09/11/11 3:48 PM ET
Indians reflect 10 years after Sept. 11
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"I watched the towers go down," said Herrmann, now a reliever for the Indians.
Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the horrific terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Around baseball, teams held ceremonies to honor the memories of the thousands who lost their lives, both as heroes and as victims, that day a decade ago.
This was a day for remembrance, to never forget events that touched the lives of so many.
Everyone has a story about Sept. 11, 2001. For three members of the Indians, it was a day that affected them personally.
Herrmann's high school was perched on a hill in New Jersey, providing a first-hand view of the other side of the Hudson River. First-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. was with the White Sox in New York, trapped in his hotel as chaos erupted all around. Shelley Duncan was at home in Arizona -- one day after finishing his season with the Staten Island Yankees.
Each day after school, Herrmann had a clear view of Manhattan as he drove home on Route 3 in New Jersey. On 9/11, smoke filled the air where the Twin Towers once stood.
"After that," Herrmann said, "it was changed and it was a constant reminder."
Herrmann was in French class that morning, when students in the room noticed smoke coming from Manhattan. Before news reports began surfacing, only word of mouth offered explanations. They thought it was a fire. Then, someone said a small plane had crashed into a building.
Soon, though, a teacher walked into the classroom.
"Another teacher ran in and told my teacher to put on the TV," Herrmann recalled. "A lot of people I knew had older siblings working over in New York City, or parents."
Herrmann and others eventually made their way to the dining hall, where large glass windows gave them a clear look at the tragedy at hand.
"I remember no one could make a phone call," Herrmann said. "Everyone was trying to do it. There was panic. There was panic going on."
Alomar was in New York with the White Sox for a series against the Yankees. He was asleep in his room at the Grand Central Hyatt that morning, unaware of what was happening downtown. Alomar's phone began to ring. He answered and was immediately caught in a state of confusion like so many others.
"I opened the windows and people were running everywhere," Alomar said. "We weren't allowed to leave the hotel."
With planes grounded around the country, the White Sox eventually organized a bus trip back to Chicago from Manhattan.
"That's the only time we got to see the Twin Towers," Alomar said, "is when we were driving out on the George Washington Bridge. We saw the smoke going out."
Alomar remembers the silence on the bus.
"It was kind of eerie," he said. "It's something that you can't believe that it happened. We had many conversations about many different things, but we were all kind of in disbelief about what just happened.
"The fact that we were there made it even more unbelievable."
Duncan had been in the shadow of the World Trade Center only a day earlier.
It was his first year in professional baseball and Duncan had the New York City skyline as his backdrop for games with the Staten Island Yankees. He still smiles at the memories of playing there. That smile quickly fades when discussing how Richmond County Bank Ballpark was used as a way station for police and firefighters since it was so close to Ground Zero.
After finishing a playoff series with Brooklyn, Duncan flew home to Tucson, Ariz., on Sept. 10, 2001. The next day, he watched helplessly from across the country. Duncan reached out to players from the Brooklyn ballclub and heard their stories of watching from a rooftop and seeing the towers fall.
"It was one of those shell-shocked feelings that you get," Duncan said. "When something on a scale so big happens like that, you're caught in disbelief, because you can't understand it."
Duncan then launched into a tale about the towers.
"All the quick memories of that place start coming to mind," Duncan said. "I remember walking alongside the building and looking straight up and freaking out because of how high it was. I remember the buildings were like pilars. You look up and it's just shooting up there.
"After games, Friday nights, we would catch the ferry into the city. The ferry would take us right in there at night right where the World Trade Center was. It was amazing how big those buildings were. You would just get mesmerized as that skyline came closer and closer."
After one road trip, the Staten Island team arrived back in New York as the sun was rising. Duncan grabbed his camcorder and captured the moment -- the water rippling, the towers looming. The cassette is currently sitting in a box somewhere in a storage unit, but Duncan intends to find it.
"It was awesome," Duncan said. "The water in the harbor was still, and you've got that quiet sunrise feeling. It's dark and we're out there on the edge of the harbor. It was one of the coolest sunrises I'd ever seen."
Ten years later, this is the calm after that storm.
"It's weird to say it's been 10 years," Herrmann said. "It woke me up to a lot of things. A lot has changed since then."