In Remembrance of fallen heroes

Rangers captain Mark Messier shakes the hand of a FDNY firefighter during an emotionally charged scene before the home opener versus the Sabres at MSG on October 7, 2001.

On the 19th Anniversary of 9/11, I still have this numbing pain in my heart. All these years later, it never changes. It doesn’t go away. Especially if you lived here in the New York/New Jersey or Connecticut area.

At the time, I was on my way to work driving over the Bayonne Bridge when Howard Stern made the startling announcement over the airwaves of 92.3 K-Rock. I didn’t believe it until the smoke stared in front of me to my right from the city. It was all too surreal. I was stunned. Shook to my core.

Back then, I worked at Harborside Financial Center in Jersey City directly across from the World Trade Center. During lunch breaks, I frequently took in those beautiful Twin Towers across the ocean. To have it ripped out due to a heinous terrorist attack that took many innocent lives, was a punch to the gut. It was devastating.

There are families who were shattered into pieces on September 11th, 2001. Many people lost loved ones or friends. I’m fortunate enough to say I didn’t. I just can remember being terrified that hot day when we heard a plane fly over in the parking lot of the 34th Street Bayonne Light Rail. You didn’t feel safe. How could anyone? Those attacks on New York City, Washington DC and Pennsylvania remain etched in our memories.

It was one of the worst days in American history. Yes, I was scared. But just think what so many people who died in those towers felt in their last moments. It’s crazy. I witnessed my favorite building go down in a heap of smoke and rubble. The world ended. It literally stopped. The way we looked at things afterwards would change forever. If you’re old enough, then you know.

The irony is that the New York Rangers were supposed to tour the World Trade Center that day. Imagine if they had. For a long time, life didn’t normally exist. There was no work for over a week. I stayed home and watched wall to wall news coverage. I wanted to find out more about the catastrophic event.

In reflecting about that day an hour ago to commemorate the time of the two plane crashes, I thought about what I was feeling again. I held a moment of silence for all the victims. I also watched some inspiring music videos on YouTube including Jimi Hendrix performing the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, plus an Irish marching band playing bagpipes. That felt appropriate. So did Lee Greenwood performing “God Bless The USA”, prior to Game Four of an emotional 2001 World Series at Yankee Stadium. Chills.

Even though they didn’t win that year, I have never been so proud of a team. They might have lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Diamondbacks in November of that year. But the way they came back will never be forgotten. Who would’ve thought Mariano Rivera would blow the game? It was truly the end of a great Yankees dynasty.

You know what else I recall? The Rangers and Devils facing off in a preseason game following 9/11. One of the first sporting events to be played at Madison Square Garden. Of course, we attended. I still admit to being nervous and scared that night. I didn’t feel safe. The way the teams lined up for the playing of the anthem was memorable. It was different due to the circumstances. Maybe in that emotional moment I started to heal.

They played an exhibition game. Nothing happened. I couldn’t even tell you who won. Nor do I care. We won just by being there. I didn’t know it at the time. But it was special. You couldn’t stop doing things. If you did, the bad guys win. We can’t live our lives that way. I would express the same thing today about how careful we have to be due to the pandemic. Don’t let it stop you from taking in a nice sunset.

What a strange time it is. Nineteen years have gone by and I wish we were more like we used to be following that horrible tragedy. Nicer to each other. More respectful. Understanding. Unselfish. United. If I can change one thing now, that would be it. There’s too much hate now. It’s unhealthy. We need to be more and do better. No matter who you are and what side you’re on.

At the end of the day, we are all Americans. It’s time to heal again. Even if our leaders and negative media don’t want us to. Things can be better. Treat each other right. Be kind and courteous.

Think of the ultimate sacrifice our firefighters, police and emergency medical workers made during that time. They are the true heroes. It’s time to change our way of thinking. Stay positive. Appreciate each day and every moment with your loved ones and close friends. That is what matters most.

Thank you to those who serve our country. God bless you. God bless the lives lost. May their souls be here in spirit.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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