Arguably, nobody in the City of Vision bleeds more red, white and blue than longtime Rio Rancho High School baseball coach Ron Murphy.
He’ll never forget where he was the day of Sept. 11, 2001, which wasn’t far from where he was 22 years later.
“One of the Murphys was supposed to be a window washer (at the Twin Towers) that day,” Murphy recalled. “He was missing the whole day — the whole family couldn’t find him. They thought he was up there; that was pretty traumatic for my family.”
Fortunately, the missing Murphy was located.
“There was another (Murphy) in the basement, that hurt his back — he got out,” he said. “He was a printer.
“I guess when you grow up in New York, or you live there, it’s a personal attack,” Murphy said. “You kinda feel it personally.
“I remember the day it happened. … I remember when I heard about it, I got all emotional, got upset,” he said. “I went into the office; Gary Tripp was our principal at the time, and he must have felt something or heard something because he called me up and said, ‘Murph, go home.’
“I went straight to Eagle Ridge (Middle School), picked up (daughters) Valerie and Amber, got them out of school early, and went home and sat in front of the TV, and started contemplating, ‘Should I drive to New York, or not?’ I was gonna do something — your first reaction, you’re just dumb.
“And then I went to the blood bank … I was there four or five hours and gave blood for that,” he said. “I was very emotional. It’s hard to tell where your feelings are — they’re kinda all over the place.”
On Monday, he said, with those 9/11 memories still alive, “I wanted to do something special for 9/11. We had thought about going down there to the (Veterans Monument Park), but it was hard with the transportation.”
Instead, he had a handful of United States Marines lead what may have been the most rigorous workout session — running, jumping, lifting, squatting, push-ups and more — the state champion Rams have had in the offseason. No blood, perhaps, but surely some sweat at tears after what Sgt. Francisco Duran and his comrades, all recent RRHS graduates, put the ballplayers through.
Although the cool T-shirts specially ordered for the players in the program will make it hard for them to forget what they went through today, it’s likely they’ll never forget the impact of that tragedy that claimed 3,000 or so lives.
Murphy said he heard from several teachers who thought it was cool that the baseball players were commemorating a day of infamy in the RRHS hallways. And, Murphy said, a grateful parent or two also messaged him.
“I just want the kids to realize (what 9/11) meant. I don’t want it to go by the wayside,” he said.
“We always say, ‘Baseball’s more than baseball.’ And this is a good example of baseball only being the tool to make these kids better for the rest of their life,” Murphy said. “It’s important they realize how important our country is, how important events like 9/11 and how that affected us for the rest of our lives.
“I just want these kids in our program to learn more than baseball, that’s all – everyday life skills,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in that.”