09/07/2002 10:15 pm ET
Nixon's life changed on 9/11
Tragedy caused him to miss birth of his son
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
BOSTON -- The most hectic and unforgettable day of Trot Nixon's life began with a wakeup call. The sun hadn't even come out yet, and Nixon was sound asleep in his Tampa hotel room.
Even in his sleepy state -- the Red Sox had flown from New York to Tampa late the previous night -- he had a pretty good idea what this 6 A.M. call was all about.
His wife, Kathryn, was on the other line from Boston, and delivered the news the right fielder had been anxiously awaiting. Kathryn was ready to deliver the couple's first baby.
The Red Sox were well aware of Nixon's plans to fly on short notice to witness the birth.
Nixon was so fueled with adrenaline that, for a moment, he couldn't move.
"I was all wired up to that point," Nixon said, "Then I got jelly-legged and I couldn't move. I called (Red Sox traveling secretary) Jack (McCormick) and let Jack know that I was going to be leaving."
Under normal circumstances, a 7;05 a.m. flight to Boston was perfect timing. Nixon estimates that he could have even stopped for a shower and a quick bite to eat, and still coached his wife through the birth of their son, Chase.
However, as it turned out, this was simply not the day to be relying on routine air travel. The date was Sept. 11, 2001.
Nixon was fast asleep in his airplane seat when an unprecedented terrorist attack hundreds of miles north instantaneously took thousands of lives.
"Well, what happened was, I quickly went to sleep. I was asleep before they finished loading the plane. I was knocked out up against the window," Nixon said. "Then all of a sudden, it felt like we were descending so then I kind of woke up and looked out. And I said, 'This doesn't look like Boston.' So I just waited around, I did not know what was going on."
It didn't take long for him to realize that whatever was going on was surely not good.
Starting to sink in
"One of the flight attendants walked back like she was sick to her stomach. Usually you don't see flight attendants walk back and look like they are sick to their stomach," he said. "The pilot came on the intercom and said we were going to have to ground our flight in Norfolk, Virginia. There had been an unfortunate tragedy in New York. And he said there was a terrorist attack. He didn't relinquish that it was two airplanes crashing into the towers."
Still not aware of the magnitude of what occurred, Nixon got impatient.
"I wanted the plane to hurry up and land so I could call Kathryn. I didn't think about anything other than the fact that Kathryn was up there, and I wanted to be there for the birth of my son. Anyone who has had children always wants to be there for the birth. I wanted to land and find out what was going on."
Nixon, hearing other passengers on their cell phones, started picking up on what occurred.
"When the guy said that two planes ran into (the World Trade Center), I instantly thought of a good friend of mine I had played minor-league ball with, Todd Carey. He was working in a financial building right across the street from the World Trade Center. I really started thinking about him, but most of all Kathryn.
"When I got on the ground, you could see what was done, the damage, on TV. I glanced at it. I didn't want to sit there and gaze at it. And I realized then that there weren't going to be any more flights out that day. You can't delay pregnancies, and I knew she was probably going to have to go on without me."
To Nixon, the ultimate family man, that was crushing.
"That was a real bummer to me," he said. "I was really bummed out because of the fact I wasn't going to be there for this beautiful day -- my son being born. I asked my mom 'Why? Why did this have to happen right now?'"
Just as Nixon doesn't sulk on the baseball field, he wasn't going to in this situation. He quickly started exploring alternatives.
"Norfolk is fairly close to where my grandparents live and a lot of my family. My cousin came and picked me up," he said.
And Nixon picked up the phone and called his wife.
Kathryn Nixon was in no state to be informed of the attack that had occurred. So her husband told her, in as gentle a way as he could, that he wasn't going to be able to make it.
"I didn't understand the magnitude of everything that had happened," recalled Kathryn Nixon. "But (Trot) was crying. He called me so I knew it had to be horrible. I was just like, 'Well stay there and don't worry about anything. I will be fine, just stay there.'"
Fortunately for Kathryn, she had a couple of pinch-hitters at her disposal. Her mother was by her side, and so was Bitsy Hatteberg, the wife of the then-backup catcher of the Red Sox.
"So I knew she was OK," said Trot. "She was surrounded by good people and obviously good doctors. I tried to explain it to her, but I don't think she realized what was going on at the time. She had to concentrate on giving birth. She was having contractions and all the stuff I wish I could experience with her but didn't."
Not long after that, Nixon received the second phone call of the day from his wife. This was the big one.
It's a boy!
"Then she called me, I remember it was 1:32 p.m. (on the clock of) my cousin's truck and she told me we had a little baby boy Chase. I started crying. I am not afraid to cry. She put him up to the phone. He was screaming and yelling. It was awesome. Just to hear him was a relief. To know that Kathryn was fine and everything went well during the delivery, and (the baby) was healthy, he's got 10 fingers, 10 toes, everything that you sit there and pray day in and day out that you have a healthy baby."
Nixon was anxious to see the baby, so he gathered some company for the trek. His mom, dad and sister accompanied him on the drive up the Northeast coast.
It was an eerie feeling driving through a country that had its heart crushed.
"We didn't know if they were going to close most of the highways going through Washington D.C., but they said everything was open and went through there. It was just a gutwrenching feeling that even though we were miles away from the Pentagon, you could see the black smoke billowing into the sky. We kept going and stopped just long enough to grab a bite to eat.
"And we got to (some highway) in New Jersey, about 30 miles from New York City, and they had barricaded it off. They had army vehicles, RVs out there, police cars well lit up to know that there is no coming into New York City or leaving New York City. It was completely dark outside, the sun had gone down. It was another eerie feeling, just seeing somewhat of a gray cloud toward the city. You saw planes circling around the city. It was around that time my dad started to nod off."
If anyone should have been tired at that moment, it was Trot Nixon. But his body wasn't processing that fatigue.
The home stretch
"I think I got up probably around 11 a.m. (on Sept. 10) in New York, so from then on I probably slept two hours. And you know, Dad had got up and went to work that morning so he was fairly exhausted," Nixon said. "I just told him to pull over and let me get a Mountain Dew or something with the most caffeine possible. I wanted to drive the rest of the way."
So he planted his foot on that accelerator with little give.
"I know state troopers out there like to keep those roads safe, but I was driving as quickly as possible to see my son. The anticipation of seeing my son, I just couldn't wait. I wasn't Mario Andretti on the freeway, but I didn't drive (as low as) 70 either. I would have happily accepted a ticket, maybe asked for a police escort if I had gotten pulled over. But there was no one on the highway."
So he motored straight through to Boston in the wee hours of Sept. 12, and, at last, arrived at the hospital.
"When they finally got there, it was about 3 a.m.," said Kathryn. "And he was with his mom, his dad, and his sister Ginger. For them to have come all that way, it was all very emotional."
As agonizingly long as the day Trot Nixon had -- an experience that had gone on 21 hours since that labor call from Kathryn -- it ultimately turned into a rich reward.
"I went right over there and grabbed (Chase) and just held him," Trot Nixon said. "The biggest thing I felt was relief. All that had happened that day seemed to escape my mind for a little bit because I was spending my first moments with my son."
A year later, the Nixons have had countless precious moments with Chase. Now, they get ready to celebrate his first birthday.
It is strangely fitting that the Red Sox will be in Tampa on Sept. 11, which is where Nixon received that labor call from Kathryn 12 months ago.
Though they realize that the country as a whole won't have a lot to celebrate on 9/11, they understand how important it is to commemorate the birth of their son.
"We are going to have Chase's birthday party in Tampa," said Kathryn. "We will probably have a party from 11 to 1 p.m., and everyone will wear red, white and blue. We will always let Chase know that he was so special to be born and brought into this world on that day, because he brought good into the world on that day."
"We will not forget what happened that day," said Trot Nixon. "We will not forget the people -- the men and women who sacrificed their lives to save others, who where there working 24 hours a day, seven days a week since it happened. We will honor those people. But we are also going to treat it as a celebration of Chase's birthday."
Ian Browne, who covers the Red Sox for MLB.com, can be reached at Ian.Browne@mlb.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its