Friday, September 21, 2001

KFWB radio reporting for Friday, September 21st, 2001

The Seismologist

How does this city, how does this nation, balance the need for vigilance with the need for freedom?

Very, very carefully.

A friend of mine here got a call from a college classmate, who had been brought in from California for his seismological expertise. That's how bad things are at the World Trade Center site: there are earthquake structural experts here.

They hadn't seen each other for awhile, and so they visited at my friend's home.

The next day, my friend told me last night, there was a knock at the door. Two FBI agents were standing there. They told my friend that they knew this person was in New York, and that he had been at that address the previous day. Could my friend, they asked, shed any light on who he was and what he was doing here.

The seismologist was an Arab-American.

Had he been profiled because of that? Was there something about his flight data that rang bells? When my friend told the story, the agents said 'thank you,' they apologized for the inconvenience, they apologized by proxy to the seismologist, and said if that story checked out, they'd apologize to him directly.

This is a narrow and terrible tightrope being walked. If it can be successfully negotiated, it can contribute to the prevention of terrorism the President spoke of last night. But even if it can't, it is already being walked, in the shadow of the smoke from The Trade Center.

The Real Tribute 1:32 PDT

Diana Ross will sing God Bless America, Marc Anthony the national anthem, Liza Minnelli "New York, New York" - and a photo of an American flag overwhelms the giant scoreboard in right field.

But it is a tiny protrusion atop that scoreboard that is perhaps the most poignant part of what is really New York's first public outdoor gathering since The Trade Center attack.

The city's skyline has been part of the Mets' logo since the franchise was founded forty years ago. Its silhouette rims the scoreboard, and its representation of The Trade Center is in black, covered with the emblem of remembrance here - the red, white, and blue ribbon. Mets' players will donate this day's salaries, nearly half a million dollars in total, to the widows of firemen and policemen.

Back, But With Conditions 2:32 PDT

This is more than just "the first game" - it will be the first major outdoor gathering in this city. Fans will not be allowed to meander among the seats closest to the field while the players take batting practice. Planes headed to LaGuardia Airport down the street will not be able to fly directly over the ballpark - and at Shea Stadium, part of the flight-path for 37 years, that silence may be deafening.

But big-time sports is back in New York eleven days after the Trade Center attack, as the Mets host the Atlanta Braves.

Reminders of the last two weeks will be everywhere. The Mets players will not merely repeat their gesture of wearing not their own caps but those of the New York Police, Fire, and EMS Departments - they will now add in the caps of the New York Port Authority Police, and the city's court reporters. And tonight's pitcher for the visiting team, the Braves, Jason Marquis, is from Staten Island, and he is wearing the cap of the New York Police Canine Unit.

As if reminders were needed.

Rusty 3:32 PDT

As fans file slowly, and patiently, past increased security, the location of early arrivals suggests more than 35,000 may be here tonight, and foremost among them, perhaps: Daniel Joseph "Rusty" Staub, who could never have imagined that his idea would be so desperately needed.

In 1985, while still an active player for the New York Mets, he founded the New York Policemen and Firefighters Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. It would try to help the families of the five to twenty men lost in the service of this city, annually. Today, 35 New York firefighters are dead, 311 more missing. Twenty-three New York police are missing. Thirty-seven New York port authority police are missing - two known dead.

But as his old team hosts New York's first major league sporting event since the Trade Center disaster, this heartening news: the Mets players, coaches, and manager, will donate their salaries today - about $450,000 - to Staub's fund.

Let's Go Mets 5pm PDT

Imagine if the Trade Center attacks had happened in L.A., and if Dodger Stadium was literally across the street from the UCLA Tennis Center, and if down the street from both of them... was LAX.

That is the backdrop against which professional sports has returned to New York. In the first regular season game since the 10th, the Mets are hosting the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium, a location traditionally so much a part of LaGuardia airport's flight-path that on a long Sunday afternoon a hundred planes might fly directly overhead.

On a good day, many fans, many players, were apprehensive. There have been no good days lately, so the FAA agreed to keep aircraft away from Shea during the games. Security is tighter, the mood more somber, on the other hand in a gesture not seen in baseball since the second world war, the entire Mets team will donate its collective salary - about $450,000- to the fund for the widows of children of New York policemen and firemen.

Most poignant of all: for forty seasons the New York skyline has been part of the Mets' logo. Tonight, its silhouette still stands atop the scoreboard looming behind right field. And on its miniature of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, has been placed the red, white and blue memorial ribbon.

Huge Crowd Attends 6:02 PM PDT

There is no official attendance figure yet, but perhaps 40,000 fans, some waiting half an hour or more, silently and patiently, to pass through new and heightened security, have gathered for this city's first mass outdoor event since The World Trade Center attack. Patriotism in capital letters - including fans singing along with the National Anthem for the first time since the '70s - did not obscure the symbolism of a five-foot tall object 400 feet or more away from the center of the action at home plate.

In the silhouette of the city skyline atop the stadium scoreboard, the miniature Trade Center towers have been painted black, and covered with the new symbol of remembrance - the red, white, and blue ribbon.

Timing 7:02 PM PDT

Was it too early to play baseball here? To play baseball now? Perhaps 40,000 fans here voted "no" with their attendance, and their patience. They suffered bag inspections and movement restrictions with good humor.

And history also voted so. New Yorkers went to professional baseball games in July, 1863, while the Civil war, and anti-draft riots, paralyzed the city for a week. They went early during the First World War to watch pre-game military drills with New York players using bats instead of rifles.

And they went tonight - even as shifting winds brought to this place the faintest whiff of the smoke still rising from The World Trade Center fire.

Bomb Dog Scare 8:02 PM PDT

If 40,000 could come here to be diverted, to pretend this is not a different city - then a few of them could begin to laugh, even in these most dire of circumstances ever faced by the New Yorkers of any generation. Three hours before game-time, her handler brought the bomb-sniffing dog into the Mets' dugout, and half a dozen television cameras swung wildly to capture the symbolism.

Suddenly, her back to those cameras, the dog stopped. Had she smelled something? Was there a new danger? She had stopped.

Of course she had. There was a puddle on the floor of the Mets' dugout, and she had stopped for a quick drink - a brief break amid all this, and an apt metaphor for what all of us were doing here at a baseball game.