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Paying respects to a sad memory
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09/11/2002 8:14 pm ET 
Paying respects to a sad memory
Indians honor Sept. 11 with a night of solemn pomp
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com

Cleveland Police Department, Fire Department, and EMS crews carry a U.S. flag onto the field for opening ceremonies Wednesday. (Tony Dejak/AP)
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.
-- Field of Dreams

CLEVELAND -- And they did come to this Jacobs Field of dreams Wednesday night -- thousands of them.

It was baseball that had been the magnet that drew them, just as it had drawn so many Americans to patriotism on the last Sept. 11 and the days afterward. The games had to go on.

"If baseball quits, it's like America quits," said Indians pitcher Jerrod Riggan, who wore a Mets uniform a year ago today.

But baseball didn't quit, he said. Neither did America.

They both stood reed straight a year ago in the face of an act of cowardice that had never been seen on U.S. soil. They fought through their fears then. They did so again today.

All across America, the country and baseball joined hands, and at ballparks where games were played, the two sides remembered the tragedy that killed thousands of Americans and touched millions of lives.

From tots to aging teetotalers, they shared their feelings in solemn ceremonies everywhere, each one with a different touch.

At The Jake, the Indians remembered Sept. 11, 2001, in a pre-game ceremony that featured 25 sixth-graders from Rootstown Elementary School. The youngsters sang two songs, one of which was an original work of a classmate.


"I did it in the fifth grade," said Rachel Michael, who wrote the words to America Stand Tall. "It was an open assignment, and we could write about whatever we wanted to. It was shortly after 9-11, so I decided to write something about it then."

The words came Rachel's pen, but it was her teacher, Dianne Forsythe, who supplied the music. America Stand Tall highlighted the early ceremonies, which also included a rendition of national anthem and America the Beautiful.

It was Forsythe's class who sung the latter song as well.

"They're excited," said Forsythe of her pupils. "They're handling the fame nicely."

But the night was not about fame, although putting bright, energetic boys and girls on center stage is never a bad thing. They were eager to honor the men and women who died, and they were just as happy to be at a ballgame.

For these youngsters, it was their day to join with President Bush, firefighters, police officers and other Americans for a remembrance of one of the darkest days in U.S. history.

As the Rootstown students stood on the field, they listened as Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton read Bush's prepared statement: "For generations, baseball has endured as a national pastime. Throughout its rich history, the game has played a significant role in our society. During this past year, baseball helped to bring Americans together. In the aftermath of the attacks, an exciting pennant race and World Series were an important part of the healing process. As families and friends have continued to gather and enjoy this great game, we have shown that the spirit of America is strong, and that we stand united."

Others shared the President's sentiments. Count Riggan among them.

"Being involved in that first game back in New York with (Mike) Piazza hitting that home run in the eighth inning, that was like a statement," Riggan said. "I don't know what kind, but maybe it's we're here to stay -- nothing's gonna beat us."

Justice B. Hill, a senior writer, covers the Indians for MLB.com. He can be reached at jbernardh@aol.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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