The Washington Nationals paid tribute to those affected by last September’s tragic event at Washington Navy Yard (WNY) during pre-game ceremonies of the team’s home opener against the Atlanta Braves, April 4.
The team joined representatives from the Navy, first responders, and victims’ family members to unveil a plaque honoring the lives lost and emergency personnel who responded to the shootings.
The plaque reads, “In remembrance of the lives lost and the lives forever changed by the events of September 16, 2013. For our neighbors at the Navy Yard, we stand beside you.”
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, said the plaque and the support of the Nationals team carries the remembrance of the fallen outside WNY and into the public.
“For their service, we honor them,” Greenert said to those in attendance at the unveiling. “Because of the Washington Nationals and all of you here today, we will never forget that.”
Also offering remarks were Nationals’ owner Mark Lerner and Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
“We thank our neighbors at the Navy Yard, and all of you, for allowing us the privilege of honoring your family members and your friends,” Lerner said. “Our goal is not to perpetuate the grief, but to offer a remembrance of their lives, as well as a hopeful marker for the future.”
Navy personnel showed their gratitude toward the Nationals organization, who opened the stadium just down the street from WNY to family members of Navy personnel and contractors looking for their loved ones.
“It was horrifying and frustrating, and we wanted to help,” Lerner said of the day last fall. “None of us will ever forget the faces as they came through our doors to wait for news from loved ones inside the Navy Yard.”
The Nationals also donated food and worked to distribute it to personnel fleeing from the attack, as well as family members waiting for them. Before the following day’s double-header, the team observed a moment of silence for the victims, and Adm. James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the clubhouse to personally thank the team for their ongoing support.
In the days following the tragedy, a Navy Yard memorial patch was developed for the Nationals players to wear on their uniforms as a show of support. Later, game-worn uniforms were auctioned, with proceeds benefitting to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors’ (TAPS) Navy Yard Tragedy Support Fund.
“We deeply appreciate how you have taken us aboard,” Greenert told the audience and Nationals representatives at the ceremony. “Since your arrival, we have had a growing affinity, and it’s been very special. You were the good neighbor who was there to take care of us and our Navy family.”
Prior to the 2014 home opening game April 4, Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the building where the shooting took place, conducted a flag-raising with the Navy Ceremonial Guard, and the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters performed the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
Jennifer Bennett, a NAVSEA contractor who was shot in the shoulder during the attack, also joined her three rescuers—Capt. Chip Zawislak, Michael Jackson and Makonnen Eyob—in throwing the first pitch of the game.
Rear Adm. Mark Rich, Commandant, Naval District Washington, delivered the game ball, and the “Play Ball” announcement was made by Danielle Knight, who lost her mother, Mary Knight, in the shooting.
After sweeping the New York Mets on the road to begin the season 3-0, the Nationals dropped the Friday home opener with a 2-1 loss. The team lost again on Saturday before rallying to defeat Atlanta Sunday in the last of the three-game home series.
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