09/07/11 10:00 AM ET
Torre: Emotions from 9/11 remain today
By Joe Torre / Special to MLB.com
When our country was attacked, I was numb through the whole thing. It was something that shocked us all.
I was home. We were starting a series on Tuesday. We got rained out the night before against the Red Sox. [Roger] Clemens was slated to pitch. I had a charity luncheon I was going to that day.
No TV on in the house. I got a call from the car service and the driver said he guessed it was canceled. I said, "What was canceled?" I didn't know what he was talking about.
He told me to turn on the TV, and the first thing that came to mind was my daughter. She was 5. What was she watching? But my wife was already aware of it. I thought of my son, who used to work at the World Trade Center and still came through the Holland Tunnel, but I got a hold of him. And my sister-in-law, who flew for American Airlines, she was off somewhere and we didn't know where she was. But I soon knew that my family was OK.
But my city and country were not OK. It was just a weird, scary time. Fear was the one feeling you couldn't escape. Baseball was sort of out of the picture and you figured that would get cleared up in a day or so and we'd figure out what would happen to the sport. Initially, baseball wasn't a priority. I remember Clemens and [Andy] Pettitte drove home to Texas, because there were no flights but they wanted to be home. Everybody wanted to hug whoever they loved and be around them. It was an insecure feeling, not being with your family.
The Saturday before that, we had a wraparound series for the weekend and the following Monday. When they wanted to resume play, we were supposed to play in Tampa the last game, but we talked to the league office and instead went straight to the next series in Chicago. So we resumed on Tuesday. We had a workout Monday. Before that, we had a workout Saturday at Yankee Stadium. There was a solemn mood. People didn't know what to say.
It was suggested after the workout that we go into Manhattan, to the Jacob Javits Center, which was a staging area for the emergency workers. Then, we'd go to St. Vincent's Hospital and then to the Armory, where a lot of family members were waiting for word on their loved ones.
We loaded into three or four vans. We got there and there were firefighters coming in from all over the country. They had cots and sleeping bags for the rescue workers and we spent some time with them. Then we went to the hospital, but there weren't any survivors. Nobody was there being treated except a few firefighters for smoke inhalation.
And when we got to the Armory, that's when the emotion of it hit you. People were there waiting for closure about their loved ones. At first, it seemed like we didn't belong. Randy Levine, our president, went in and said they'd like us to come in. You could see families grouped together, separated by low petitions, some grieving, some just in a state of shock, joined by clergy. We were hesitant, but a woman saw us and motioned us in. And I remember Bernie Williams walked over to a woman and he said, 'I don't know what to say, but you look like you need a hug,' and they hugged.
We touched a lot of families there. There were people there wearing Yankees gear, people with pictures of their missing loved ones with Yankees caps. They were half smiling and half crying. And that was when I realized what our job in baseball had become. We needed to be a distraction from the fear and sadness and grief.
It was all very emotional. But I knew that I had to tell our players when we got to Chicago that the NY on their caps was more for the city now than it was for the Yankees. We had a job to do. Our job always is to win, but now we had another level of responsibility -- to distract and help heal and give people something to help them get through this difficult time.
At the ballpark in Chicago, there were banners: "We love New York." You knew most of these people couldn't be Yankees fans because it wasn't easy to travel. But they were just people showing support. And to this day I get thanked by people for the role baseball played at that time when we all came together as a country.
Of course, the postseason was another layer of emotion. We opened against Oakland, lost the first two games, but won it in five. That was the series where [Derek] Jeter made the flip play. It was a remarkable comeback.
Then we beat Seattle, and they had won 116 games. And that got us into the World Series, where [Curt] Schilling and the Big Unit [Randy Johnson] proved too much for us. Even though we lost, it was the most exciting World Series. We lost the first two games in Arizona, but those three home games were like Groundhog's Day with the comebacks, Tino [Martinez]'s home run, [Scott] Brosius' home run. Fans chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A." It was quite an emotional rollercoaster.
It was exhausting when it was over. And at the same time, we were visiting firehouses. Family members of victims were throwing out first balls. The impact of 9/11 was still ongoing.
For me, the emotional part stands out, and it still does. When they played "God Bless America," and the camera pans the stands and stops on a youngster, I teared up then and still do, because I know our country will never be the same place as it was for me. We weren't afraid of anything as far as being safe at home. That changes our whole personality and the way we go about our daily routine.
And we were discovering a whole new set of heroes. People we had taken for granted -- EMS, firefighters, police. I had a friend, Lenny Schettino, who worked at Grand Central. He went to Ground Zero every day offering to help look for people that never were found. It really was a big city coming together, addressing each other's wounds. People who don't live there might look at New York and see a cold place. But in crisis, they came to the plate. And baseball did its part.
Joe Torre is the executive vice president for baseball operations for Major League Baseball and was managing the Yankees at the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.