Everyone knows where they were 15 years ago today. Everyone remembers the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11.
It was much more personal for Keith Bodie. The 60-year-old Bodie just completed his second year in the Orioles organization, and his first year as the manager of the Frederick Keys.
The Keys ended their season on Monday, and Bodie is back in his offseason home in Gilbert, Ariz., a long way from his native Brooklyn.
Bodie has seen a lot of tragedy in his lifetime. His father died when he was young and his mother is gone, too. So are a brother and sister, and tragically, so is his cousin, Nicholas Chiofalo.
For years, Bodie had tried to make the major leagues as a player, coach and manager, but it wasn’t until Sept. 9, 2001 that he joined the Kansas City Royals.
Bodie had finished a successful season as the manager of the Royals’ Double-A team in Wichita, and his reward was a promotion to the big leagues.
On Sept. 11, Bodie began his day watching news reports of the World Trade Center attacks, and like all native New Yorkers, was shocked by what he saw.
He called his mother in Brooklyn and told her to watch television. He never dreamed that he’d lose a family member.
“I never put two and two together,” Bodie said.
That night, all major league games were postponed, and as the country mourned, the sport like nearly everything else in the country, was put on hiatus.
The nex day, the Royals were taking batting practice, and Bodie was out on the Kauffman Stadium field.
“I saw a security guy walking down the stairs. I had this eerie feeling he was coming for me,” Bodie said.
Bodie was escorted into manager Tony Muser’s office where his wife called him.
“Nicholas is missing,” his wife told him. “If anybody was missing that day, it wasn’t very good.”
Nicholas Chiofalo, was 40, five years younger than Bodie, and a firefighter in Brooklyn who made a choice that ended his life, but made him a hero.
Chiofalo agreed to work an extra shift for a colleague and called his wife to tell her not to expect him home that night.
His engine company was called from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan to help.
“Everybody on that engine was killed,” Bodie said.
Bodie’s memories of Nicholas are vivid.
“He had a tremendous sense of humor, a helpful person, thoughtful. He was kind to his neighbors, his fellow man, very generous,” Bodie remembers.
As Bodie learned the news, the Royals assembled in the clubhouse to comfort him. Their biggest star, Mike Sweeney gave Bodie the $20,000 the team collected from their “Kangaroo Court,” the petty fines players assess each other for breaking silly rules.
The Royals’ owner matched the $20,000 and Bodie presented the money to his cousin’s son, Nicholas Jr., who was 12 at the time.
Nine months later, Kansas City played at Shea Stadium, and Nicholas Jr. went to the game and met the Royals in their clubhouse.
Sweeney promised to hit a home run for Nicholas, and did in his first at-bat.
That was the last time Bodie saw his cousin’s son.
When Bodie was young, his family would trek to Bay Shore on Long Island to visit Nicholas’ family and other family members who lived there, too.
Unfortunately, after the tragedy, Nicholas’ family became estranged from the rest of the family.
“That’s the saddest part of this whole thing, how it turned my family upside down,” he said.
This summer, during the Carolina League All-Star break, Bodie brought his family, his wife and three children, to Brooklyn to show them where he grew up.
They visited Coney Island where the Brooklyn Cyclones erected a memorial for fallen police officers and firefighters.
Then the Bodies went to Manhattan to visit the World Trade Center site and museum. They saw Nicholas’ name engraved in the memorial and his picture in the museum.
Bodie recalled Nicholas’ funeral on Long Island.
“It was incredible,” he said. “There were fire trucks all over that were parked over both sides of the road. There were American flags everywhere.”
A mile from the church, Bodie saw firefighters from the entire Northeast there to honor his cousin.
September 11 will never be just another day for Bodie.
“It’s kind of an ill feeling in your stomach,” Bodie said. “It brings back all those old memories, all those old feelings.”
It’s therapeutic to the man who has been in baseball for over 40 years to talk about his family losses.
He wants to remember the goodness of his cousin and the others who perished 15 years ago today.
“They’re heroes. There’s no doubt about it. When people run in harm’s way to save people, they’re heroes."
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