As a senior walk-on who has stuck it out for five long years, Richey is one of the most respected members of the squad. And he is also active in the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. "We had a Bible study just last night," he related. "We were reading where it talks about the trials we go through in life making you more mature. But you just never expect stuff like this to happen.
"I've said several prayers today for the families and the victims."
Senior Victor Ellis' experience was similar. "I was outside just before class when a girl told me. They had a television on, so I went inside and saw the tape. I was just really shocked. They showed the plane going into the building, and I was just wondering what the people must have been thinking, knowing you're about to crash into the building. I caught chills, because I got scared for them."
Alabama went through its regular Tuesday drills, but it was a somber squad out there on the practice field. "It puts football into perspective," Ellis said. "Life is first. You put football on the back burner, and you pray for those families."
Richey agreed; "I'll be honest. For me it was difficult to concentrate. When I went out there today my mindset wasn't the same. Sometimes when you're out here the occasional plane will fly over. Just knowing that the entire nation has been grounded--airlines and everything. I saw shots of the Birmingham airport today, and it looked like a ghost town."
With a 15-year career in the Marine Corps behind him, including duty in Vietnam, Safeties Coach Ron Case understands the realities of war. But what he saw today on television was something else. "I did two tours in Southeast Asia, so I've seen enough (death) to last me a lifetime," Case explained. "It's a tragedy. These were innocent people. They didn't even know what was going on when it happened. They were innocent.
"The victims didn't have a clue what was happening to them. They didn't even have a clue. This was something that was out of the air. All of the sudden two planes hit two of the largest buildings in the world full of people. The terrorists are fanatical and don't really have any care for their lives or life in general. It's upsetting to me."
For sophomore Nautyn McKay-Loescher, the events of the day hit all too close to home. McKay-Loescher attended high school in Toronto, Canada, but his family is from New York. "My aunt and uncle actually live down in Manhattan," he related. "They live up in the northern part, so they weren't affected.
"My mom called and told me they were OK. I knew he didn't work at the World Trade Center, but I knew he worked near it. When I saw all the debris I worried it might have affected him. When the buildings came down is when I got worried, because those things destroyed whole blocks."
Like everyone else around the world, today's attack and the loss of thousands of lives occupied the players' thoughts. Related Richey; "We were asking why it was done? What was going through the minds of the person in control of the plane? You've just got to think this is a total tragedy. You feel for the people that were involved. At the same time I pray for the souls of the hijackers and where they're going."
Because of his military background, many players came to Case with their questions. But sometimes there are no answers to be given. "It's a shocker to them, too," he said. "There's nothing to say. This is just the reality of this day and time. It can happen in our country. It's happened all over the world. There's no telling how many people are dead. We had a little taste of it in Oklahoma, but this is the full brunt of it. It's sad."
Commissioner Roy Kramer of the SEC will host a conference call tomorrow with the various Athletics Directors to discuss whether or not to postpone next weekend's games. "That's a tough decision," Ellis said. "I really don't know what to say about that, because of what has happened. It's kind of early in the week. We'll have to see what happens as the week progresses. I really don't know."
If called upon to play, the athletes will obviously do their best to carry on as normal. But as young Americans their lives will never be the same. "It hasn't brought the country to its knees," Richey said. "It's awakened it. More so than any other event I can think of in the history of the country."
McKay-Loescher agreed; "It can't hurt America. It can't hurt the spirit that is this country. America will be OK."