US Open to recall 9/11 pain, courage

New York: Serena Williams was just days removed from the emotional rollercoaster of a US Open finals loss to her sister Venus when tennis and all its trappings suddenly became irrelevant.

Serena Williams had departed New York and was in Washington when the September 11, 2001 attacks brought down Manhattan`s Twin Towers. The Pentagon was in flames and heroic passengers apparently prevented a fourth hijacked jet from reaching Washington.

"I think `fear` is a good word to describe how I felt," said Serena Williams, who recalled the US Army trucks posted in the streets of the capital as the nation went on lockdown. "I was really scared."

Ten years on, Serena is back at the US Open tennis championships, where officials of the US Tennis Association (USTA) have wrestled with the question of how to commemorate the somber anniversary.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt`s victory over American Pete Sampras in the September 9, 2001 men`s final was among the last professional sports events in New York before the Twin Towers fell, brought down by Al-Qaeda hijackers.

Officials had expected the anniversary to fall on the day of the men`s final, but weather delays mean it will now be marked before the rescheduled women`s championship match.

Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications, said the USTA knew it had a unique platform to honor the victims and rescue workers at a quintessential New York event which is also a focus of global attention.

"The overriding notion is that simplicity is best," Widmaier said. "That`s why on the court it will simply say `9-11-01`. The infamous date will be painted along the sides of the 22,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

The US Open logo normally displayed on the ring encircling an upper deck of the stadium will be replaced by New York City`s 9/11 memorial logo.

"It`s important to keep the imagery simple, because different people have different memories of that day, and will be commemorating it in their own way," Widmaier said.

"Many people from the USTA are from New York. You`re going from the most local memories to international memories."

Prior to the women`s final on Sunday afternoon, a memorial tribute will be hosted by Queen Latifah, who also led the tournament`s ceremony on the first anniversary of the attacks.

A giant flag will be unfurled to cover the court during the ceremony and the men`s finalists will enter the court through an honor guard composed of the New York Police Department, Fire Department and Port Authority Police.

They were selected, Widmaier said, because the USTA wanted to "recognize the courage and commitment these organizations embodied during 9/11 and its aftermath."

Widmaier also acknowledged that it was a delicate balance to address such a serious subject at an event that is normally a festive occasion.

"The thinking was that at that part of the day, you`re starting to get toward the end of the day, we wanted to insure that we`re looking forward as well as back," he said.

"That`s our goal, to commemorate and to celebrate moving forward at the same time."

Bureau Report

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