For 16 years now, September 11th has been a day of mourning. However, if you can allow yourself to find it and see it, it is also a day to celebrate the human spirit and remind yourself to live every day like it’s your last.
Every September 11th, for all affected by the tragic events 16 years ago, it is impossible not relive their steps that day and how the terror and tragedy all unraveled. We mark the times each plane hit the World Trade Center Twin Towers and The Pentagon – as well as when a brave group of passengers on United 93 prevented that plane from hitting the Capital – and when the towers collapsed. But for so many like myself, there’s always the rest of the day and how that went down and when the victims’ names began to be released.
Another thing that stands out was the weather and what a beautiful sunny September day it was but how there was absolutely nothing beautiful about that second September Tuesday in 2001. As I sit here on my apartment terrace writing this and listening online to my good friend Mitch Melnick host his show ‘Melnick In The Afternoon’ on TSN 690 play tracks from Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The Rising’ album as he comes back for each segment, it’s an almost identical day weather wise here in the Greater Boston area as it was 16 years ago today. I’ve been in a fog all day and having been really sick for the last week, was struggling how to put my feelings into words. Thanks to Mitch & the Boss though, I’m going to give it a shot. Hope I can convey them to you.
An ironic side note to that day is that it was my first day ever on the Boston Bruins Beat, as a reporter, at that time for the Boston Metro. I chronicled that in a column I wrote here for NESN.com in 2009.
I knew seven people who perished on September 11, 2001 but the one who always seems to stand out first in my memories of them was Boston Bruins great Garnet ‘Ace’ Bailey who was on United Flight 175 the second plane to hit the Twin Towers. I first met ‘Ace’ when I was a post-grad media relations intern with the New Islanders two years before he died. The reason this man – who was beloved by so many in the hockey world – stands out to me, is for the reasons so many adored him. ‘Ace’ lived his life to the fullest. He made it his mission to make everyone smile and feel loved, especially children and as Hockey Hall Of Fame hockey scribe Russ Conway pointed out to me here in this recent interview I did for the Bruins Beat Podcast on CLNS Media, he was quite the teammate and character!
“What a wonderful person,” Conway – a longtime friend of Bailey said. “He was the type of player of player that every team wants. What I mean by that is, he wasn’t the most talented guy, but he kept the room loose and he always had great timing for a practical joke or telling a joke. He had a wonderful personality, always smiling and both with his teammates and the media. He was a good guy and I miss him. Every team wishes they had an ‘Ace’ Bailey.”
The Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings would agree, as would ‘The Great One’ Wayne Gretzky (pictured below with Ace) who discussed his former teammate and good friend with me early in my writing career.
“Ace brought a smile to everyone, every time he entered the room,” Wayne Gretzky, who roomed with Ace as a rookie with the Oilers, told me a few years back. “Ace was just one of those guys who had the ability to make you smile no matter how you felt. He was a great person, and he is sorely missed.”
Conway went on to tell the pivotal role Bailey played in the Bruins’ 1972 Stanley Cup Championship but it was the tales of Ace’s many golf adventures with Russ and teammates and his media cafeteria tours – during his time scouting for the Kings – to make sure he got the best free mail available to the media and scouts every weekend in AHL arenas. If you bumped into Ace, you were going to leave laughing and feel better about your day. I know I did every game I gave him his credential at The Nassau Coliseum and during our post-game libations at the nearby Champions Bar in the Marriott.
So on this day of reflection, I always think of those experiences and all the ‘Ace’ stories I’ve been told over the years. Not only does it get me through the every September 11 but it reminds me to never lose perspective, always find a way to laugh and most importantly help others do that as well!
Like Mitch, I too am a huge music fan and it plays a huge role in my life and work. On a day like this, ‘The Rising’ and and the Boss’ voice truly hits home so I will leave you with that and also, with Tuesday marking 14 years since ‘The Man In Black’ Johnny Cash passed away, I’ll leave you with a song for Ace and all those we lost that fateful day and throughout our lives.