Lauren Hart has been singing the National Anthem and "God Bless America" prior to Flyers' games since 1997. She knew last night's performance would be different than, say, a December game against the Islanders. But even she was taken aback by the energy in the building.
"I can't even describe it," Hart said, her hands still trembling moments after she sang the final "home, sweet home."
"I thought I was pretty confident before I started and about two seconds before I walked out there, I said, 'Hey, I'm nervous.' There was so much emotion, so much adrenaline. I've never heard it like this before."
Hart wasn't the only one fighting the butterflies. Both goaltenders, the Flyers' Brian Boucher and Boston's Tim Thomas, are Americans and both gave up a pair of goals in the first period.
On the other hand, James van Riemsdyk, the second-year pro from Middletown, N.J., continued his fine postseason by scoring the Flyers' goals. His first score came 29 seconds into the game and nearly blew the lid off the place.
"It's a huge world event," van Riemsdyk said of bin Laden's demise. "There's been this manhunt for this guy. He's done a lot of terrible things and to see him finally brought to justice, it definitely makes you proud to be an American."
While these past few days have been about much more than pucks and sticks, a Flyers' win last night would have been nice. They failed to maintain the hot start generated by van Riemsdyk and lost 3-2.
During a stoppage of play midway through the first period, the arena's big screen showed a video montage of troops serving overseas: Soldiers held weapons in one hand and "Go Flyers" signs in the other. A pilot had a Flyers sign on the window of his jet. All the while, Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" played as the Wells Fargo crowd sang along.
Hart, who performed "God Bless America" in the Flyers' first game after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, said this performance was different from the one that day.
"2001 was so somber. It was such a sad occasion," she said, still fighting back emotion. "It was a unifying occasion, but it was nothing like the energy and the honor and pride that people were feeling tonight."