What’s that lurking at our doorsteps?
So, I’m supposed to be writing a sports column acknowledging the anniversary of Sept. 11, but I’m not sure what to say about it, except that it should be a reminder to us all to appreciate the “finer things,” which would include sports, the outdoors, and any kind of recreation. And what better place to do that than Summit County, where pine trees, peaks, hiking, biking and skiing trails await right at our doorsteps.
In reviewing our sports archives from last year, I was reminded that, on Sept. 11, Summit High School cancelled all of its scheduled sporting events as well as those scheduled the weekend following the tragedy. Major League Baseball cancelled its games that day and the day after, and took a moment of silence at games during the week ensuing the event. Alison Dunlap, the 2001 world mountain biking champion, collapsed into the American flag in an emotional heap after she crossed the finish line at the 2001 UCI World Championships Sept. 15 in Vail. She was the only American to win a cross-country race at the event.
Although sports paled to the point of utter insignificance against the horror of the events of Sept. 11, there’s no question that everyone was relieved when games, races and recreation resumed to normal a few days later. Nothing seemed “normal” in the wake of those events, and in a way, many things haven’t been “normal” since. Although the terror has faded in the past year, (perhaps rekindled on this first anniversary), there is a level of fear that will always remain in the hearts of Americans that wasn’t there before Sept. 11, 2001: A fear of traveling, a fear of climbing tall buildings, a fear of anniversaries of events that nobody, save the terrorists, would have ever dreamed possible in their worst nightmare.
Igniting our memories with the details of that tragedy won’t get us anywhere. Appreciating what we have here and now will. Headlines such as “America remembers” seem ridiculous. Because, after all, how could we possibly forget?
People I know who were in New York that day want nothing more than to just forget. Although a lobotomy is about all that would make that possible, sports have helped some of them get through the experience, in more ways than one would think.
I attended a good friend’s wedding Sept. 1 last year, shortly after she and her husband ran the Pikes Peak Ascent, 13 miles to the top of the 14,110-foot peak. Ten days later, Heather and Andy of Colorado Springs were on their honeymoon in the Marriott on the 17th floor of the World Trade Center when they were rattled out of bed by a deafening crash. Both escaped Ground Zero unscathed, and attribute a large part of it to their fitness.
Nowhere near the same as running down the singletrack leading up to the summit of Pikes Peak, the couple ran like hell down 17 flights of stairs in the second tower, then sprinted down the street among falling debris, flesh and a swarm of panic and screaming. They were a block away and still running when the second plane flew directly over their heads and into the building they had just escaped from. Later, Heather said she isn’t sure they would have been able to get out of the building and far enough away if they weren’t in such great shape from training for the Pikes Peak race.
This year, Andy ran the Pikes Peak Ascent again and Heather did the full marathon. When I say both escaped the WTC “unscathed” on Sept. 11, of course I mean that neither sustained any physical injuries that day.
I do know that, in the days that have followed, their happiest, most fulfilling moments have been running races, skiing and snowboarding, playing and coaching soccer and volleyball, camping, dancing, hiking and doing anything they possibly can outdoors.
Also, since this day last year, athletes from throughout the world ventured into our country for the 2002 Olympic Games, Alison Dunlap broke her hand in a mountain bike race, and Major League Baseball players, after their patriotic sentiments and gestures on and surrounding Sept. 11, came very close to going on strike.
Today, and every other day, should be a reminder to us all that there are finer things to be had than pointing fingers, making more money, fearing the unknown, or stewing over tragedies that can’t be undone. While America is “remembering,” it should also make a point to never forget the finer things. Instead of remembering when, or bracing ourselves for hell to once again break loose on our doorsteps, maybe we should make the most of what’s there right now.
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