Sharks’ NYC visits stir emotional 9/11 experiences

NEW YORK — Seventeen years later, it still hits hard whenever the Sharks come to New York City.

Jamie Baker lost two of his college teammates here on Sept. 11, 2001. Dan Rusanowsky, the Sharks radio voice, lost a childhood friend and a college classmate. Kevin Labanc lost a next-door neighbor. Joakim Ryan lost a close family friend.

“It’s impossible to not think about 9-11 when you’re in New York City,” Rusanowsky said Tuesday. “It’s something I’ll never forget, a sober reminder that makes you recognize your mortality, your humanity. You realize you can’t take your freedom or your life for granted.”

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Ryan, the 25-year-old Sharks defenseman, was a third grader at Rumson Country Day School in Rumson, N.J. He remembers the day “like it was yesterday.”

Sharks defenseman Joakim Ryan was a third-grader in New Jersey on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Shortly after the second tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m., parents started coming into classrooms, pulling their kids out of school and taking them home. When Ryan got into his Mom’s car, his friend, Mike Robertson, was in the backseat. That was odd. Neither kid knew what was going on.

“When I got home I asked my parents what was happening,” Ryan said. “They said, just hang out with Mike for the day. Something bad happened.”

Mike’s father, Don Robertson, a close family friend who coached the boys’ hockey team along with Ryan’s dad, had been in the North Tower.

“It’s one of the only days from my childhood that I can remember that viviidly,” Ryan said.

Labanc, 22, was a five-year-old at Public School 41 on Staten Island. He couldn’t comprehend the chaos swirling around him after news reached the school that the Twin Towers had collapsed in Manhattan.

“I didn’t know what was going on. I just remember that kids were leaving class,” Labanc said. “And the teachers, you saw the panic in their eyes. As a kid, you’re not used to seeing that — adults don’t panic. When you see that, you think, wow, is everything all right?”

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Labanc’s mother picked him up and took him home. In the backyard of his Staten Island home, he could see smoke rising into the void in the Manhattan skyline.

Several weeks later it occurred to the 5-year-old that he hadn’t seen the neighbor lady in quite some time.

Deanna Galante had been on the 106th floor of 1 World Trade Center. She was seven months pregnant with her first child.

“We were really good friends with her husband Anthony,” Labanc said, his voice shaky with emotion.

Almost 3,000 people died that day. Both Ryan and Labanc had several classmates who lost family members.

“Everyone knows someone who was in the towers that day,” Labanc said.

“Where I lived, tons of people commuted into the city for work every day,” said Ryan. “There were a lot of kids who lost their moms and dads that day.”

Kevin Labanc was a five-year-old boy on Sept. 11, 2001. 

Baker, like so many people glued to their TVs that morning, was in tears when he learned that the Twin Towers had collapsed. Baker’s college roommate at St. Laurence, Rich Stewart, and their teammate, Mike Pelletier, both worked at the World Trade Center.

Both had made phone calls from the towers before they collapsed. They were stuck.

“Rich called home and talked to his dad. He basically said he knew he was trapped,” Baker said. “He said, ‘I’m going to try to get out. Everything will be okay. I love you.’”

Rusanowsky knew both of Baker’s teammates from his work broadcasting St. Laurence games. He said Pelletier spoke to his wife from the North Tower before it came down. It was their young daughter’s first day of preschool.

He told her, “I don’t think I’m going to make it out.”

Ten days later, Baker traveled to New York for the funerals. He went to Ground Zero.

“That was the most surreal part,” Baker said. “I spent a couple hours there. The slowest tear came down my face. It felt like this one tear drop took 45 minutes to fall down my cheek.

“You could smell everything. There was blocks and blocks of destruction. You’re looking at a graveyard for 3,000 people. It was the most empty feeling.”

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Memories of 9-11 always rush through Baker’s mind the day before the anniversary. September 10, 2001 was the last day of Stewart and Pelletier’s lives.

“I always think of September 10th as the anniversary because that was their last day on earth,” Baker said. “I always wonder what they did on their last day. They didn’t know it was their last day. That’s the lasting effect for me — we don’t control when we’re going to die.

“It was one of those moments that changes your outlook on life forever.”

Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Sharks’ NYC visits stir emotional 9/11 experiences