Attack Hits Close To Home For Some Packers Player

Like the rest of the nation, Green Bay Packers players and coaches were as shaken as much as the rest of the nation by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C.

Marco Rivera grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his parents live in Staten Island. His brother-in-law, Patrick Manhon, is a crane operator for a demolition company that is helping to clean up what is left of the World Trade Center and buildings around it, and aid firefighters in their rescue efforts.

"He says it's like a scene out of a 'Terminator' movie. He says that it's just two humongous mountains of rubble," Rivera said.

"He said there could be somebody five feet away from you and you wouldn't know it until you get there. For the guys who are out there working, it's pretty serious out there."

Rivera had planned to get tickets for 21 people for last Sunday's scheduled game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium. But the game as well as all other games in the NFL were called off because of the attack.

Rivera said his parents' house has a view of the Manhattan skyline. He said his mother watched as both stories crumbled to the ground after they were struck by commercial jets.

"She really took it hard. She's taking it hard right now," Rivera said. "We're trying to move on, but it's kind of a sick feeling."

Tuesdays are typically a day off for players. Many players said they were woken up by friends or family who called with the news of the attack.

"I was just in disbelief," said defensive end Vonnie Holliday. "I just couldn't imagine waking up to hear and see something like that going on. You hear about this all the time in other countries, but not here. I guess we take it for granted, but it happened on American soil."

Said kicker Ryan Longwell, "It puts sports in perspective. I think it changes your perspective and fans' perspective on sports for the whole year. Does that mean that at the end of this season there won't be any cheering and booing? I don't think so."

Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman gave his players Sept. 15 and 16 off but advised them to remain in Green Bay. Players often travel all over the nation to see friends and family when they get a day or two off, but it would have been difficult to travel, anyway, last weekend.

Sherman, like many, felt that when the attack first occurred that playing the scheduled games last Sunday would help Americans begin the healing process. But after a day or so, he changed his mind and agreed with commissioner Tagliabue's decision to cancel the games.

He said that he planned to spend time with his family over the weekend, and expected to return to planning for the upcoming game against Washington Sunday night.

"As I told the team, (Minnesota tackle) Korey Stringer passes away, we all feel bad, we all feel touched ... life goes on and you forget," Sherman said. "This incident as well, we're all touched by it, and life does go on.

"But something has to change within yourself. You can't let thousands of people pass without changing something in yourself.

"Whether you fix a relationship that maybe is sour within your life or you call your parents and tell them you love them or you pull you kids together, whatever the case may be, something has to change. These many people cannot go away without something happening in your life, being touched by it."

Linebacker Chris Gizzi is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and currently a reservist. He is one of a handful of reservists in the National Football League. But Gizzi will not likely be called into action because he does not specialize in certain tasks, like a pilot, so he is near the bottom of the list of people to be called up, according to a report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

"I talked with a bunch of friends (Friday) that are fighter pilots and said, 'God, I wish I could be up there with you guys,'" Gizzi told the Press-Gazette. "They said, 'We want you here too, but you can do more service for us with what you're doing now. We look to you every Sunday and it brings us together with good times and sort of reminds us what we're fighting for."

Offensive lineman Mike Wahle attended the Naval Academy, but he is not a reservist because he resigned from the academy, upon orders by the NCAA, before his senior year. Rivera said he would love the chance to pitch in with the cleanup efforts in New York.

"When you look at that, you're like, 'I feel helpless sitting in my house in Green Bay knowing that if I was there I would definitely volunteer," Rivera said. "Something, whatever they need me to do I would just love to be there and try to help."

So, many players stuck around last weekend with friends and family, and like many, counted their blessings.

"Just spend time with my family, appreciate the things that we have and kind of take stock of your life," Longwell said. "Make sure that you know where you're going if that would happen to you and make sure the legacy you leave is one that you want to leave."


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