Dealing With Disaster

Auburn players and coaches watched history unfold as they tried to attend classes and prepare for a big SEC game.

Auburn, Ala.--James Callier has been on the phone all day trying to reach a friend in New York City. The Auburn senior doubts he will have much luck for a while.

Defensive coordinator John Lovett, who was born in Nyack, N.Y., and once coached for the New York Jets, got a call from his brother this morning who works in Manhattan who wanted to let Lovett know that he was fine.

Lovett's wife, Carol, called her husband to let them know about a close call one of the family's friends. A flight attendant, she was scheduled to be on one of the Tuesday morning flights from Boston that was reported to be one of the planes that was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center in what has been called a terrorist act of war against the United States

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville and his staff stopped their morning preparations for Saturday's LSU game to watch the horrifying live news reports from Washington, D.C., and New York City. After a prayer session with team chaplain Chette Williams, the coaches tried to concentrate on the task at hand Saturday night in Baton Rouge, but they admitted it was not easy. Between video sessions, they checked the TV reports for news updates.

"Obviously, this is a tough day for all Americans," Tuberville said at his weekly press conference at midday on Tuesday, which he considered cancelling because of "the tragedy in New York and Washington."

Tuberville said, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the people in those areas and the families involved because as we all know we have never seen anything like this happen in most of our lifetimes. Hopefully, this thing will end soon and get things going back to some type of normality in the next few days."

The SEC athletic directors had a conference call on Tuesday morning and made the decision that the weekend's games will be played, however, that is subject to change if the situation warrants.

Tuberville took the point of view that terrorism shouldn't be allowed to change the way Americans run their lives and cause teams to call off this weekend's football games. "As big a tragedy as this is, this country has always overcome its problems and never really looked back. I won't be the one to make that decision. There are a lot of people who will make that decision over me. Obviously, this game or any game across the country won't be as strong on people's minds if this didn't happen."

Auburn officials are checking into making arrangements to take a bus trip to Baton Rouge if they have to instead of their normal Delta Airlines charter. However, the plans are to fly to Baton Rouge on Friday. "The only thing we can do is sit back and pray this thing is over with and we can get on with our lives and the people involved with it can adjust to what has happened," Tuberville says.

Junior cornerback Roderick Hood predicts he will be ready to play Saturday, despite the tragedy. "What has happened is really sad, but life has to go on."

Another Tiger defender, DeMarco McNeil, was getting treatment at the football complex when he first heard the news. "It will be difficult to deal with this, but we will get through it," the sophomore says.

Callier says he plans to watch the news as much as possible when not in class or at football practice and try to contact his friend who works at a New York City area hospital. "My friend is a nurse who also helps out as a clerk in emergencies and because this is an emergency I know it is a longshot to reach her today. The phone lines were so jammed that I couldn't get through. Even the internet was so crammed I couldn't get through that way, either.

"It is hard trying to get ready for a game today when I don't know exactly what has happened," Callier adds. "Hopefully, I will get in touch with my friend later tonight. She is a wonderful person and I just met her in the last year."

Auburn and LSU both bring 2-0 records into Saturday night's 8 p.m. SEC showdown at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. "We will get a pretty good barometer of where we stand after this week," Tuberville says. "We are looking forward to the challenge. It will be a major one. Hopefully, we will play well." Auburn will be looking for its third straight victory over the Bayou Bengals.


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