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The day after: White Sox coach recalls collapse

The day after: White Sox coach recalls collapse

This story was originally published on MLB.com in 2001.

Art Kusnyer has seen it all.

In a telephone conversation Wednesday evening with the Chicago White Sox bullpen coach aboard a chartered bus outside Akron, Ohio, Kusnyer spoke about Tuesday's tragic events in New York City, the morning the Sox were to start a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.
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"My wife called me and asked if I saw that a plane hit one of the (World Trade Center) towers," Kusnyer said. "We had gotten in late the night before and I was still sleeping, so I turned the TV on and I saw the replay. I said to her that it looked like more than a single-engine prop plane running into the building.

"We were talking and I was walking around the room, looking out the window and she told me another plane just hit the second tower," he said. "I ran to the TV and saw it. I knew it had to be a terrorist attack."

After the 55-year-old Ohio native saw the second commercial airliner hit the South tower, curiosity got the better of the Sox coach and headed to the streets of New York to see first-hand what was unfolding.

"After I hung up with her, I got dressed, went downstairs," he said. "I knew where we are at, about two miles from the building, that this all happened near us. I went outside and walked some and saw smoke from an opening at the first street I passed. At the second street and saw all these people standing around. You could see just the one building, the first one collapsed, and I said to myself 'My God, this is just brutal.'"

It got worse.

Looking down Fifth Avenue, Kusnyer saw the second tower buckle and fall.

"All of a sudden, the whole tower just collapsed," he said. "I was thinking about all the people in the building, all the fireman and police that were probably inside. It was devastating. It was like a movie, and when you see it on TV is looks all cool, but when you see it in real life, the reality is shocking."

Unfortunately for Kusnyer, this was not the first time the former Major League catcher witnessed a disaster that stopped baseball. As bullpen coach for the Oakland Athletics, Kusnyer was involved in the earthquake that rocked the San Francisco Bay Area on Oct. 17, 1989.

"I was there with the A's when we had the earthquake during the World Series," he said. "That was a real tragedy, too. That was a natural disaster and everyone was concerned for the city of San Francisco and the surrounding areas. We were worried about our own safety, our families safety and everyone else -- just like we are right now.

According to Kusnyer, neither the team or any members of players families that were in the city, were ever in serious danger in their midtown hotel.

"Everyone was concerned about what was happening," Kusnyer said. "We had a couple of bomb threats because we were staying right next to Grand Central Station. (General Manager) Ken Williams was on the phone constantly to get us out of there, talking with Major League Baseball and (Commissioner) Bud Selig. He was just trying to get us to safety.

"We had to wait until the next day to do anything at all," he added. "Most of the guys were hanging around in the lobby. When you are in a real-life situation like that, baseball is secondary. Lot of guys had the families their, their wives and whomever, and they were just wandering the hotel."

Now, Kusnyer said, the team is talking to various family members and trying to get their minds off the tragic events by watching a movie on the bus back to Chicago.

"I was very impressed by the people of New York, with all the medical workers and people lending a hand," he said. "I love going to that city. My heart goes out to all the people of that city, the policeman, fireman and everyone on the scene -- especially, all the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy. When I saw the building collapse, I was just praying that people were able to get out."

Patrick O'Connell is the site reporter for whitesox.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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