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Remembering September 11

by Seth Greenberg (ESPN)

This feature was written when Seth Greenberg was the head coach at Virginia Tech.


It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since the attack on America. Still vivid are the images of the destruction and loss of life in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and New York City. I still find it difficult to fathom that nearly 3,000 people were lost that day. It was a day none of us will ever forget.

In 2001 I was coaching at the University of South Florida. Like many have described, it was a bright sunny day on September 11. I was in downtown Tampa getting my car washed when I first heard what had happened. Even now it seems more like an Orson Wells event that demanded our attention late into the night. By the following morning stunned, disbelief and sadness had given way to anger and frustration. How could this happen? How could so many be gone?

I cannot begin to understand the great sorrow and loss suffered by so many who lost loved ones that day. Their grief is unimaginable. I didn’t lose any family or friends on that day, but I knew people that worked in the World Trade Center. At the time I didn’t know that they were not in the towers that day. Like so many I spent the day with eyes fixed on the television and a phone in hand trying to contact loved ones. As a New Yorker it was and remains difficult not to take it very personally.

When you are born and raised in New York, you come to understand how unique the city is in so many respects. It’s the financial and media capital of the world. And its’ cultural diversity is matched only by its’ confident resolve. It’s that confidence, which often leads us to take things for granted. And as a New Yorker you take a lot of things for granted. That changed on September 11 with the realization that we were vulnerable. If it can happen in New York it can happen anywhere.

In the years that followed we have all spoken with others about our recollections of that day. Regardless of where you call home, the Patriotism of Americans has been evident. But there has always been a little extra vigor in the voices of those who call the Big Apple their home.

As a New Yorker I have found myself feeling guilty that I have taken it so personally. I didn’t mourn the loss of a loved one in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. I didn’t suffer the loss of family or friends American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. I didn’t know anyone on United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed in the South Tower. I didn’t have family or friends on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon. Nor did I know any of the brave souls that perished on United Airlines Flight 93.

Over the years I have taken my teams to New York to play basketball many times. On each occasion I have scheduled a trip to Ground Zero. Those trips are not without tears. I had been there so many times before when those building stood tall. The idea that they are gone is still difficult to process.

Whether you are from one of the Five Boroughs or a small town somewhere, the events of September 11 should never be forgotten. I think it’s important to remember what happened so it won’t happen again. We were vulnerable and we were attacked. And I take that personally.

 
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