With the exception of yesterday - the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania - you just don't see as many American flags on cars or on porches anymore. But other things are back to how they were before.
Baseball players, who helped get the country back on its feet after last year's attacks, managed to find unhappiness in their extraordinary salaries, and they squabbled with the owners about money. Again.
The Atlanta Braves clinched another division title. (That makes 11 in a row.)
Numerous SEC schools are under investigation by the NCAA.
And the Dallas Cowboys are still bad.
I wrote this one for September 12 because it will be easy to move on a day later and try to forget September 11 and get on with normalcy. But for some people, it's not as simple as trying to forget or trying to moving on. Some people will never move on.
Things will never again be normal for Fred and Betsy Cranford of Drexel, N.C. Their son, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Cranford, was killed when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon last September. Fred and Betsy lost their oldest son that day, Emily Cranford lost a husband, and Brad Cranford lost an older brother. The NC State community lost a friend.
Eric didn't grow up a State fan. In fact, he grew up pulling hard for the boys in powder blue from Chapel Hill. Eric was one of the biggest Dean Smith apologists on the planet in his early days.
Then something happened. It's become legendary among friends and family of Eric's that the moment he saw "Top Gun" he knew he wanted to be a pilot. Up until that point, so they say, he had never even been in a plane. But yet, he knew his life's calling.
When it came time to pick a college, Eric struggled with his decision between the Air Force Academy and NC State. He chose NCSU, where he studied economics and political science and was active in Navy ROTC.
Almost instantaneously Eric became a true State fan. He cried when Jimmy V was ousted, and he cheered when the Heels lost. Heck, he even bought a red sports car.
At Christmas time, Eric and his father would play a game. Fred would put his UNC tree ornament in the front, and Eric's State ornament would wind up in the back. Mysteriously, overnight, the two ornaments would switch places, and the red & white ornament became one of the first ones you could see.
Eric only loved a few things more than he loved NC State. He loved his wife, his parents and his brother. He loved God. He loved the Navy, and he loved flying. And of course, he loved America. Only love can get people to sacrifice themselves for others.
So when the "Star Spangled Banner" is played on Saturday at Carter-Finley, sing it a little louder this time, and smile. Because somewhere Eric Cranford is smiling, and for good reason:
His family is safe.
His nation is safe.
He's with God.
And his Wolfpack is undefeated.
(For information on the Eric Cranford Scholarship, please Click Here.)
ACC Football Standings - One Man's Opinion
- Florida State: How will a week off affect Bobby's boys?
- NC State: If Philip Rivers isn't invited to New York for the presentation (you know WHICH presentation), then something's very wrong.
- Georgia Tech: Chan Gailey seems to have everything in place so far in Atlanta.
- Maryland: The Terps may get Bruce Perry back, but how will he fit into the game plan?
- Virginia: Al Groh's youngsters seem to get better with every game. They could be scary by the end of the season.
- Clemson: The Tigers' 33-13 home win over Louisiana Tech wasn't convincing enough.
- North Carolina: It's always tough to win at the Carrier Dome, and the Heels looked pretty good doing it - even if the 'Cuse is down this year.
- Wake Forest: It's not so much that the Deacons dropped (they were No. 5 last week), it's more like other teams moved ahead of them.
- Duke: Still don't think the win over ECU was a fluke, but a win at Northwestern would be.
This Week's Predictions
Wake Forest at NC State: The Deacs haven't won in Raleigh since the Reagan administration, but a victory on Saturday's not out of the question. Jim Grobe has his team believing in itself, and Wake has a running game that could cause the Pack fits. But does Wake have the defensive horses to keep up with NCSU? Doesn't seem likely. NC State 35, Wake Forest 21
Georgia Tech at Clemson: This game is bigger for Clemson than it is Tech. A Tiger win, and Tommy Bowden & Co. can possibly challenge for the ACC title. A loss and the heat's back on T.B. Chan Gailey has the Jackets on track for a Friedgen-in-2001-like season. Georgia Tech 32, Clemson 27
Florida State at Maryland: If only the Terps could've gotten the Noles at home LAST season. Florida State 44, Maryland 14
Texas at North Carolina: The Longhorns will win, but the question is: will Mack run it up if given the opportunity? Don't think so, plus it will never get to that point. Texas 28, North Carolina 10
Duke at Northwestern: The Blue Devils came back down to earth last week against Louisville. Unfortunately for Carl Franks, the trip through reality continues. Northwestern 20, Duke 10
Matt Lail is the former Managing Editor of ACCToday.com. As a student at NC State, he was the Sports Editor of Technician. He has also worked for the News & Observer and as the Managing Editor of The Wolfpacker.