MINNEAPOLIS -- When 9/11 erupted, Royals pitcher Bruce Chen was with the New York Mets for a series in Pittsburgh. The World Trade Center's Twin Towers collapsed, the United States reacted, baseball stopped.
The Mets were moved out of their hotel because it was near a federal building and the country was on alert. Planes were grounded, so the next day the Mets took an eight-hour bus ride back to New York City. Up to then, the images were all on TV. Now they were back where it all happened. Chen had been with the Mets just over a month and he could see the smoke rising from his hotel room.
"Everyone was in a down mood -- everything on the news was how they found bodies, how people jumped out of the buildings," Chen said. "Everything for a week or 10 days -- it was bad news, bad news. I can't find my husband, I can't find my friend. ... All the bad news."
Major League baseball resumed five days later -- the Mets went back to Pittsburgh -- and 10 days after the tragedy, they brought baseball back to New York with a game against Atlanta. Royals manager Ned Yost, then a Braves coach, remembered visiting Ground Zero with other team members.
"It was still smoldering, they were still looking for survivors. It was the last day they were looking for survivors. They were going to switch to recovery the next day. It was mind-boggling -- it was just (twisted) steel and the cement had vaporized. There were rescue workers in amongst the steel beams with 5-gallon buckets, just digging out. Trying to find people, trying to find anything," Yost recalled.
"You'll never forget it. You could still smell the jet fuel, you could still see the holes in the building across from the Trade Center where a jet engine flew through."
On the night of Sept. 21, more than 40,000 people went to Shea Stadium as the game returned to New York. Chen was the starting pitcher for the Mets and went seven innings. The score was 1-1.
"People were cheering for us when we got a base hit, and people were laughing and clapping," Chen said. "That was the first time since Sept. 11 that I saw a bunch of people from New York laughing and having a good time. Cheering for something and having their minds distracted from what happened. That's what the President [George W. Bush] said -- that the best thing we could do was get back to our normal lives. And that's one of the things that I think helped."
The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning, but the Mets snapped back in their half on Mike Piazza's two-run homer.
"When Mike Piazza hit that home run, it was as if people could see a light at the end of the tunnel. You know what -- things are not good and everything but if this team can come back and win the game, things are going to be OK," Chen said. "When he hit that home run, people were like, 'This can be done. We can get over this, we can move on with our lives and things are going to be OK.'"