Today is the 10-year anniversary of one of America's darkest days in history ... an anniversary we will never forget. Multiple attacks on September 11, 2001, left us stunned, horrified and confused. As grueling as the experience was for almost all Americans, somehow it produced the exact opposite of what terrorists wanted. Instead of bringing down America, it bonded us together and helped us recover from grief, restore our strength and appreciate something we will never take for granted again ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Sports, of course, is one of those pursuits that Americans seem to embrace most because athletics is all about the power of the human spirit and how it can persevere and press on against all odds.
Lincoln's Memorial Stadium showcased that great intersection between sports and life Saturday night. As I sat with my brother-in-law in the East Stadium to watch a halftime tribute to nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11, I was never prouder of Nebraska's loyal fans. Instead of grumbling about a 17-14 deficit to an underdog Fresno State team, fans remained in their seats and gave heart-felt, stadium-wide support for the re-enactment of a 9/11 tribute from 2001.
I was equally proud, of course, of a football team that showed great resolve and even greater resilience in the second half. If you watch this Huskers.com video feature, you will understand the roots of that character. The video follows NU All-America defensive tackle candidate Jared Crick and offensive line anchor Mike Caputo from their teammates' practice-week American flag discussions with Navy Seal Jack Riggins to the game itself. At the end, you will see a sizable group of Huskers kneeling on one knee when the battle's over.
Recommended Reading Enables Context
Today is not only time for reflection on 9/11, but also time to reframe that infamous day and put into perspective something that should be forever etched into our nation's collective mind and conscience. Words cannot make that happen, but they can enable the process. That's why I offer up a five-article list designed to broaden perspective. Whether you read one or all five, you can't help but have a better framework to appreciate and honor this special day. Our recommendations are:
Having read countless newspaper, magazine and online articles and having watched numerous TV specials on 9/11, I can honestly say that each was compelling and each delivered an inspired message, some in heart-wrenching ways. The five recommendations above are substantive and likely to hit home with Husker fans.
Reilly's Gripping Account from United Flight 93
Reilly's column captures the extraordinary courage that resides in ordinary citizens ... the kind that starts with Todd Beamer's cry of "Let's roll!" to the legacy that he and other brave passengers on United Flight 93 left behind: "Let's keep rolling!"
Lopresti's column chronicles a simple decision Notre Dame women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw made one day that kept her from boarding a fatal flight. The column makes you think about your own "twists of fate" and how they relate to everyday decisions in a fast-moving world.
Merrill's column honors the spirit of Julie Geis, one of our own. She was a Husker softball player, and a scholarship remains endowed in her honor.
Kelly's column dwells on the resilience we introduced earlier and includes a twist of fate for Dave Rimington, the only Husker "legend" officially recognized by the Big Ten Conference ... a legend that was not in his New York office that day. The Husker Academic All-American and Outland Trophy winner would have been in the World Trade Center's North Tower on 9/11, but his prep alma mater, had invited him to speak at its Hall-of-Fame banquet, and legends don't turn down alma maters.
Paul Critchlow, an Omaha Benson High School graduate, former Husker football player and Vietnam veteran, was in his 31st-floor office at Merrill Lynch when the first plane hit the adjacent World Trade Center. A senior vice president at Merrill, Critchlow helped evacuate 9,000 employees and then ran northward, just ahead of the debris cloud. "He smelled sulfur," Kelly wrote, "and feared, as if back in Vietnam, that people would be strafed from the air."
Athletes on One Knee, a Flag on an Empty Seat
Obviously, there have been so many stories written and so many videos produced on 9/11 that it would take weeks, if not months, to read and watch. That's why we end with a special Sports Illustrated Photo Gallery and add another, USA Today Photos in the Aftermath of 9/11, for good measure. We've always thought photos are worth a thousand words, and they certainly can provide a truer context for how we viewed September 11, 2001, then and how we still view that day now: Very simply, as "the week that sports stood still" and never shall we forget.
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