NEW YORK -- In the 10 years that have passed since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans, even New Yorkers, have begun to move on. As the days have turned into weeks, months and years, the flood of visitors that came to Maspeth's Squad 288, Haz Mat 1 unit in the wake of 9/11 has tailed off considerably. But while others might have forgotten the sacrifices made by the firehouse that lost more men -- 19 -- than any other, the New York Mets have not.
On Friday, former Mets John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Robin Ventura, Steve Trachsel and Matt Franco visited the Queens firehouse, along with current Mets relievers Bobby Parnell and Tim Byrdak, in order to show their support to those who continue to risk their lives for the safety of others. It was part of multiple visits the Mets made to firehouses in the city.
"People come less and less, and fewer people come out, but as far as the New York Mets are concerned, they've come every year," firefighter and Mets fan Kevin Kubler said. "It's good to know that there are some guys who haven't forgotten what we do every day. It's not just 9/11. Every day, these guys, when they put on their coat and they go to work, they face the same dangers.
The visiting players chatted up firefighters and their families, toured fire trucks and the station, and helped lay flowers on a memorial around the corner. For Parnell, the son of a firefighter who grew up hanging out at the firehouse in Salisbury, N.C., the experience was especially poignant.
"Being able to hang out with the guys that experienced [9/11], to know what they went through as a tight-knit community in the fire department, it's very dear to my heart," Parnell said. "Any time I get a chance to come out here and hang out with the guys, I really enjoy doing it."
The event was also a reunion of sorts for Trachsel, Alfonzo and Ventura, who played together on the 2001 team, as well as Olerud and Franco. Olerud played for the Mets from 1997-1999 before signing with the Seattle Mariners, while Franco was a Met from 1996-2000 before being demoted to Triple-A Norfolk for the 2001 season.
After 9/11, the Mets' former home, Shea Stadium, was used as a staging area for rescuers. There, members of the team helped pack supply boxes with food, water and medical supplies while also greeting relief workers who were sleeping in shelters set up in the parking lot.
For Ventura, the experience was one he will always remember, and one that binds him to his former teammates.
"Before games, it was hard. You're talking to people that had lost a loved one, and to be able to go from that to trying to go play a game, it was hard," Ventura said. "I think you're bonded in a way, because there was so much going on as far as community service stuff that guys were going all the time, either [going] to a firehouse or people were coming to the stadium. Guys bonded in a way that you normally wouldn't with a regular season."
Aaron Taube is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.