Nine years ago today, Jason Marquis was scheduled to take the mound in Atlanta against the Phillies. Up early to do some work on his fantasy football team, Marquis watched the first plane fly into the World Trade Center on television. Like many Americans, when the second plane hit the Twin Towers, he frantically began checking with loved ones in the city -- including his sister who was working at the New York Stock Exchange.
"You feel helpless," Marquis recalled. "All you can do is hope and pray and try to be positive."
Marquis, who started on Saturday at Nationals Park, grew up in Staten Island. A true New Yorker, complete with his thick hometown accent, Marquis was also on the mound when baseball first returned to New York after the 9/11 attacks.
On September 21, 2001, he pitched at Shea Stadium during an emotional game that brought baseball back into a heartbroken, devastated city. He pitched six innings that day, surrendering only one run, but Mike Piazza hit an eighth inning home run off of Braves reliever Steve Karsay to give the Mets a victory.
"Words couldn't describe it," Marquis said. "The ceremonies, the somber attitude, just to be at the stadium hopefully giving a little bit of joy to people to get their minds off of what happened. I know it doesn't replace or change anything. It was pretty emotional, pretty intense."
One of the victims was Michael Cammarata, a firefighter on Ladder Company #11 who died after entering the World Trade Center. In 1991, Marquis went to the Little League World Series with Cammarata, who played right field. The two were close as youngsters and remained friends through high school.
"He was a special part of my life," Marquis said. "It goes to show what certain people do on a daily basis, whether it's overseas or just the daily grind of being a firefighter in New York and going into a blazing building putting their lives on the line for other people."
Though Marquis is all business on the mound, the victims of those attacks including Cammarata and the memory of that tragic day were on his mind as he worked through six innings for the Nationals just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol on this 9th anniversary of 9/11.
"Being a New Yorker, you never forget," Marquis continued. "But being able to pitch on this day definitely means a lot. It hit home a little bit more. It's definitely something where I can be proud of being a New Yorker, do New York good and show the toughness of the people and how we come together in certain situations."