9/11 Remembered

It's too hard to write about football today. It's too hard to think of anything other than what happened a year ago. Like everyone else, I remember being glued to the television--it was the player's day off so I was at home--watching evil in action, thinking I might have just watched my best friend die in the towers and being unable to talk to a friend on the phone, who called to find out about my other friend.

Eventually I heard from my friend. He was OK, others weren't. I can't imagine their pain.

Other memories from that time:

--hearing Ross Tucker's tale about friends of his who worked in the towers and escaped.

--talking to Dave Szott, who watched the tower's burn from his New Jersey home.

--seeing a neighbor who is a flight attendant for American Airlines. Her best friend and best friend's husband were on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon. She couldn't talk, she didn't need to.

--talking to Keith Lyle, who expressed the most outward concern for those involved in the tragedy. Lyle said things those talking to him needed to hear--we all care deeply about what happened. So did Lyle. He was scared, just like we were. He was human.

--Marty Schottenheimer tearing up when talking about the tragedy on Sept. 12. He and his assistants spent more of the day watching TV than game planning.

--talking to a neighbor, a huge Redskins fan and policemen, who went to New York to clean out the debris. He'll never look at a football game the same way.

--thinking that the games should be cancelled. How could anyone care about football? The only happy moment of the week came when the NFL postponed the games. That Sunday, my family and some of our neighbors went apple picking to escape the constant grief. There, we hatched a plan for a fundraiser for the victims. That was more important than any football game I would have covered.

--seeing the flags at half-mast above the Redskin Park entrance.

--driving past the Pentagon and seeing the damage. I can't erase the vision. And I can't imagine those who watched people jump to their death in New York, which my best friend saw. Try wiping that out.

--wondering why Jeff George walked out the side entrance and wouldn't talk to the media, at a time when many needed comforting words. But George did visit burn victims from the Pentagon a couple days later. Can't imagine seeing much worse. His presence there was more important than any words he would have said to us.

--talking to Chris Samuels about his emotions visiting those in the burn unit. He didn't want to go--what would he say? And he was scared. But Samuels decided to go and was glad he did. His presence comforted those and served as a diversion to others.

--boarding a flight for the first time 10 days later, heading to the Monday night game at Green Bay. I checked out every person getting on board--just to make sure. But once the flight got in the air, it seemed normal to be flying. The sleepless nights before the flight now seemed unnecessary.

--the goosebumps from the pre-game in Green Bay when bag pipes played and God Bless America was sung by thousands and flags were being waved all over the stadium. Reporters are supposed to be quiet in the press box. I sang--being a reporter is down on the list of who I am first and foremost.

--driving home from Dulles Airport the day after the game and thanking God that I went to Green Bay.

--seeing the teenagers in our neighborhood and across the country shoot into action, raising money and showing everyone they're not a lost generation.

--all of the American flags on homes, cars and front lawns. Today, as I drove to Ashburn, I didn't see one house in my neighborhood without a flag.

--the first game back at FedEx Field. The highlight of the season came that day when the JumboTron camera showed some Arlington County policeman on the screen. The crowd slowly recognized what was being shown and, as the realization hit, the crowd stood. And stayed standing. The camera broke away for a couple seconds, realized its mistake and returned to the policemen. And the ovation lingered. I'll never forget that. I'll never forget this time.


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