My Brush With Stan The Man

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Mid September, 2001. Maybe a week or 10 days after the World Trade Center fell and America was changed forever. If you remember, the FAA grounded all flights for several days. A day or two after the green light was given for planes to return to the skies, I was headed to speak in Atlanta.

It’s really difficult to feel the kinds of things we all felt during that vulnerable time. There was so much love for our fellow Americans, but we also may have looked at each other a little suspiciously. Because all the 9-11 destruction was birthed from the airlines, it felt a little sketchy to be going to the airport, getting on a plane, etc.

The airport was dead quiet. Security was tight, but I got through in no time because everyone was still too scared to fly. My friend who’d given me a ride to the airport offered to escort me to the gate. Again, everything was so tense, I took him up on his offer.

The gate area was nearly deserted. Probably only a couple dozen on the flight to ATL when the plane could seat 150. My friend escorted me to an open chair in the gate area, we shook hands and he went back to work. Everything is silent. I heard a person sitting a seat over from me, so as I arranged my laptop case and got Dasher, my Seeing Eye dog, under my seat, I said hello to this person. He said hi back, complimented how pretty Dasher was and that was it.

I return home a week later. I called my friend to tell him I was back in town and to thank him for the lift and escort through Lambert. He asked, “Did you have any interesting experiences on the plane?” I thought he was referring to all the drama around 9-11 and I said no, the flight was fine. He asked, “Did you talk to anyone at the gate?” No, just the gate agent. “That’s too bad,” he said, “Because you were seated next to Stan Musial.”

On a typical day of flying, if you’re an introvert, you may not want to sit next to me on the plane. Why? Because I easily get bored with the travel game. And I’m an extrovert. I feel it is the duty of whomever is seated next to me to entertain me, teach me and talk to me. Demanding, aren’t I? And, if it’d been a normal day of flying, I’m sure I would have struck up a conversation with the gent on my left who would, of course, have turned out to be the greatest Cardinal player to ever enter the game. Alas, it was no normal time and I missed my chance to talk with Stan the Man.

Today, I wake up to my Twitter feed filled with death notices for Stan. And all those who love the great American pastime mourn the loss of such a great player and human being.

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