Standing O

I ran out of writing gas a few days back. Too many midnights or 2:00 am’s. Never got around to the energy of recording my thoughts. Something cool would happen, and then something else … and they all slipped by.

But here I am now. A few hours ago, my beloved Leylah Fernandez lost the US Open Championship to another lovely human being – Emma Raducanu from Great Britain. I was there … ooing and ahhing with the ebbs and flows of tennis fortune.

After the final shot, there were the speeches – first from the runner-up. As Leylah approached the microphone, we the audience stood. We clapped and cheered. There was a moment when the roar subsided a touch. And then it took off, filling every corner of Arthur Ashe. A moment for the ages, a surge that I’ve only heard once before (for a Canadian singer named Stan Rogers). Leylah’s eyes were moist in response. She answered the interviewer’s questions. She acknowledeged that Emma played better. As the interviewer was about to move on to the champion, Leylah reached for the microphone once more:

“I know on this day, it was especially hard for New York and everyone around the United States. I just want to say that I hope I can be as strong and as resilient as New York has been the past 20 years.”

Oh my God! You’re 19. You’ve beaten some of the best players in the world. Tonight you fell short of your dream. And you have the presence of mind and heart to speak of your love for New York, and your empathy with New Yorkers. Leylah, you’re a blessing to people young and old, to sports fans and not. Thank you.

Afterwards, in a press conference, Leylah reflected on her comments in the stadium:

“I don’t know much about what really happened, but with the few information that I do have, I know that New York has suffered a lot the past years when it did happen. I just wanted to let them know that they’re so strong, they’re so resilient. They’re just incredible.

Just having them here happy, lively, just going back to the way they were, having my back during these tough moments, has made me stronger and has made me believe in myself a lot more.”

Look at the gifts we give each other. How happy to be alive.

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