Fourteen years ago today, a generation lost its innocence.

We’ve all been changed by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, good in some ways and not so much in others. The world is a different place, and we are different because of it.

Many lessons rose from those ashes, notably, what heroism and courage really look like, and that even on the darkest of days, humanity prevails. It also forced us to reexamine our priorities. We’re humans. We fill our days with minutiae and convince ourselves of its importance.

We’re not as diligent about this as we were back then, myself included. It’s natural. Last night, I was legitimately irritated about a football game, not to mention a bunch of other nonsense.

But I wake up every Sept. 11 to a stark reminder, and I’m thankful to be here, when so many others are not.

For those of us working in sports, it’s an odd feeling. We spend most of the year convincing ourselves how important these games are, but on Sept. 11, it’s like hitting a reset button. While this is our chosen vocation, and we take a great deal of pride in it, we’re still working in the entertainment business. We shouldn’t try not to take ourselves too seriously.

Yet, as much as I recognize the inflated presence sports holds in our lives, I must also acknowledge their power to unify, and yes, to entertain. Trivial or not, we need entertainment, and we need a sense of community. Sports are part of the fabric of our lives, and in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, they allowed us – for a few hours – to return to a feeling of normalcy.

When Joe Andruzzi of the New England Patriots carried an American flag onto the field in the NFL’s first weekend back, it gave us chills, a real, visceral reaction. The 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks, which included then-President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch in Game 3, felt more like a cathartic celebration of America than it did a baseball championship.

It’s still a complicated, often scary, world out there, and we’re happy that you folks are willing to come and get away from it all with us. We’re glad you’re a part of our community, the VCU Athletics community.

We’re also humbled by the opportunity to honor those who protect us, and those whose ranks were devastated by the horrors of 9-11. Tonight, during VCU’s Men’s Soccer match at Sports Backers Stadium (7 p.m.), we’re saluting First Responders. Members of the police, fire and EMS (and their families) get in free.

These are small gestures, and I’m not sure there’s anything we can do to say thank you enough, but we’d like to start somewhere.

It’s a wild world, so join us, if you’d like, and turn your attention to these trivial pursuits we love.

Then go home and give somebody a hug.