Plenty of memories for 2001 Mets

Mike Piazza delivered a memorable home run in

Mike Piazza delivered a memorable home run in the first baseball game in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Sept. 21, 2001) (Credit: AP)

A decade ago, in what now seems a different lifetime, Robin Ventura was the Mets' third baseman when Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks that forever changed the world.

But on Sunday, Ventura was just another fan at Stagecoach, a country music festival in Indio, Calif. Unlike Citizens Bank Park, however, the concert venue momentarily stopped to announce that bin Laden had been killed.

"You're sitting there watching the concert, and the next thing you know, it's like, whoa," Ventura said Monday. "It was shocking. You hear that news, and all of a sudden, you're thinking geez, it's been 10 years. And you're shocked that they actually pulled it off."

Instantly, Ventura was transported back to the 10 days that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers, leading up to the Sept. 21 game at Shea Stadium. Mike Piazza provided that night's exhilarating moment by launching the eighth-inning home run that beat the Braves -- and helped breathe some life back into a battered city. But there are so many other sights and sounds from that evening that have left an indelible mark.

"Any time I hear bagpipes," Ventura said, "that's where I immediately flash back to."

The memories of that Shea night flooded back for Todd Zeile, too. He was on a flight to Alabama on Sunday night and didn't get word of President Obama's announcement until his "phone blew up" once he landed. Zeile called Piazza's home run the "top of the charts" as far as highlights from that evening, but there were so many other moments to recall.

"I remember the firefighters, the police officers and rescue workers on the field," Zeile said.

The Mets made numerous trips to Ground Zero, along with helping countless families at Shea, and that created many personal bonds with the victims and their loved ones.

"It does take me back," Zeile said. "I think everybody that was a New Yorker at the time owns that moment in their own way.''

As for John Franco, he never left. The Brooklyn native and former St. John's and Mets pitcher lives in a TriBeCa apartment only five blocks from Ground Zero, so the images and memories are always fresh in his mind. Remembering the friends and families affected by the 9/11 attacks is part of his daily life. Closure probably is not realistic, even with the killing of bin Laden, but Franco allowed himself to take part in the nation's big moment.

"Today I'm proud to be an American," Franco said Monday. "I'm very proud of our soldiers and very proud of the president. It's a great day to be an American."

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