Apr 21, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan (24) celebrates behind the net after scoring a goal against New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Reflecting on the 9/11 Attacks: The Role of Hockey in the Recovery Process


Jan 9, 2011; New York City, NY, USA; General view of a United States flag and the Manhattan skyline and the construction of 1 World Trade Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Today we reflect and remember the terrible events of 9/11 and the attacks on our country. I remember that day very well, even down to small details, and now 12 years later, it still is full of sadness and painful memories.

 

We will never forget the victims of these terrible attacks, and we will grieve with their families at the tremendous loss of life that day.

 

The Aftermath

 

I remember the days and weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, everything seemed so surreal. The deep sadness, shock, grief, and the anxiety over whether another attack was going to occur was overwhelming. Everything had changed.

 

Eventually I was able to distract myself by doing what I enjoy which was watching sports. I felt that by watching the games, I could feel a sense of normalcy return to my life again.

 

In those difficult months, even those first few years after 9/11, the New Jersey Devils and NHL hockey filled that void for me. The Devils have always been a big part of my life both prior to 9/11, and since that terrible day. But they were never more important to me in helping me to cope with the changes in our society and our world than during the 2001-02 hockey season.

 

I would be at work during the day, and I would come home in the evening to seemingly endless reports of difficult and sad news stories in the aftermath of the attacks. Our country would be at war with the groups responsible in Afghanistan soon after the attacks.

 

The proximity of New Jersey to New York City made for a situation where these attacks impacted you on a personal level. In your community, at work, at church; everyone knew someone who was impacted by this terrible tragedy.

 

I would look forward to the evenings when the Devils played, so that I could put on the hockey game, and try to tune out the rest of the sadness and pain that seemed to be all around me. In those few hours, I would think about the game, how the team was playing, and what areas they needed to improve.

 

The games that the Devils played against their cross river rivals, the New York Rangers, had a different feeling to them and a different level of intensity than in other years since. It is a difficult thing to describe, there was a lot of respect in those games, but they were still, I think, a good distraction for me and for other hockey fans.

 

Looking back

 

In the end, the Devils would wind up finishing in third place in their division, winning 41 games, and losing in the playoffs to the Carolina Hurricanes (www.hockeyreference.com).

 

However, looking back, the record did not matter, the real importance is what they provided to me and to other fellow Devils fans: an escape from the sadness, grief, and anxiety of those months following such a horrific event. I have no idea how the families of the victims made it through that period of time. It is unthinkable to me the pain and sorrow that they endured, and continue to endure today, 12 years later.

 

I will always be grateful that sports was my outlet in being able to cope with that period in my life. I will always remember the victims who lost their lives, and be humbled by the stories of courage and heroism that I have heard which took place on that fateful day.

 

I will continue to hope that one day we can all live together in peace and that these acts of violence and terrorism will cease. That is the ultimate lesson I hope we can learn as we reflect today on that dark time for America and the world.

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