In the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11, we’ve grown stronger 

American tennis star Andy Roddick and the rest of the United States banded together in the wake of 9/11, coming out stronger in the end. (AP file photo) - AMERICAN TENNIS STAR ANDY RODDICK AND THE REST OF THE UNITED STATES BANDED TOGETHER IN THE WAKE OF 9/11, COMING OUT STRONGER IN THE END. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • American tennis star Andy Roddick and the rest of the United States banded together in the wake of 9/11, coming out stronger in the end. (AP file photo)
  • American tennis star Andy Roddick and the rest of the United States banded together in the wake of 9/11, coming out stronger in the end. (AP file photo)

It was supposed to be the men’s singles final today, but fate and the weather have upset the schedule. On this painful anniversary, on a court in a complex only a few miles from ground zero, it will be the ladies who take the stage at the U.S. Open.

Aside the Long Island Expressway from Manhattan to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a route contestants, officials and media travel, there is a billboard with only three words: “Honor. Remember. Unite.”
Everybody understands. The reference is not to a game of many numbers, as 40-30, 2-1, but to a catastrophe of two numbers — 9/11.

As always, the past decade a national championship and a national tragedy remain inextricably linked by the calendar.

The second weekend in September 2001, on Saturday night, in a match so historic it earned higher television viewership than Notre Dame-Nebraska football, Venus and Serena Williams played each other in a Grand Slam final for the first time. Venus winning. The next afternoon, Lleyton Hewitt defeated Pete Sampras for the men’s title.

I left New York that following evening, Sept. 10, and as the car to Kennedy airport emerged from the Midtown Tunnel and moved up the highway in Queens I looked over at the regal twin towers of the World Trade Center. In a few hours, they would cease to exist.

In a few hours the world we knew would cease to exist.

Now, security is everywhere. Police vans or police cars, their motors running continually, block roads to the tennis center at Flushing Meadows, backing away only when an entering vehicle is approved.

Now cement barriers line the pathways and roadways in case a truck full of explosives should try to barrel into the facility.

Through the region police watch at toll gates, at the openings of tunnels, at bridges, and along with uniformed troops at Grand Central and Pennsylvania stations. It’s not quite an armed camp, but, even before the new threats of the past few days, it was close to one.

Yet among the mementos — the New York Post the other day ran a picture of blood-stained shoes of a woman who ran down dozens of floors to safety — and grim memories, optimism has grown.

The new Freedom Tower at ground zero is already up to 80 stories, and when it is finished in two more years, it will be, at the symbolic height 1,776 feet, the tallest building in North America. The acronyms NYPD and FDNY have become iconic, not only in New York but throughout the globe.

“I said a couple of weeks ago,” commented Andy Roddick, the 2003 men’s champion, “I was never prouder to be an American than in the aftermath of 9/11. Just the people’s spirit, and the way people came together and helped each other.”

Serena Williams offered similar thoughts. After her loss to sister Venus on Sept. 8, 2001, she had gone to Washington, D.C.

“It’s hard to believe it’s 10 years later,” said Serena, who will turn 30 later this month. “But it’s good the way we came together. And New York has been so strong.”

A New York Jets-Dallas Cowboys game across the Hudson River. A national tennis championship. And never forgetting what happened on 9/11. Honor. Remember. Unite. That’s strong.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.

About The Author

Art Spander

Art Spander

Bio:
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
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