Updated on 09/15/2011 2:03PM

Belmont fans resume their pastime


ELMONT, N.Y. - Ten days after the last race was run at Belmont Park, racing returned to the New York area Wednesday afternoon.

Located less than 20 miles from where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood visible in the distance, life began to return to normal at Belmont Park, which last week served as a staging area for fire units and relief equipment from throughout Long Island.

The New York Racing Association paid its respects to the events of last week by observing a moment of silence at 12:30 p.m. NYRA staff members as well as jockeys, jockey valets, and others showed their support by filling the winner's circle for two minutes of silence. The silence was then broken by NYRA bugler Sam Grossman at 12:32 p.m., who played "America The Beautiful" as the people in attendance remained standing.

The day had begun a half-hour earlier with the playing of the National Anthem at approximately 11:58 a.m. In contrast to a normal day at the track, the vast majority of people removed their hats and caps, and few fans, if any, remained seated.

Wednesday's atmosphere around Belmont Park didn't appear much different than a day prior to the terrorist attacks, as fans filtered through the gates and found their normal spots

in preparation for a day of horseracing and gambling.

Some fans viewed a day at the races as an outlet for putting aside the unforgettable horror of last week's attack for a brief while.

Sal DiMiola, a retired salesman and avid racing fan from Brooklyn, N.Y., said, "I'm here because I need to think about something else besides those buildings falling down. We all know someone who died last week. Even though I've looked forward to coming back to the track, I still have my priorities straight. The priority has to be to get those people who did this."

"They way things happened last week, there's no way they should have even thought about racing here until now," said Ralph Frankel, a dentist from nearby Floral Park, N.Y. "People shouldn't be thinking about sports and money and betting when so many people including firemen and policemen lost their lives just a few miles from here."

Neil Johnson, an electrician from Lynbrook, N.Y., agreed.

"They did the right thing by not running last week," Johnson said. "Even when they said they originally said they were going to run over the weekend, you just knew they couldn't."

Not everyone however, believed NYRA did the right thing by closing last weekend.

"You look around the country, and other tracks are running last Thursday and Friday. I feel terrible about everything, of course I do, but there's no reason we couldn't have run last weekend," said Tom Borkowski of Long Island.

One fan, who wanted only to be known as Bob S., also thought Belmont should have opened. "I come out here almost every weekend, and I wanted to come here last weekend most of all. There was no sports, and nowhere to go. All you could do is sit home watch TV and get more depressed," he said.