona roared back and the Yankees responded. The series was tied three all. Game seven – where anything can happen; the most exciting 9 innings in baseball.
But baseball was just the thing we watched to forget reality. The news was filled with politicians and speeches, heroes and tragedies. The entire world was overwhelmed with phrases like “Post 9-11, War on Terror, Never Forget, Now We Are All In Guernica”. But the game played on and we all held our breath. New Yorkers gathered in homes, in groups and in bars watching what might be the fourth World Championship in four years. "We deserve this", us New Yorkers said. My wife and I sat watching the first baseball game we’d ever watched together, hoping that this was the turn for our city. With a victory, things would start to get better. Foolish, hopeful, childish thoughts but we watched the Yankees march closer to making the dreams of a wounded city come true.
Mariano Rivera closed out the eighth and the greatest closer in the game’s history was three outs away from victory. But it was not to be. The game was tied…with the bases loaded. We still had a chance. Then Luis Gonzalez lofted a blooper just over Jeter’s glove and Jay Bell touched home plate for the winning run. The dream was shattered and the reality of 9-11 and all its absent and adrift innocent souls returned.
“I guess New York doesn’t get to be happy yet,” my wife said, perhaps the most poignant thing I’ve heard said about that game and that series. Perhaps America doesn’t get to be happy yet. Perhaps the world doesn’t get to be happy yet. Perhaps…gloom will cover the greatest city in the world on 9-11 for all time.
Fourteen years later, today, one of my dear friends changed all that for me. Today is no longer 9-11. Now, it’s the 11th day of September, 2015. It is the birthday of a little girl named Libby who will not grow up with the horrors and gloom this date brings every year. In Libby's eyes, the shaft of light from Ground Zero that pierces our anguished souls will be a glorious finger from Heaven reaching down to bathe young children with joy. Now, like years after a magma current has wiped clean a forest, the nutrient rich soil left behind brings forth the first flower…and nothing could be more amazing or precious. Amidst the memories of desolation, bone-deep heartache, and devastation life springs forth more beautiful than before.
Perhaps today…fourteen years later, the cool, Western breeze has pushed away the dark blanket of soot and dust, the sun has returned the sparkle to the Chrysler Building Eagles and the future can be seen in the eyes of laughing children…
Thank you, Libby. You are already a perfect sunflower.
And perhaps, Libby…
Perhaps…New York finally gets to be happy.