Remembering 9/11 And The Night Two Hated Rivals Walked Off The Ice, Brothers
September 11th is a day that I will never forget. I was on my way to work, heading east bound on the Long Island Expressway around 8:30 AM. It was a gorgeous day. One so beautiful that I had the windows open and my favorite music blasting. All the while, the world was changing behind me.
When I got to the office, some guy in the parking lot said that a plane hit the World Trade Center. I literally looked at him in disbelief and said, “What? Like a little Cesna or something?” His response was as confused as mine, “I don’t know? I think it was a big plane.”
Finally I got to my desk and could not access the internet. This wasn’t normal. Word started spreading about a second plane and rumors that the U.S. was under attack. I was in shock, fear and sadness all at once. Like the City I grew up in, I was devastated.
I will never forget that day, even though I wish I could. For the next 3 weeks, my ride home was a constant reminder, as my view of the majestic NYC skyline was replaced with pillars of black smoke.
The Rangers were actually in the city the day it happened. Theo Fleury was quoted by the Globe and Mail, “I’m in shock. You know how the energy level in Manhattan is usually pretty high? There’s none today. It’s amazing. People are walking right down the middle of the busiest streets in town. There’s not a car out. There’s not a cab out. Nothing.”
They would actually play their first game at the Garden in a exhibition contest against the NJ Devils on 9/19/01. As a season ticket holder at the time, I would never bother with pre-season hockey. This time, I was there with about 6000 other fans – with tears in my eyes and pride in my heart. On the ice read “UNITED WE STAND”.
Out came longtime anthem singer John Amirante and he belted out God Bless America as we all chanted “USA, USA, USA!” All the while at center ice, the Rangers and Devils did not stand opposite one another, they stood shoulder to shoulder.
New Ranger, Eric Lindros summed it up beautifully after the game. “Hopefully, we gave a bit of relief to some of the people who came tonight.” On my ride home, I recalled feeling “normal” for a few hours.
The next night, the Rangers headed to Philaelphia for an exhibition contest. I remembered watching it in a fog, more concerned with President Bush’s address to Congress later that evening. Apparently, so were the spectators at the game in Philly.
The Flyers began showing President Bush during the 2nd period intermission. I recall bouncing back and forth when I noticed the crowd react negatively to the players about to start the third because Bush was taken off the Jumbotron.
Responding to the displeased crowd, the Flyers played the entire speech and the players sat on their respective benches. I recall faces of Flyers fans with watered up eyes as the camera panned through the stands. Here were two cities that hated each other, but on this night it didn’t matter.
The most poignant moment I recall was how they reacted to Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of NY! They were applauding. His words, “We Will Rebuild NY City” drew a loud ovation. My emotions couldn’t be held back, for once the City of Brotherly Love was living up to its name in my eyes.
By the time the speech was over, the Rangers and Flyers looked at each other and seized the moment. The greatest ending of any pre-season game was about to take place. The Rangers and Flyers simply skated over to each other and shook hands. No third period required. No winners, no losers.
It was beautiful, and most importantly it was fitting.
What I remember most about 9/11 is more than just terror and heartbreak. Maybe for the evil men that devised the plan, they saw it as a crippling blow to America. In reality it was the opposite.
For one time in my life, I saw what this country could be. American flags were on every doorstep, draped on countless cars and flying high for all to see. People were helping others regardless of race, color or creed. We became truly UNITED.
The attacks of September 11th shook the Nation. It rocked D.C. and Pennsylvania, but it devastated New York. The symbolism displayed that night in Philadelphia was one recognized and felt throughout the country. It was one that made the healing process go quicker. Because for a brief time, “WE WERE ALL NEW YORKERS”.
It’s a feeling I will never forget.
FTHN would like to express deep felt sympathies to those who have lost on 9/11 and every day since, fighting the evil in this world. I give you my thoughts and prayers today and always. Never Forget and God Bless America.