By that time Mets manager Bobby Valentine had turned Shea Stadium into a staging area for volunteers and donations arriving in New York City. Derek Jeter and his teammates were making the rounds of firehouses to thank the people who were the true heroes of that day. I still cringe when ballplayers are described as heroes, a term that demands not just excellence but also sacrifice. Mariano Rivera put it best after visiting a firehouse: "I save games, these guys save lives." That's the difference.We badly needed the distraction, and the temporary elation of a ballgame. We needed permission to enjoy the simple things in life once again, to go beyond stunned and grieving and start to answer the question Bruce Springsteen later put to us in "Mary's Place," off The Rising: "How can we live broken-hearted?"For the remainder of the 2001 baseball season the seventh-inning stretch became the time when everyone sang "God Bless America" instead of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." And it was healing. It was beautiful, and emotional. OK, so I might have preferred "This Land is Your Land," but it sure beats the hell out of "Sweet Caroline."