Belcher finally sends 9/11 letter almost 10 years in the making

Sep 11 2011 - 5:19pm

CHICAGO -- Tim Belcher figured that nine years and 363 days was long enough.

So on Friday, two days before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Indians' pitching coach asked his wife to send the eight-page letter, which he had carefully crafted for almost a decade, to his children. They are the reason he began the project in the first place.

"I didn't share it with anybody until now," he said as he sat in the visitors' dugout at U.S. Cellular Field. "You know, there seems to be one of these defining events in every generation. For my grandfather, it was Pearl Harbor, for my father it was President Kennedy getting shot. For me, it's 9/11."

Ten years ago, the youngest of Belcher's children, Ashlynn, almost 8 now, had yet to be born. Maddison was 7 and Byron was 4. They were old enough to be aware that something awful was happening, but they were hardly at an age that they could put it in perspective in terms of their world and that of their family.

One day before the terrorists struck, Belcher and his family had arrived at an upscale dude ranch near Jackson Hole, Wyo. Belcher's cousin was working at the ranch for the summer as a wrangler. The plan was to vacation for a week and not only visit the cousin, but also his parents, who were coming to drive him back to Ohio.

What could be more distant in miles and mindset from the crash sites than a solitary dude ranch in the Rocky Mountains? And the ranch intentionally was a place built to mimic an earlier time.

"For us, it was like 50 years ago," Belcher said. "There was no TV. We only had radio. We were in the dining room eating breakfast when we overheard some of the kitchen workers talking about a plane crash.

"We went back to our cabin and all of us huddled around the radio listening to news reports. You could hear the fear in the voices of the eyewitnesses, and professional reporters were losing it. We must have sat in that room for at least an hour listening and calling people to make sure everyone was OK."

The 1950s ambience moved Belcher to think about his family's past.

"That's when I thought about writing it down for my kids," he said. "So a couple of weeks later, I started the letter. Basically I wanted to tell my kids where we were and what we were thinking."

Belcher continued to add to the letter, and during the Super Bowl in 2006 b" he isn't quite sure why b" he took it out and supplemented it in a major way.

"I don't know, maybe it was because the Super Bowl isn't long after the State of the Union message," Belcher said. "And that was all about Iraq and Afghanistan. I started thinking about where 9/11 might lead. Was this one of those events that will impact the next 20 years? Are my kids going to have to fight? Will they go to war because of the attacks?"

In a minor, annoying way, the Belcher family was affected by the terrorists. All airports were closed and Belcher didn't know how to get home to Columbus. He thought about renting a car.

"I went to one place, and they would only do a one-way to Denver," he said. "So I went to another and another on down the line. Finally Avis said a one-way was fine; I remember the price was $386."

Even before the attacks, Belcher thought about danger. It wasn't terrorists he was worried about but a rare airline accident.

"I know it's a little extreme, but we traveled separately to Wyoming," he said. "I had the means to do it, and what if a plane goes down?"

All of these memories came flooding back to Belcher as he sat in the dugout.

"The kids will learn about 9/11 in history class," he said. "But they won't know what their family was thinking, what they were doing. So they'll have the letter. At their age, maybe they won't appreciate it now. I don't know. But I put in a closing paragraph, and that was it."

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