No one will ever forget where they were on this date 12 years ago. Most were commuting to work, if not already at work, or going to school. For me, I was attending English class when I had learned that the Twin Towers had been hit. Walking into the classroom, I could see the first tower on fire as the television had been kept on by the teacher. Instantly, I had thought that it was some sort of fake, almost like an action-movie special effect, but as I saw my classmates and teacher with their eyes transfixed on the screen, it immediately hit me that this was really happening. Growing up along the Jersey Shore, an hour away from NYC, I had been to Manhattan more times than I could count. It was a frequent visit, as my aunt has lived there for the last four decades and one of my sisters works in the city.
It just so happened that my sister and future brother-in-law, Marge & Barry (M&B), worked on the 51st floor of the North Tower for Tradeweb, an online trading company. Whenever she came home to visit, she would always bring back promotional freebies they would have like office basketball hoops, stress balls, polo shirts, or even a baseball. I never thought twice about the “swag”. I would usually mess around with the item for a day or two then ignore it completely.
Then, 9/11 happened.
At 8:46am, the time the North Tower was hit, M&B were both already at work on the 51st floor of the building. Thinking, initially it was an earthquake, they began to follow evacuation protocol. Unbeknownst to them, the worst domestic terrorist attach was taking place as terrorists hijacked a plane and flew it through the 92-98th floors of the very same building they were working in. Not your typical Tuesday morning.
9/11/01 was the most nerve-wracking day of my life and is the heavy-favorite for it to remain the most nerve-wracking day of my life as it took my family all day to try to reach M&B. Cell phone service in the area was unavailable as so many people were trying to reach their loved ones in the same way we were. In the late morning, around 11:00 am, we received an e-mail from Marge’s blackberry saying she was alright and was in the stairwell, heading out of the building. If you know the exact timeline of the day, you would know that the North Tower fell at 10:28am. A good half-hour before we had read the e-mail. With no confirmation that M&B had made it out safely, we continued to just sit and wait…for what seemed to be an eternity.
Then, come late afternoon, we finally received another e-mail from Marge’s blackberry saying that her and Barry had made it out and were at a co-worker’s house in Manhattan. Instant relief had hit all of us, as we finally received what we were looking for, confirmation that M&B were safe. The next day, as we picked up my sister across the river in Jersey City (NYC was on lock down), I gave her the biggest hug I could remember and had the best breakfast I will ever have, not so much for the food, but for the company I was grateful to have. At breakfast, Marge would tell me the story of how they had first thought it was an earthquake, to the pandemonium of running away from two collapsing 110 floor buildings, to seeing the faces of firefighters in the stairwell, not knowing they wouldn’t make it out.
Fast-forward to weeks later, when the clean-up was taking place at Ground Zero. A New York City fireman, Vin Mavaro, had stumbled across a round object he thought was concrete. To his surprise, he had just found a baseball among all the rubble. It happened to be one of the promotional baseballs Tradeweb would give out to customers or employee’s brothers like myself. According to Mavaro upon finding the ball, “The ball’s nicked up, but it’s intact and it came through. I feel the same about New York City, the Fire Department and the United States. We’re banged up, we took a hit, but we came through.” Mavaro had learned what I found out weeks earlier, all of Tradweb’s staff made it out safely.
The ball is currently at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as a symbol of the resiliency we have as a nation. For me, it’s a personal symbol of my family’s story from that day of how we almost lost two family members, but ended up gaining three more as M&B now have three sons. For the sports and fitness industry, the baseball is one of our direct connections on how we can be a symbol of reinforcement and coming together, even through one of the worst day’s in American history.
To read more about the Tradeweb baseball’s story, click here.
Posted by VJ Mayor, SFIA Director of Communications & Research – email@example.com