Monday, September 15, 2014

The Captain and the Captain's Daughter

After I spent most of Saturday morning at the office and returned from a six-plus mile run through town in what was actually a very relaxing and cooling drizzle, I spent a bit of my afternoon watching "Nine Innings from Ground Zero", the simply extraordinary documentary that HBO first aired in 2004.  I have seen it too many times to count.  Every time I watch it, it makes me cry.  And not just when Mariano Rivera throws the ball over Derek Jeter's head and into center field, turning a certain double play into something altogether different and setting the stage for Luis Gonzalez's Series-winning heroics. 

The film not only tracks the exciting, back-and-forth World Series that the Yankees ultimately lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in seven games but, in considerable detail, the way in which baseball played a role in trying to help the people of New York City reacquaint themselves with anything bearing even a passing resemblance to normalcy in the weeks following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  Among the persons to whom the viewer was introduced was a thirteen-year-old girl, Brielle Saracini.  

Brielle Saracini had a very direct connection to the World Trade Center attacks.  Her dad, Victor Saracini, was a Captain for United Airlines.  On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 Captain Saracini's United #175, a 767, took off from Logan Airport in Boston on its way cross-country to Los Angeles.  It never made it to California of course.  Instead, it terminated at 9:03 am when it flew into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  All of the passengers and the crew died including, of course, Captain Saracini.  

As documented in"Nine Innings from Ground Zero", shortly after her father was murdered Brielle Saracini wrote to Derek Jeter.  In very plain, poignant terms she told Jeter who she was, who her father was, just how badly she, her sister and her mom were hurting and just how much she would appreciate - as a big Jeter fan - getting to meet him.  It is an extraordinary story and well-worth the investment of slightly less than the five and one half minutes needed to view it.  

If the story of Brielle Saracini and Derek Jeter began and ended thirteen years ago, then it would still make for a better-than-average tale.  It did not.  A relationship that began with her letter to him thirteen Septembers ago remains very much alive and vibrant today.  And as is the case with true friends, they have been there for one another in both the best of times and the worst of times. Presently, Brielle Saracini is enduring the latter.

She is only twenty-three years old.  And right now she is battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, which Jeter's sister also endured and defeated, for a second time.  Her treatment course is so intense that she was not able to attend Derek Jeter Day at the Stadium a little more than a week ago.  To date, she has undergone twelve rounds of chemotherapy.  Through it all, Jeter has been there for her, imploring her to stay positive.  To a lesser person, his pep talk might seem ring hollow.  Not to Brielle Saracini.  

As of right now, her itinerary includes a trip to Boston the final weekend of September.  It is in Boston that barring a miracle Jeter's storied career shall come to a close.  His career shall end.  

Their friendship shall not.  

-AK 


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