CHICAGO -- Royals manager Ned Yost will never forget the smell.
Yost was a coach with the Braves in 2001, and within a week of the 9/11 tragedies 18 years ago, he and the Braves were scheduled to restart the Major League Baseball season against the Mets in New York.
But before that game, Yost and players Brian Jordan and Javier Lopez decided to make their way down to Ground Zero. Out of patriotism. Out of curiosity.
“It was so emotional,” Yost said. “To this day, I will never forget the smell of jet fuel. It was still burning through the rubble.
“But we wanted to go there to show our support for the local police, for the Port Authority police.”
What Yost found upon arriving at Ground Zero simply shocked him.
“It was still smoking, still burning,” Yost said. “They were still searching for bodies. They looked at stairwells and they were still thinking there were [survivors] in there.
“It was all powder. They were digging tunnels with five-gallon buckets to search for bodies. Everything else just vaporized. All the buildings around it were gone. It was incredible to see the destruction.”
Besides the smell, Yost has certain images that won’t leave his memory, either.
“We were looking at a building nearby,” Yost said, “and we saw where a plane engine had gone through the Trade Center and then through another building. You could see the image of that engine through this other building.”
Yost also remembers seeing a chalkboard set up near Ground Zero with 43 names written on it. Two of the names had stars next to them.
“The names were Port Authority policemen that were still missing,” Yost said. “They had two stars on the names, the ones they had recovered.”
Every year on the 9/11 anniversary, Yost still looks through the pictures he took of the devastation.
“We took pictures, but no one else besides the press were allowed to take pictures,” Yost said. “The police told us we could take pictures, but don’t show them for a while.
“Mostly, we just stood there, still in shock on how a 100-story building comes down to just rubble like that. That, and the smell. I’ll never get over that. It’s important to never forget. You heal through time, but you never forget.”