KIPS BAY, Manhattan (PIX11) – A sport can provide healing. For Mets fans in New York City, it came in the form of a home run by Mike Piazza at Shea Stadium on Sept. 21, 2001 – 10 days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
“It just uplifted everyone,” said former Mets pitcher John Franco. “You saw people laughing, crying, hugging each other.”
That healing continues 22 years later as he and fellow former Met Todd Zeile carry on the tradition of their visits to FDNY firehouses ahead of Sept. 11.
“We’re not heroes man, we’re just baseball players that try to do what we could do,” Franco added. “The heroes are the guys, the men and women every day, the police and firemen who put their lives on the line. Those are the heroes.”
Franco and Zeile initially visited ground zero and the first responders there following the attacks.
“We were angry about what had happened and at the same time empathetic,” Zeile said. “I met fathers that lost two sons. I met kids that lost their father.”
During their visit on Friday to Engine Co. 16 / Ladder Co. 7 in Kips Bay, firefighters had to leave a few times to head out to runs.
Inside the firehouse is a memorial with the original riding list of who worked on that fateful day. A face piece and lifesaving rope are some of the tools also on display that belonged to them and were found at ground zero.
Jay Horowitz, the vice president of alumni relations for the Mets, said they plan to continue the tradition for as long as possible.
“We went to the firehouse right by ground zero,” Horowitz said. “It was totally destroyed and ever since then, we made it a pledge: If any of the guys were in the area, we’d always go to a firehouse and pay our respects.”
On Monday, there will be a commemoration ceremony at Citi Field when the Mets take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Former Mets players will be catching the first pitches.