Caroline Wozniacki remembers walking into her brother’s bedroom as an 11-year-old after practice and asking him what movie he was watching on television.
But he told her it wasn’t a movie. It was on every channel. The devastation and destruction on television was real.
It was September 11, 2001 and terrorists had hijacked and driven two planes into the World Trade Center, with smoke, debris and chaos filling Lower Manhattan, and shortly thereafter, the towers collapsed. Another plane hit the Pentagon and another crashed into a field in Shanksville, Penn., diverted by some brave passengers from its original target.
Everyone old enough to remember the day will never forget where they were or what they were doing when they first heard the news, just as the more than 3,000 people who died that day will never be forgotten.
The US Open women’s singles final and women’s doubles final will both be played on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year, with the men’s singles final originally scheduled for the day, but postponed to Monday because of inclement weather earlier in the week.
The side of the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium has been painted with 9/11/01 for the anniversary, Cyndi Lauper performed the National Anthem prior to the Serena Williams-Wozniacki semifinal match Saturday night and Queen Latifah will preside over a tribute prior to the women’s final.
Just a few players will be competing on the anniversary, but when asked, they all remembered where they were and what they were doing ten years ago. And in fact, sports were one area that helped many people feel better shortly after the attacks.
Wozniacki, the world No. 1, remembers not believing her older brother, Patrik, at first, and admonishing him for joking about something like that, and like many people, the family started calling friends in New York to find out if they were all right.
“Me and my dad were like, ‘No, come on. Stop joking. It's not funny,’” she said of her reaction to her brother. “We were like changing the channels and it was just on every channel it pretty much showed the same thing. We were pretty much shocked what was going on.
“We have quite a few friends here (in New York), so we called them and asked if everyone was okay,” she added. “And the people I knew here, they were all safe. But still, so many people died. 9/11 is coming up Sunday, so, yeah, I mean, 10 years. It's gone past very fast.”
Roger Federer was working out in the gym at the National Tennis Center in Biel, Switzerland when he heard the news. He had lost in the fourth round of the 2001 US Open as a 20-year-old and had already returned home from New York by 9/11.
“It's hard to understand and grasp it, really. I mean, I couldn't believe what was happening,” Federer said. “I guess I didn't quite understand it almost until I came back to America the next time, or when I came to New York the next time, that this was such a shock. Yeah, it was almost surreal that something like this was possible that someone would want to do that. So that was very heavy.”
Airplane security tightened after that day and made some people fearful of flying. However, tennis players are constantly traveling around the world, and have to fly. Federer said all they could do was try to live as safely as they can within the means they can control.
“I guess what you try to do in life is try to be as safe as you can be without living in a golden cage, either,” he said. “So then you have unfortunately things like this that don't help the cause of getting more frightened and scared of going out and maybe travel and all those things.
“For us, it left a big impact, because as tennis players we don't really have the choice not to travel, right?” he added. “We are a part of the traveling circus with planes and so forth. We didn't really like to see it, I think all of us. You guys need to travel too to come see us. It was tough.”
Rafael Nadal was a 15-year-old playing on the ITF Circuit in Spain on Sept, 11, 2001 and had just been on a family vacation to New York a few months prior, during which he climbed to the top of the Twin Towers. All of a sudden, they were gone as well as many lives, and losing his match that day no longer mattered.
“I remember exactly what I did that day,” Nadal said in Cincinnati a few weeks prior to the US Open. “I was playing a match to win my first point ATP, and I lost that match with 13 match points. So that's the true. Just after that match I saw the tragedy at TV.
“I was really sad about my match, because the first point ATP always is really important,” he added. “But when I came back to the locker room and I saw that on TV, I really forget the match in one second. I was there in the twin towers few months before, in the top. On the TV, that's probably one of the views that had bigger impact on myself.”
Sam Stosur was also a teenager playing an ITF Circuit match on 9/11. She was 17 and at a tournament in Japan. When she heard what happened, she wondered what was going to happen to the rest of the world, and like Nadal, her match became completely unimportant. Now ten years later, she is happy to see how New York and the rest of the world have recovered.
“There were four or five of us traveling around in a group together and had no idea what was going to happen. We all thought planes aren't going fly ever again and didn't know,” she said. “Obviously watching those images, going out to play your matches at a $10,000 event all of a sudden became pretty irrelevant. And obviously watching the TV recently you see all the shows and documentaries about it again, it certainly brings it back.
“It's great to see how people have moved on,” she added. “Obviously it was a really sad time, but obviously everyone's getting through it.”
Serena Williams was in Washington, D.C. and saw lots of Army trucks responding to the Pentagon crash and felt shocked, scared, you name it.
“I mean, I think everyone was pretty much alarmed and shocked and, all of the above,” she said. “I think fear is a good word to describe how I felt. I was really scared. I think it's changed everyone's perspective. I mean, everyone' security is really a little bit more right now and the people that we lost on September 11th will never be forgotten.”
As horrific a day as September 11 was the courage, hope and unity showed across the country and the many heroes that emerged from the day, was a true strength of the American spirit to people, including Andy Roddick.
“The one thing I said a couple weeks ago is I was probably never prouder to be an American than in the aftermath of 9/11, just people's spirit and the way people came together and the way people helped each other,” Roddick said, “Even though it was in the midst of devastation, there was still some great memories from it as far as human spirit is concerned.”