It's unlikely that any of us will forget where we were, what we were doing or how we felt during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The horrifying sights of planes crashing into buildings, which subsequently collapsed, are engraved into the minds of all who witnessed it.

It was certainly a bleak time for our country and we all went through a wide range of emotions which may have included sadness, anger, confusion and utter disbelief. In the days that would follow, many of us took the time to be around friends and family in an effort to get through this unspeakable tragedy together. Still, the fact remained: Our world changed on Sept. 11.

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The American people needed something to take their collective minds off of the pain, suffering and sadness felt by everyone in our country. And, after a brief hiatus, sports were there to provide just that. While athletic competition obviously isn't in the same realm of importance as the lives lost on Sept. 11, sports nonetheless provided many of us with that outlet that we needed.

The effect of sports went well beyond New York City during the post-Sept. 11 healing process; it seemed as if the entire country got a small boost from the refuge that professional sports were providing. Countless sports images from the post-Sept. 11 attacks still resonate 10 years later.

Whether it's Sammy Sosa running into the Wrigley Field outfield with a miniature American flag, President Bush throwing a perfect strike during a ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium, a Boston "heart's" New York sign at Fenway Park or Mike Piazza crushing a game-winning home run to give the Mets an improbably win over the Atlanta Braves in the first game after the Sept. 11 attacks, they all had a profound impact.

I was fortunate enough to have tickets to a San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Jets Monday Night Football matchup for Week 3 of the 2001 season (It was supposed to be Week 4, but the NFL moved Week 2 games to the end of the season, following the Sept. 11 attacks). As a lifelong, diehard Niner fan, it was a good night for me as the 49ers picked up a 19-17 win, but this game was more about being in a stadium with thousands of American citizens, standing side-by-side as we all continued to mourn those lost on 9/11. Prior to the game, a larger-than-life American flag stretched across the entire field and that resonated with me far more than any play during the actual game.

As the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, it's important for us all to remember the lives that were forever changed on that day. And while sports can provide a great escape, they're just that: an escape. Sports aren't life and death. They exist to bring people together, which is what they did in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Jon Chik is the sports editor for the New Canaan News and the Darien News. He can be reached at jchik@bcnnew.com.