Twelve years after 9/11, America and sports are stronger

Sometimes work, sports and life in general keep us busy running around. Time never stands still for even just a moment.

It’s hard to believe it’s been a dozen years since that fateful day that changed all our lives, and made us all stop.

Like all Americans who experienced the shock, dismay, horror, and despair, I remember exactly where I was 12 years ago today (9-11-01).

At the time I was working as a sports editor for a newspaper in North Carolina. My co-workers and I woke up that morning getting ready for our normal routine. We had a feature about soccer, some tennis action, a recap and preview for football.

I had been driving to work when I heard, “We interrupt your local radio station to bring you this breaking news… A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center.” My first thought was like many others that a plane (American Airlines Flight 11) was off-course and they had a horrible accident.

That was at the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., and about the time I got out of the car to go in the office. Everyone inside was listening to the radio, as we heard the news that a second aircraft (United Airlines Flight 175) struck the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. At that moment, we knew something was not right, but we did not know the extent of what had happened.

Around 9:37 a.m. the news came across that the Pentagon was just struck with another airliner (American Airlines Flight 77). Then a fourth aircraft (United Airlines Flight 93) had gone down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. By now, we had borrowed a small television with an antenna so that we could see the news reports.

I remember that within one hour every high school and college in the area had contacted us to postpone all events, including all athletics for the day. Sports were the farthest thing from anyone’s mind. The news headlines changed completely for our news page and our sports page. More importantly, the actions of those hijackers changed the lives of everyone, including causing 2,996 deaths and more than 6,000 injuries.

All you first think of is to just ask why did this happen? There is no clear or possible way to answer this question. How do you explain what happened to your then four-year-old niece? What do you say when you have to go and interview high school athletes about their feelings about the event? What do you now write in your weekly column explaining the utter disbelief that you were feeling?

Athletes from age five to age 22 were asking when the games were going to be played because they wanted something else to be able to think about other than these horrific episodes. Sports would go on… We would continue to play those postponed games later that month, but for that moment in the sports world, time stood still, and the fields and courts were left empty.

My column that day I think was called ‘America will rise again,’ but maybe a more fitting title should have been ‘America always stands strong.’ Just because these men decided to make these crucial, indescribably terrible, heinous choices, they would not put us down.

They did destroy our buildings, but they could never destroy our spirits. They cost the lives of so many, but they can never take the red, white and blue out of our hearts. They may have challenged our freedoms, but they can never battle our liberty or justice for all.

Sports works to assist in healing the human spirit and we have even more to cheer for each day now. We can celebrate victories and cheer for all our favorite teams. Most importantly, we can celebrate the victory over the tyranny of injustice that tried to bring us down.

The day after on September 12, 2001, schools were back in session, some of the games were back on schedule and activities were back in place. Even though we were all both challenged and changed forever by those tragic, horrendous incidents, our human spirit grows stronger each day in America. We are still the “land of the free and home of the brave.”

Now on September 11, 2013, go and enjoy the freedoms that have been provided for us all. Cheer louder than ever before; wear your team jersey with pride, show good sportsmanship when you get to play. Always be thankful to our military, service people, and to those who provide support and protection for our liberty here in the United States.

This is our time America, our time. We can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch the red, white and blue, and not show just how much it means. We have greater talents, more means, capabilities, so much more technology, and a larger population than any other time in history.

Let’s remember to say thank you and welcome. Let’s help our friends and neighbors without being asked or expecting anything in return. Let’s stand for something and believe in what our forefathers put on paper 237 years ago. This is the United States – the greatest country on Earth.

God Bless America!

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