Coaches, Student-Athletes Reflect On The 10th Anniversary of 9/11
It has been 10 years since the attacks of September 11th and sports have played a unique role in the recovery process.
September 10, 2011
by Britton Drown
High above the warm brick sidewalks that neatly line the Football Training Facility, a flag sways freely in the early September breeze. Bright red and white stripes whip peacefully back and forth, undisturbed in the crisp fall sky.
With an unconditional welcome, countless visitors, athletes and students pass below. All the while it stands, a quiet but powerful symbol to those who visit this campus each fall weekend, that their beloved pastime will remain here--free.
Those underneath may stand loyal to different colors, attend separate universities and align with ideals uniquely their own, but underneath this flag they stand united in their passion and love for college athletics.
This, below the stars and below the stripes, is what fall afternoons in the land of the free were created for.
This flag's duty is solely to protect that, and this is truly what makes this country extraordinary.
Ten years ago, on a fall morning not unlike today, this pastime, and this country was threatened. A cowardly and evil attack on the soil that this flag flies high and strong to represent, attempted to steal all the precious ideals that those below were rightfully born with.
But still, it flies. And we, who pledge allegiance to this flag and this country, still attend these games each fall. It's an act of free will, of choice, and we stand together as citizens of the country that this flag so proudly represents.
At first, Alexiz Braziel struggled to understand why she was pulled out of her elementary classroom and rushed home by her father.
"It was so shocking," Braziel said. "Just no one really knew what was going on."
Braziel, a junior goalkeeper on the Texas Tech soccer team, made a trip to New York shortly after the attacks and will never forget the sight at the ground zero.
"It just goes to show you that you never know what is going to happen," Braziel said. "You are never promised anything."
On Sunday, the Texas Tech Soccer team will host Veterans, Active Military and First Responders Day at the J. Walker Soccer Complex when the Red Raiders host Toledo on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
The team will hold a moment of silence before the match and honorary first responders will handle first kick duties to begin the match.
El Paso, Texas
It was the stories that Alex Torres remembers from that Tuesday morning in September. The vivid pleas for help from halfway across the country.
Inside a classroom at Horado Middle School in El, Paso Texas, the stories tugged at Torres and his classmates in the mornings following one of the deadliest days in American history.
"There were just all kinds of sad stories that we had to hear about," Torres said. "You couldn't help but feel that you wanted to do something for them--just as a sense of patriotism."
It was one the first true opportunities he had to give back to something bigger than himself, and that sense of patriotism has stuck with him.
Torres, whose uncle served as a sergeant in the El Paso police department, chose in the spring of his senior year of high school to attend the Air Force Academy.
He remained there for one year where he went through basic training and the events of Sept. 11 stayed close with him.
"It was a huge eye-opener," Torres said. "[It] really made me truly understand and respect everything that this country stands for."
Now as a junior receiver on the Texas Tech football team, Torres continues to find ways to give back to his community and consistently attends charitable events around the city of Lubbock.
"I really appreciate that a lot of the coaches here set up events like that because during our busy schedule it's hard to go out and seek things like this," Torres said. "When the coaches or people in the program let us know about an event that we can go whether it be the Children's Hospital or some other charitable event, whatever it may be it's nice to have those options to come in here."
This was different. Karlyn Meyers had heard of the events taking place on the east coast, but still she rode her bike to school like she did everyday with the impression it would still be a normal day.
"When we were sent home from school that was the first big thing," Meyers said.
Meyers, a senior on the Texas Tech volleyball team, remembers returning home early that morning only to spend countless hours in front of television sets with her parents and brother trying to understand exactly what was happening on the east coast.
"My parents did a really good job really getting us involved and trying not to hide it from us," Meyers said. "They were really open about what was going on wanting us to know what was happening and why it was happening."
The attacks of Sept. 11 have since been associated with Meyer's volleyball career as the anniversary has many times fallen on days of matches. One match in particular sticks out to Meyers, as she and her teammates wore wristbands in remembrance of the victims who lost their lives.
"I think it's really special how sports use that day to support our troops." Meyers said. "I think they are some of the most underappreciated people in the whole world. What they do for us is way above anything I could ever do with my life."
Syracuse, New York
Eerie. It's the only word Tommy Tuberville could use to describe the scene outside his window high above New York. Sitting aboard one of the first chartered flights to enter New York airspace following the attacks of September 11, he attempted to focus on the football game ahead of him, but to ignore sights around him would be impossible.
Two F-16 fighter jets closely guarded each wing of the jumbo-jet as it approached Syracuse-Hancock International airport, only to be greeted by hundreds more fighter jets re-fueling on the tarmac below.
But it was something that had to be done. Stepping off the plane at an airport under heavy security marked the first step forward in the return of college football. Tuberville and his Auburn Tigers would soon kick off against Syracuse in the first college football game in the state of New York since America came under attack just 10 days before.
It was an uneasy trip for Tuberville, whose role as a coach never took on a more challenging task than during the past week, and the scene at the Carrier Dome was something he could not have anticipated.
Secret Service agents dressed in long trench coats lined each sideline gripping tightly to machine guns and pistols. They watched closely as each team met at midfield to shake hands, pause as a tense moment of silence was held, and eventually line up for kick off.
"It wasn't conducive to a football game," Tuberville said. "The security just made you feel uneasy. I will never forget the things that we did just to get prepared for that game."
Now, ten years later, the game still feels fresh to Tuberville, who is in his second season as head coach at Texas Tech. It may have been an unusual and uncomfortable atmosphere, but it symbolized progress for a country deeply in need of a symbolic step forward.
"It was a unique experience," Tuberville said. "But time heals all."
One decade later the flag still flies in Lubbock, and throughout the United States. Our tallest buildings may have fallen, our Pentagon may have been damaged and a field in Pennsylvania will never quite feel the same, but the foundation that makes this country truly unique can never be shaken.
The events of Sept. 11 touched every aspect of this nation, and still in each corner sports played a pivotal role in helping America return to a sense of normalcy and peace.
That feeling of unity and pride cannot, and will not ever be taken away.
Our flag still flies.