Pain of 9/11 runs deep for NY native Cooper

Pain of 9/11 runs deep for NY native Cooper

CHICAGO -- Don Cooper was not with the White Sox in New York at the time of the unspeakable terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Nevertheless, the native New Yorker still felt the pain from his home in Nashville, Tenn.

"Guys from my high school were killed," said Cooper, who is in his ninth full season as the White Sox pitching coach. "It was a tragic thing. I wept for three days watching it on TV. Not until I went into church [that following] Sunday did I start feeling better."

Cooper's reaction when he first saw the tragic events taking place was the same as countless others: Could this actually be real? Once he realized the television coverage was live and not a computer enhancement, Cooper understood the planes crashing into the Twins Towers of the World Trade Center was no accident.

As he mentioned, it was the preacher at Cooper's church who helped him put this horrific day in perspective.

"Here's what he said: 'Everybody is wondering where God is. How can a good God let this happen and things like that?'" said Cooper. "He said, 'He knows where God was. God was with the firefighters running up that building.'

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"'God was running next to them and all the people in that building.' That gave me, it made me feel a whole lot better. Not until that moment did I start to come out of the terrible sadness that I was feeling. It was tragic. Like I said, it hit home. I was proud of New York and the New York people, and how they rose through it."

Those words from his preacher still bring chills to Cooper when recounting them 10 years later. The same came be said about a sentiment Cooper heard from late-night talk-show host David Letterman, who received credit for helping bring New York City back to normal.

"When David Letterman first came back on TV, and I saw this, he goes, 'If there was any sort of being not sure, let the record show that New York is the finest city in the world,'" Cooper said. "The way they handled that whole thing, Mayor [Rudolph] Giuliani was a rock.

"I'll always love him for that. He was strong throughout the whole thing, culminating with the President of the United States [George W. Bush] in a flak jacket throwing out a perfect strike in Yankee Stadium. All of those things come to mind.

"But it was a tragic, terrible act of terrorism on us, and I think it woke a lot of people up that there's evil out there. We are looked at as the big bullies, maybe, but I'd rather be here and standing up for what's right and trying to fight against the evil that is out there. That was nothing more than an evil, evil act."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.