Local athletes recall ‘The Day Sports Stood Still’ 15 years later

col-joelbeachumIt is still hard to believe 15 years has passed. It was September 11, 2001, on the fateful day when we were all changed by a moment in time that no American will ever forget.

Maybe you are headed to work, like I was that morning, to put together a newspaper and the sports section. My column changed that day almost instantly. My headlines were originally talking about the football games. They now read “The Day Sports Stood Still” because there were no sports that day. There were no sports the next day in the local area, and very few across the country.

I remember having to talk to several students and coaches that day to ask them about how they felt. I was in amazement by the fact that many of them, while brought to tears, could share their heart-felt concerns. My questions were not revolving around the player of the game or a big victory or a tough loss on the field. Instead they were about their thoughts and opinion on the events that happened in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania earlier that day.

For those too young to remember the horrific events, at 8:46 a.m. the news came across that American Airlines Flight 11 just hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Within less than a half an hour, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Then American Airlines. Flight 77 struck the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., and United Airlines Flight 93 came down in Somerset, Pennsylvania at 10:07 a.m. By the end of the day, a total 2,996 people died, and over 6,000 more were injured. The total costs reached $3 trillion.

What had just happened? Our schools just completely stopped, all about workplaces had all of our attention on the news, and rescue workers raced to the scenes. We later found out that the planes were hijacked and this was a horrific plot to attack our country. How can this happen? Where do we go from here? Would our country fight back? Is our freedom in jeopardy from this fateful day. We knew that this would change our life forever. We knew that we would never be the same.

Jana Houghton, tennis coach at Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach, recalled on the shocking events and sadness of that day.

“9/11 was a day that evil came to our shores. I was in disbelief that something so horrible could happen here. I had just returned from dropping my oldest daughter at preschool and was looking for something for my youngest daughter to watch on TV.  I saw a burning building and changed the channel. The same building was on the next channel and the next before I realized what I was looking at. I sat on the floor in shock,” Hougton said. “A gentleman from NYC was painting our house and I had him come in and watch. He was so distraught that he had to stop working that day.”

Hougton, like many others, were left with many questions and very little answers. What was next for our country? What was next for you to do that day? How do we explain this to our children or families.

“As the morning went on and the questions of more planes being used as weapons went on and planes were being grounded for safety I was stuck how quiet Myrtle Beach became. I was again shocked when the towers fell. I was sure the people would be saved and the firefighters would prevail but that day was the end of American innocence it showed how vulnerable we truly are,” Hougton added.

Josh Norman, former Coastal Carolina star and current Washington Redskins cornerback, was in middle school at the time.

“It was a terrible event and time for the country as a whole and the people that lost there lives. They are forever in our memories, and to their families, I give my condolences,” Norman said.

Vonta Leach, who played at East Carolina and went on to play fullback with both the Houston Texans and the SuperBowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, said he recalls that day when he was playing college football.

“I was on the yard at ECU waiting to go to class and one plane hit, than the second one,” Leach said shocked. “It’s a day I will never forget where a lot of innocent people lost their lives. That day our country changed forever.”

Ryan Klesko, former Atlanta Braves great and World Series Champion, recounted the day when he was in California playing for the San Diego Padres at that time.

“9-11 is a day of remembering all our falling heroes and innocent victims. It sticks out in my mind as a time of how strong our nation is as we pulled together in support of this terrible day in history,” Klesko said. “God bless our soldiers who fight the fight for our freedom everyday.”

Fifteen years later, there is a National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York remembering those that were lost. Our country did fight back. Our country did retain its freedoms – liberty and justice for all.

We remember those heroes from the New York Police and Fire Departments and all the innocent victims. We remember the rescue workers in Washington and Pennsylvania, and we remember the troops that have fought valiantly to preserve our rights as Americans.

Although sports stood still with the rest of the country that day, high schools, colleges and professional teams look to honor those fallen, and those still fighting today – 15 years later. We are America; we will never give up the fight. We all just have to do our part and give back. Sports are just another way that we can participate and celebrate our nation.

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