Originally published in The Times Herald-Record on Sunday, November 11, 2001

  Have you ever heard as many as 58,000 people sing "God Bless America" at one time? All you needed to do was tune in to the seventh inning of any professional baseball game after the Sept. 11 tragedies. That anthem replaced the light-hearted "Take Me Out To The Ball Game," sung by crowds for decades.
   Yet the impact was felt no less at Newburgh Free Academy last month, when nearly 1,000 people sang during halftime of a football game. Or at any other high school sporting event throughout the mid-Hudson.
 The moments of silence meant the same at Giants Stadium as they did at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
   The American flag stitched on the back of professional uniforms brought out the same national pride as the American flag painted on the face of a Warwick teenager.
   High school, college and professional playing fields were empty for up to a week following the attacks. Much of the innocence was gone, though, when play resumed.
   We used to arrive early at professional football games so we could grab a program and buy a couple of hot dogs before settling into our seats.
   We now arrive early at professional football games so our bags can be prodded by bomb-sniffing dogs, our radios checked for security before settling into our seats.
   Trying to get a car into West Point, where America's future military leaders are trained, is like going through an Indianapolis 500 pit stop.
   The playing field is the same since Sept. 11. But those of us gathered around it may never be the same again.

   Kevin Witt

© 2001 Orange County Publications, a division of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., all rights reserved.