Recovery will 'take some time'
By BRANT JAMES and GREG AUMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
Some time Sunday evening, Bronson Arroyo will lean over in his seat and stare out the window. He won't be able to help it, and neither, probably, will many of his teammates aboard the Pittsburgh Pirates' charter flight from Chicago.
The Hernando alum has glided the familiar route over the Hudson River before, whenever his team arrives at LaGuardia Airport in New York for a series against the Mets.
But the skyline will be different this time. Just like most everything else after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Tuesday.
"You definitely think about it," Arroyo said. "It's going to take some time to wear off."
That nagging worry has a greater opportunity to fester among pro athletes -- especially baseball players -- who spend numerous hours flying each summer.
"It's a little scary," Arroyo said. "We're on planes every four days. Hopefully, with us being on charters, there's less of a chance of something happening. But you always think about going down whenever you get on one. It's impossible not to."
Arroyo has another day to think about such things with Major League Baseball games postponed through at least today. He supports Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to halt play. "Who wants to go to a game right now?" the pitcher asked. "And I can understand they don't want large crowds gathering anywhere."
Springstead alum Jennifer O'Sullivan, who plays for the New York Power in the Women's United Soccer Association, is in New York training for her team's trip to China next month. Thinking about games is impossible, she said.
"We talk about the trip to China, and it's hard to get excited," O'Sullivan said. "An event like this puts it all in perspective. We need time to mourn and try to get through it and help those that have lost family members."
Sports "is definitely not an issue right now," O'Sullivan said.
But she and Arroyo agreed it should be eventually.
"I think three days will be about right," Arroyo said. "Then we have to get back to normal. If you go longer than that, you let the other guys know they win."
That theme resonates through the county's sports community, where coaches, players and parents think winning and losing a battle against international terrorism can be affected -- at least in a nation's morale -- by winning or losing on playing fields. That means from major-league stadiums to dusty high school fields.
"I understand the tragedy, but life has to go on," said Brooksville's Bill Combs, whose sons, Charley and Will, play sports at Hernando High. "We need to continue. What is it solving by not playing the sport?"
But play as therapy isn't easy.
"Just the devastation has to be on everyone's mind," said John Bifulco, a former Springstead soccer coach and a native Long Islander whose brother-in-law is involved in the WTC rescue. "As a coach you try to get a kid focused on their training, but something like this is going to affect every coach and player differently."
All county prep games Tuesday were postponed, and no teams were scheduled to play on Wednesday, but normal schedules will resume today.
"We've been told by the district to go on with normalcy," said Vic Cervizzi, Central's athletic director. "Hernando County is a safe place."
Springstead AD Bob Levija met with the Eagles' football coaches Tuesday and told them he understood if they wished to cancel practice. Head coach Bill Vonada gave players the option to leave, but none did, Levija said.
Levija's interest in a possible armed response by the United States is personal. His son, Kevin, is a 29-year-old Navy lieutenant whose aircraft carrier was placed on high alert off the coast of California.
Cervizzi had similar concerns Tuesday. His son, Anthony, serves in the Army, working on Apache helicopters in Virginia, and Cervizzi's son-in-law is stationed with the Air Force in San Antonio, Texas.
Hernando's volleyball team was to play at Crystal River on Tuesday night, but that match was rescheduled as part of a doubleheader at Hernando on Oct. 2. Leopards coach Dena Frye said she had considered postponing Wednesday's match at home against Pasco as well, but she thought her squad was in better position to handle a return to the court.
"It's traumatic for everyone, and these girls, being so young, they're just asking why," Frye said. "They don't all realize how it can affect them, especially if this country winds up going to war."
Tuesday's events were especially frightening for senior middle hitter Caitlin Sears. She has an uncle who works at the World Trade Center. By mid-afternoon, Sears' family had found out that he wasn't at work that morning, but the scare was enough to make Sears glad she didn't have to worry about a volleyball match the same day.
"Everyone was worried, and there were a lot of questions that nobody was sure about," Spears said. "There are still a lot of questions, but it seems that everything is more under control now. Things seems a lot more calm."
Hernando's football and cross country teams practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, with the logic that they would be most comfortable surrounded by friends and teammates.
"I think the kids are better off being together," athletic director Matt Smith said. "We saw things I thought I'd never see in my lifetime. I think they had a hard time concentrating, but it's still in the back of everyone's mind. It's a tragic situation, but you try to deal with it the best you can."
Hernando football coach Bill Browning said he would have allowed players to take as much time as they needed if they had relatives or acquaintances involved in the tragedies. His attitude toward a quick return to practice was to make it a priority to get his players back in their routines.
"I think it's more important to go on," Browning said. "There's nothing you can do but sit at home and watch TV. If we do that, it's what they hoped would happen -- to cripple this country as much as possible. We paid our respects in our own way."
Browning, who coached at Springstead before he came to Hernando, said the tragedies might have a greater impact at Springstead or Central. The large number of transplanted New York natives is higher in the Spring Hill area.
O'Sullivan was awakened by one of her roommates just before 9 a.m Tuesday when news of the first attack was broadcast on television. After the second collision, her thoughts turned to her boyfriend, Alan Leist, a NASDAQ trader at World Financial Center Building Four. He was unharmed.
"This is so horrible and disturbing and frightening," she said. "You wake up and you see those firemen, and know they've been working all night and it just tears you apart."
O'Sullivan, teammate Sara Whelan and her boyfriend spent Wednesday numb and "drifting" around the upper east side, doing whatever they could to cope and help. That included donating blood, and O'Sullivan was heartened to be the 300th person on the sign-up sheet at her local Red Cross center.
O'Sullivan's father, Brian, a Spring Hill dentist, was able to reach her immediately Tuesday -- despite a glut of phone traffic -- and confirm she was safe.
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