Throughout history, there have been certain events that shape the lives of humankind. They affect how we view the world and how we live our daily lives. As the global population grows, the world as we know it has shrunk with the advent of the internet and social media. For the first time in history, we have the ability to see, read, and hear what happens moments after something occurs.
For the terrible events that took place in Paris last weekend, we had a front row seat. And what we saw changed our lives.
WVU’s Alex Ruoff was there in the aftermath.
Ruoff has had a successful career playing basketball since graduating from West Virginia University with stops in the NBA D-League, Belgium, Germany and currently Spain where he is a member of Bilbao Basket. The team is a member in Liga ACB and plays in the Eurocup where they play against teams all over Europe.
When the coordinated terrorist attacks struck on November 13th, the French league suspended all pro games for both soccer and basketball.
A few days later, on November 17th, Bilbao Basket was scheduled to play against Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. Ruoff and his club entered a volatile situation. No one knew what to expect.
“I definitely wasn’t happy about having to go,” Ruoff told us. “Felt the game should have been postponed.”
The French league suspended all basketball and soccer games in the aftermath of the terrorism. Ruoff said their game against Nanterre was the first sporting event to take place in the area since the attacks.
One of Ruoff’s teammates, Shawn James, refused to travel with the team to Paris. Said Ruoff, “He [James] made the decision with his family in mind. The club respected it.”
James, it might be noted, played under current WVU men’s basketball assistant coach Ron Everhart while at Duquesne University.
I asked Ruoff about the atmosphere outside of the arena and hotel. Ruoff said the area seemed quiet and he saw a lot of flowers. There was a “good amount of police in the airport.”
When events such as what unfolded in Paris occur, getting lives “back to normal” is difficult. We worry about what will happen next. We replay what we saw over and over in our minds. The images are stuck in our heads forever. Imagine what those who witnessed the attacks in person and in that city went through and will remember. For the vast majority of us, we can’t possibly imagine the hell the people of Paris have gone through.
One thing that helps people heal from some tragic calamities in life is sports. Sports offers people a distraction and a sense of togetherness.
After 9/11, both the NFL and MLB were put on hold. Once they resumed, people flocked to stadiums despite the lingering fear of further attacks. The healing process began. We needed a jump-start given the enormity and senselessness of the loss of life. Particularly those who lived near New York City.
For a few hours, the basketball clubs of Bilbao and Nanterre gave people local to the Paris area a break back to some routineness. Ruoff told us that there was a good crowd for the game. Those in attendance in Nanterre didn’t have much of a chance to get into the game too much. Bilbao jumped out to a 12-0 start and went on to win by thirty-one points.
“There was a sincere moment of silence before the game,” Ruoff said, and then reflected, “I believed it did provide a sense of normalcy for their fans.”
Knowing he was going into a charged situation, said that he didn’t get scared, “nor did I ever feel unsafe. Plus, my faith gives me courage. Probably a little too much at times.
“I feel for the players who play for Paris and Nanterre.”