10 Years After: Remembering 9-11
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up to beautiful late summer/early fall conditions. Warm temperatures and a good-looking day.
After my morning run and breakfast, I headed to the office to pick up a few things before leaving for Albany International Airport. I was on my way to Baltimore to see Cal Ripken, who was planning to retire at season’s end.
The purpose of the meeting was to determine what artifacts Cal would consider sending to the Hall of Fame, once the season ended, as well as how they would be presented to us. Would it be at the ballpark? Quietly, or in a ceremony? The day of the final game or some other time?
Cal had a long history of presenting historic artifacts to the Museum, so we knew he understood the enormity of his career concluding, and how we would recognize this sure-fire, first-ballot future Hall of Famer in Cooperstown.
I left the Hall of Fame at 8:30 am for an 11 a.m. flight on Southwest Airlines. From there, I planned to make my way to Cal’s hometown, Aberdeen, Md., for a lunch-time meeting with Cal and Orioles PR chief John Maroon. We had arranged the meeting a few weeks prior, and picked September 11 because it was an off-day for the Orioles, who returned home on a redeye from Seattle after playing on the 10th.
As I left Cooperstown that morning, I tuned the radio dial to the 50,000-watt news station out of Albany, WGY Radio. I was about 40 miles north and west of Cooperstown when I heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center and then the Pentagon. Without the benefit of owning a cell phone at the time and without access to a television, I listened in amazement, not realizing the enormity of what was happening.
Then the report came that all airports were closed. I was already really nervous and frightened hearing about the plane crashes and when it was reported that all airports were closed, I was more than happy to turn around, which I had been contemplating anyhow. When I returned to the Hall of Fame and put on the television, I realized the severity of what had happened.
We ended up having the meeting by telephone a few weeks later. I went to Baltimore for Cal’s final game. Afterward at the press conference, he took off his jersey and handed it to me along with his glove, with his kids by his side. I flew home to Cooperstown with the artifacts the next morning, where they were put on exhibit as a remembrance of Cal’s indelible career, and – to me – as a reminder of a tragic day in American history.
Jeff Idelson is the President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.