Jeter: 'Seems like it just happened'

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter felt awkward. The man with the perfect touch wanted to say something just right, but his mind stuttered. After Sept. 11, 2001, Jeter would meet children who just lost their mothers or fathers.

The kids would see the Captain and have a moment of happiness. Jeter would become almost speechless.

"It was awkward because you meet people who just lost family members. What do you say?" Jeter said.

Like everyone else, Jeter remembers where he was and how he learned the news on Sept. 11. When he woke up in his Manhattan apartment and checked his cell phone, there was a message from a friend.

"The message was, 'Let me know if there is still a game tonight because something happened at the World Trade Center,'" Jeter said.

He immediately flipped on the television.

"I turned on the TV and I saw what everyone else saw," Jeter said. "It was on every channel so it didn't really make a difference what channel you had on.

"You watch to see what is happening and then you go from there. I don't think it was any different for me than it was for anyone else. Know what I mean?"

But for the people Jeter met, he could tell he and the Yankees were making an impact, which befuddled the usually composed Jeter. He wanted to say thank you and instead was being thanked.

Jeter, with his teammates, went to Ground Zero and fans impacted by 9/11 came to Yankee Stadium. Jeter was touched meeting these people, but feels his stories should remain private.

"Some things you keep to yourself," Jeter said.

The Yankees would go on to play for the city and, some would say, the country, in the World Series. Jeter would become Mr. November with a Game 4-winning homer in the Bronx.

Jeter thought he would end that series with another ring. In Game 7, after singling to leadoff the seventh, he scored the tying run on a Paul O'Neill line-drive single. Luis Gonzalez, though, would have the decisive hit.

Jeter limped through those playoffs, hitting just .136 (6-for-44) in the ALCS and World Series.

"I think we gave people something to cheer for for three hours a day, which was good," Jeter said. "Especially in the playoffs, I thought a lot of people were watching us and pulling for us. I was playing a game. It didn't change anything, but it had people's mind off of it for a couple of hours per day."

When Jeter reflects back, all the memories start to swirl together -- waking up that morning, meeting the victims, nearly winning another championship -- it brings him back to 2001. Sometimes it feels like yesterday and sometimes it feels like a decade ago.

"It does and it doesn't," Jeter said. "Ten years sounds like it is a long time, but then again it seems like it just happened."

Earlier this summer during Hope Week, Tuesday Children's -- a mentoring program for children who lost loved ones on 9/11 -- were invited back to meet the Yankees, including Jeter.

"Most of them were at an age that they probably don't remember what happened," Jeter said. "They lost family members so obviously it sticks with them."

It sticks with Jeter, too. He remembers the days and the months after. During each game, he says, there are moments he reflects.

"Here, we still play 'God Bless America' in the seventh inning so we still think about it," Jeter said.