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A moment to pause and reflect
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09/11/2002 9:47 pm ET 
A moment to pause and reflect
By Adam McCalvy /

New York City firefighters join in 9/11 pregame ceremony in Milwaukee on Wednesday. (Brad Girsch/

MILWAUKEE -- Fans came to Miller Park on Wednesday, some dressed in Brewers blue and others in Cardinals red, to cheer their baseball heroes.

The guys with "FDNY" stitched on their shoulders were the real deal.

Four New York City firefighters, who toiled amid the rubble where the World Trade Center once stood, participated in ceremonies on the field before Brewers starter Ben Sheets threw his first pitch. They were in Milwaukee for a benefit that raised funds for widows of firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11.

"We're just firefighters," said Greg Fagan, a member of Squad Co. 1. "We don't usually get to do stuff like this. It was an honor, and it was nice for us to take our minds off of it for a little bit."

Fagan and Bobby West of Squad Co. 1, Jim Finnell of Rescue 4 and Dan Baron of Rescue 5 were met on the mound by Brewers manager Jerry Royster and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. Instead of throwing a ceremonial first pitch, West placed a baseball on the pitcher's mound while the crowd observed a moment of silence.

Even a year later, visions of Sept. 11 were still fresh in their minds.

"It's going to be like this until the day I die," Fagan said. "When they play the video, the thoughts just go back to the burning, smelling that smell, the dust, the dirt, and doing what we needed to do."

The firefighters were also joined on the field by dozens of their Milwaukee counterparts, plus members of local law enforcement and emergency response. Brooklyn, N.Y., native and Brewers pitcher Nelson Figueroa and Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny read aloud a letter from President Bush before eight-year-old Justin Kozlowski, the son of a Milwaukee firefighter, read the moving poem penned last September by legendary Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck.

Members of the Milwaukee Police Department sang the national anthem and players from both teams helped unfurl a huge American flag in the outfield. Then they played the game, trying once again to get back to normal.

"It's going to be a new normal," West said. "You need something to take your mind off it because you can't dwell on it 24 hours a day. You're always going to think about it; it's always going to be in your mind."

Added Fagan: "Getting back to any kind of normalcy is a good thing, to let them know that they didn't win. We're still going to go on, we're still going to have baseball and we're still going to have fun as much as we can."

That's what the Brewers and Cardinals tried to do Wednesday. But everyone's thoughts were in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylania.

"You have total recall of that day," Royster said before the game. "It's one of those days -- a tragic day -- where you remember everything."

On that day, Lenny Harris and Glendon Rusch were New York Mets on a road trip to Pittsburgh, preparing as best they could to deal first-hand with the terror that struck their home city.

Former Met and Yankee Ryan Thompson, now a Brewers outfielder, was briefly out of baseball and visiting his parents in Maryland. He noticed his wife watching coverage of the attack and asked her what movie she was watching.

Matt Morris was stuck in Milwaukee with his Cardinals, struggling to contact some of the 20 family members -- many of whom are ironworkers and firefighters -- who live in and around New York City.

The quartet of firefighters brought memories back for Morris, whose uncle, John, is a firefighter in Manhattan. He, along with Morris' father, George, an ironworker in Manhattan's Local 580, and other members of the family joined rescue efforts at Ground Zero on the day of the attack.

"Everybody's out of there now," Morris said after beating the Brewers on Tuesday night. "We went back down and saw it from the American Express Building. Nobody wants to be there anymore. It's not a good place."

Thompson lived only a few blocks from the World Trade Center when he played for the Yankees in 2000, and said he had a view of the towers from the front steps of his apartment on 12th Street.

"You walked out our door and there they were," Thompson said. "Seeing the city go through that after playing there was sad."

Rusch and Harris went through it along with their adopted city. The Mets were in Pittsburgh for a series against the Pirates, but after a day of waiting they bussed back to New York.

"You could still see the smoke rising," said Rusch. "I lived in up Connecticut at the time, and when you went across the Whitestone Bridge you could smell everything burning. It was an unbelievable sight to actually be right in the middle of it. It was hard."

All fans on Wednesday received a commemorative T-shirt featuring a design incorporating the Stars and Stripes MLB-silhouetted batter logo in a circular crest featuring a red, white and blue ribbon, the date September 11, 2001 and the phrase "We Shall Not Forget."

Fans were asked to wear the shirts during a moment of silence at 9:11 p.m. CT.

Adam McCalvy covers the Brewers for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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