Tuesday, September 11th, 2001: The day America changed forever. People who went to work just like any other day were suddenly silenced, while others were lucky to survive. 16 years ago today, the Terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place. Four planes were hijacked, and there were no survivors in any of the four planes.
At 7:46 a.m CST, American Airlines Flight 11, which was one of four hijacked planes, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. At 8:03 CST, a second plane struck the South Tower as America watched is complete disbelief. News outlets across the nation were dubious as to whether this was a planned attack or an accident. But as the minutes passed, it was clear: this was no accident.
Two more hijacked planes eventually crashed as well: one into part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C, and Flight 93, which crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the passangers heroically battled the terrorists to prevent it from potentially striking D.C again. Around 3,000 people died during the terrorist attacks, and hundreds more missing. The images of those jumping off the towers to die swiftly still encircle the minds of millions to this day.
After the attacks, all sports were suspended from play for the next week. WWE (then WWF) held a special “Smackdown” episode on September 13th, the first public gathering since the attacks. On September 17th, 2001, after nearly a week being halted, baseball returned, and one of the first games was played at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Many critics began to question whether it was too early for baseball to come back, as people were still grieving. Some labeled it “too soon” and argued people wouldn’t be interested in the sport right after the attacks. Others believed we should hold off on restarting baseball for days or even weeks. Enter Jack Buck.
The longtime Cardinals announcer, a hometown hero and nationwide icon, visibly frail, suffering from lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease, stood in front of a sellout crowd as Busch Stadium, and in one patriotic speech (which is at the bottom of this article), silenced the critics once and for all:
Since this nation was founded … under God
More than 200 years ago
We have been the bastion of freedom
The light that keeps the free world aglow
We do not covet the possessions of others
We are blessed with the bounty we share.
We have rushed to help other nations
… anything … anytime … anywhere.
War is just not our nature
We won’t start … but we will end the fight
If we are involved we shall be resolved
To protect what we know is right.
We have been challenged by a cowardly foe
Who strikes and then hides from our view.
With one voice we say, “There is no choice today,
There is only one thing to do.
Everyone is saying — the same thing — and praying
That we end these senseless moments we are living.
As our fathers did before … we shall win this unwanted war
And our children … will enjoy the future … we’ll be giving.”
The Busch Stadium crowd erupted in applause, as firefighters and police officers saluted the large American Flag in center field, tears rushing down the faces in the crowd of over 42,000. A 21-gun fireworks salute then took place, lighting up the city of St. Louis like never before. Before leaving the field, however, Buck made one final statement to those who still believed baseball came back too soon.
“I don’t know about you, but as for me, the question has already been answered: Should we be here? Yes!”
The crowd agreed. Baseball was (and is) more than a game, but never was that more evident than after 9/11. In New York, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at Shea Stadium before the Mets game, while Liza Minnelli performed “New York, New York” essentially the anthem to New York.
Jack Buck did more than say a speech. He not only said a speech Americans wanted to hear. He said the speech America needed to hear. He rallied a country that was torn inside and heartbroken, and lifted their spirits triumphantly while declaring we will not cower in fear, move on, and show the terrorists what America is truly all about.
The speech was rightfully titled “For America” because that was what it was all about. America. About a country that was attacked from within, as millions watched two buildings that towered over the city of New York collapsing to the ground below, as the Pentagon, a military capital, being struck, and as anthrax spores began to travel through the mail, our fear of security was higher than ever. But we as Americans could always find comfort by either attending or tuning into a baseball game on the TV or radio.
Jack Buck passed away on June 18, 2002 at the age of 77 from lung cancer among other ailments. His speech was one of his last public appearances in front of the Busch Stadium crowd.
It’s been 16 years since that tragic day. The world isn’t perfect, but life is precious. Make the most out of the present, because the future isn’t guaranteed…to any of us.
Today, tomorrow, next year, and every year after, we will never forget September 11, 2001, the innocent lives lost, the first responding firefighters, policeman, and emergency medical teams who made the sacrifice to save as many lives as possible. To those who made their sacrifice, to those who have served in any branch of the armed forces, and to those that stood tall while others would hide, I salute you and thank you. God Bless America.