It’s been six years since I got a slew of phone calls that September morning. It started a period of about six months I barely recall with any clarity now. But that day is one I do remember with crystal clarity.
On that morning, I was asleep. I work over nights, and had only gotten home at around 6:30 AM, dragging as usual. Everything seemed normal, my daughter (not yet 5 at that time), was sound alseep, and wouldn’t get up untill 10 or so. My wife was off to work shortly after I got home. All I wanted was sleep.
The first call came at around 8:50. I let the machine pick up, half listening to the simple message: “Turn on the TV, there’s something interesting happening.” I thought “yeah, whatever, I’ll catch it later.” Less than five minutes later, another call, and I again let the machine pick up. “Turn on the TV, a plane hit the World Trade Center.” At that point I grabbed the phone, and turned on the TV. I tuned in just in time to watch the second plane hit the South Tower. For the next 3-4 days, either the TV in the living room or the bedroom was on.
The converstaion I had at that moment, while long in terms of time, was short on words. My first statement, after hello was “That was intentional” referring to the second plane. Then came word of the Pentagon, then of United 93 going down in Pennsylvania. My mind was racing a mile a minute. I wasn’t immediately going to the who’s, and how’s and why’s of it all, but was thinking of all the people I knew in NYC, from family to friends, to mere acquaintances.
A few quick calls assured me that all the family was safe. Word had gotten out despite the clogged lines of communications from and to NYC. So I went online, sending out emails to about a dozen different people. I did this while I watched the Towers collapse on CNN and ABC news.
Responses came dribbling in. Most were the “we’re safe and OK” variety. Most. I got one from the commissioner of a Strat league I was in at that time. One of our members, a guy I had been chatting with online, was missing at the Towers. The email was short: “Ken’s missing at the World Trade Center collapse.” This one hit home, as I had just been IM’ing with Ken the previous day, talking some trade possibilities, and how much the Yankees were over rated.
Then came what I can only describe as a panic email from Ken’s wife, Katrina. I will summarize the details here:
Ken’s among the missing. Please call his pager at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Maybe they’ll be able to hear it, and get to him.
I emailed back that I would, and I’d make sure everyone that was involved in the league, and few beyond would get this message. Our league commissioner had already done so, but I did it anyway.
This was one of those heart over mind moments. I had watched the Towers collapse on TV. I my head I knew that few, if any, had survived it. Yet there was hope, faint and futile as it may have been. So I called the pager. I called once every half hour. I kept checking my email hoping for a “you can stop now, I’m fine” message. It never came.
Over the next week or two, I watched the lists of names of those who had died. I bought the NY Post and Daily News to get the latest lists. I searched for Ken’s name. Eventually it was there, Ken Marino, FDNY, Rescue 1. But there were other names I recognized as well. The cousin and uncle of a college roommate were on that list as well, one FDNY, the other NYPD. I had met both on several occasions during that year were roomed together.
It’s amazing how some things can become so personal, even when you yourself are distanced from the event. 9-11 is one of those things. There was a statistic put out in October or November of 2001 that said that over 50% of the USA knew someone, or was closely related to someone who died in the attacks. Now I don’t know how extended they considered being related, but still, that’s a staggering fact.
I think that my aunt put it best: “Now I understand how people felt when Pearl Harbor was attacked.”
Ken’s story of that day was well publicized in the NY papers, and beyond. It even made ESPN, which I’m sure Ken would have found funny, and honoring. You see, Ken was a huge fan of Ken Griffey jr. Well, Junior got told of Ken’s story, and promised to take his widow and two kids to the park the next time he was in NY for a game. That wouldn’t happen until 2002.
So here’s a genuine feel good story from Baseball, one to restore hope that we will get through all the PED stories. IIRC, it was in June of 2002 when the Reds next came to NY to play the Mets. It was some 10 months after 9-11, and one could have forgiven Junior if he had forgotten his promise. But he didn’t. He came through, and never considered not doing so. He took Katrina and the kids to Shea, had them meet the players in the club house, gave them autographed memorabilia, and treated them to a day at the park. Junior showed his class, and what kind of man he truly was that day. And for one more time, Ken made Sportscenter.
I could go on more about Baseball and those days after 9-11. From Bud Selig’s tough decision to resume play, to Jack Buck’s empassioned speach in St.Louis, to Mike Piazza’s GW Home Run at Shea in the first game in NY. But that’ll be for another day.
Today is for Ken Marino, and all the others who died that bright Spetember morning.
They are gone, but not forgotten. Some of us shall never forget.