September 11, 2001 in New York was the most glorious day that God could ever give us, a sky so blue, an air so clean. And yet, never anywhere did evil loom so large and ugly.
-- Frank Deford
It started out as a normal day in most of the United States. The sun was out on most of the East Coast, and a brilliant day was in the forecast.
But a conspiratorial group of 19 hijackers took over four aircraft and crashed them into the Pentagon and both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. A fourth aircraft was recommandeered by some courageous passengers and was downed in a field in Western Pennsylvania.
It seemed as though no segment of the American populace was unaffected by the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. It seemed that everybody knew somebody who knew somebody who died or was injured.
The terrorist attacks affected America deeply. Bedsheets with patriotic and some vengeful slogans were hung on interstate overpasses. Flags were displayed on the backs of pickup trucks.
The sports world was heavily affected by the attacks, especially given the heavy travel restrictions for three days afterwards. The National Football League, one of the most heavily financed and powerful sports entities in the world, suspended play for the weekend.
Minor league baseball ceased operations, and major-league play continued with heavy security, American flag patches at the nape of each player's uniform collar, and the New York Mets paying tribute to fire, police, and rescue workers by wearing their caps during play.
Flag ribbons and American flags adorned sports uniforms from coast to coast. The Providence Bruins hockey team and New Britain Rock Cats baseball team were among teams wearing special flag-motif uniforms.
The American field hockey community was heavily affected by the events of the September 11 attacks. But it was resilient: a game between Ball State and Stanford took place that very afternoon. Sidwell Friends, which is about three miles from the Pentagon in the District of Columbia, held a field hockey game the very next day. St. Stephen's-St. Agnes traveled past the ruins of the Pentagon up to Baltimore that weekend to honor its committment to play in the Sally Nyborg Memorial tournament.
The U.S. women's national team was stuck in Virginia Beach, unable to travel to France for the last-chance qualifying tournament for the 2002 World Cup. That was only the start of a long journey that took the national team to three continents, and eventually, the last 35 minutes of a last-chance qualification game against India that was destined to define the team's character.
Like the interstate bridges and many cars, field hockey teams started wearing flags on their uniforms. A team in New Jersey painted an American flag on an embankment overlooking its field. Another took the four-mile trip to the Pentagon and made its own memorial. A goalie, unable to participate in her team's "team psych" involving strips tied around their shinguards, painted her foam pads so that they looked like the American flag.
Some teams rallied around the tragedies. The team with the goalkeeper with the American flag pads won a Maryland state championship. A New York team about 23 miles from Ground Zero got to their state final.
The memorials continued for the next year; the two field hockey teams closest to the Pentagon (Arlington Washington-Lee and Arlington Yorktown) played Sept. 9, 2002 -- two days before the first anniverary. The two teams closest to the World Trade Center (New York Chapin and New York Brearley) played the next day. The healing, it appears, has begun.
What follows are the voices of the American field hockey community, a supernal chorus that expresses spirit, pride, and passion that is reflected every autumn as the teams take the field for their ancient rituals.
* A game played two days before the first anniversary of the attacks shows how far the youth of America has come;
* A team in the shadows of the Twin Towers focuses on what is important;
* Stanford was in Muncie, Indiana on Sept. 11. They might as well have played;
* Terrorism as a way of life in Israel;
* A team shows its pride by painting an American flag on its field;
* A goalkeeper shows her American spirit in a special way;
* The peripatetic U.S. Women's National Team's chase across three continents for a World Cup berth;
* An appreciation: Holly Charette, Cranston (R.I.) East