Martinez on 9/11: 'No one will ever forget'

September 11th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- Twenty years later, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, still replay vividly in manager Dave Martinez’s mind.

“It was a day no one will ever forget, obviously,” Martinez said on Saturday.

Martinez was a member of the Braves, at the time, spending an off-day in Atlanta. After dropping his children off at school, he headed to the airport to meet the team for a road trip. En route, news broke on the radio that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Martinez, a New York native, first thought that perhaps it was a small plane accident. But when he learned it was a jet plane and heard talks that airports were being shut down, he turned around and went back home.

“As I turned the TV on, that moment, the second plane hit the second tower,” Martinez said. “That’s when I realized, something really bad’s going on.”

Ten days later, Martinez was on the field facing the Mets at Shea Stadium for the first Major League game held in New York after the attacks. A tone of unity took the place of competition between the National League East opponents. Players shook hands with each other and also met with firefighters and police officers.

Martinez was playing first base when Mike Piazza slugged the go-ahead home run to lift the Mets to a memorable 3-2 victory. What resonated with Martinez the most was, “Everybody was pulling for everybody.”

“For me, it wasn’t about winning or losing the game,” he said. “When he hit the ball, I could honestly tell you, inside I was saying, ‘Go! Go! Go!’ You wanted to see the ball go out of the stadium. On one hand, I don’t like losing games, but that’s one game where it didn’t really matter.”

That message of togetherness rang true again on Saturday, when Nationals and Pirates players stood on the field at PNC Park as part of a moving pregame tribute. Each team walked the basepaths to meet 170 family members of those aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was diverted by a group of passengers and went down in Shanksville, Pa.

“Twenty years later, here we are and I’m watching all this stuff on TV today -- and it’s still sad,” Martinez said. “What I think about is all the family members that are still with us. I want to say, my deepest sympathies to all family members who lost lives. They’ve got to continue to stay strong and stay in the fight. I think that’s the one thing that I’ve learned about that with those people is, they don’t want us to give up.”