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9-11 remembrances (Jim Johnson and Showalter)

Rogers Centre held a nice ceremony before Sunday's game to honor the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy in the United States.

It included color guards from Canadian police, fire and rescue units. Instead of a first pitch, Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero placed a ball on the mound and the names of the 24 Canadians killed in the attacks were shown on the stadium's video screen.

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Players from both teams set up on the foul lines instead of their usual spots outside the dugouts.

Before the game, I talked to Orioles reliever Jim Johnson about the 9-11 attacks. Johnson grew up in Endicott, N.Y., about two-plus hours from New York City. He was in his first year in professional baseball, but he also was a volunteer firefighter at the time.

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Johnson was asleep at his parents' home when his mother called and told him to turn on the TV – any channel – and watch what was going on. He tuned in just in time to see the second plane hit the south tower.

Shortly thereafter, Johnson went down to his fire station and waited with other members of the unit, which was put on standby, in case it was needed to help.

"We got put on standby, like pretty much anybody in that area because nobody knew what was going on," Johnson said. "It was pretty much a precautionary move, but there was no direct link to New York because they were obviously pretty busy."

Within days, Johnson's county sent a volunteer search and rescue group to Ground Zero to help. Johnson said he would have gone, but he instead had to leave for the Orioles' instructional league in Sarasota, Fla., that week.

"I was leaving in the next couple days. I was literally packing up in the next couple days," he said.

Johnson was a volunteer firefighter in New York state from 2000 to about 2004.

"It definitely felt like I got sucker-punched that day," Johnson said. "It wasn't as personal to me as it was to some of the guys I knew and in some of the circles from where I am from. We are far enough removed from the city to where it's not really a direct link. But state fire instructors all come from New York. Guys have family that were down there. It wasn't direct to me, but it doesn't matter. It's the fraternity. It's like in baseball where if something happens tragic to one team, it's felt by every team."

Here's what Buck Showalter had to say on the 10-year anniversary: "We all remember where we were. … I remember turning to my family and saying life just changed dramatically for all of us, and not just Americans. A day like today really makes you realize some of the things we think are real important, that we do every day, is not really in the whole [life scheme]. Seems like we've had a lot of reminders of that this year. … I think it is still an emotional day for most people. You try to put yourself in people's shoes, and you just couldn't imagine. It makes us realize how vulnerable we all are regardless of where we make home."

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