For many people across the country–and the world, for that matter–September 11 is a day of solemnity due to the end of a safety once known, remembrance of those lost, and gratitude for the individuals that risked their lives to help others.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the devastating Tuesday in 2001 on which four coordinated terrorist attacks took place, destroying the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City as well as hitting the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. The fourth hijacked flight, identified as United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in Pennsylvania, though it was intended to target a major landmark in Washington D.C. (for more information, education, and commemorations of the event, visit 911memorial.com).
Although not much can be done to resolve the events of that day, the Northwestern Wildcats are doing their part in paying tribute to the lives lost and changed on September 11, 2001 by honoring heroes this Saturday prior to their contest against the Indiana State Sycamores.
"It's a special week coming up here in Evanston, I think not only for us recognizing our heroes, but more importantly, throughout our country," Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "It's unbelievable, but the 20-year, tragic anniversary of 9/11, and playing on that day, we visited with our guys about that this week."
Fitzgerald recalls the exact moment of when he was informed of the attacks back in 2001, when he served as a defensive backs coach for the Wildcats under former head coach Randy Walker. You can watch Fitzgerald recall this moment in the video at the top of this page.
"It takes me back to that day, as an assistant, when we were back at the Nicolet Football Center," he said. "What I remember is being in a staff meeting, and our great assistant, Carolyn Fleming, interrupted our meeting, came in and said, 'There was an accident, a plane accidentally crashed into the Towers.' And so we adjourned that meeting, or Coach Walker did, and we all kind of went to our offices and it just didn't seem right. Something didn't just pass that test of common sense."
"And then obviously, everything unfolded live on TV; we had players' families that were in and around the Towers, I had teammates, I had a family member that worked right across the street," Fitzgerald continued.
In the past, Northwestern has commemorated the events of 9/11 on game days by sporting American flag helmet logos and painting patriotic logos on the field; however, for the twentieth anniversary, the university plans to more directly pay tribute to the first responders and other heroes that risked their lives trying to save others in the Towers.
"I want to lift up all the families that lost their lives that day, not only that were in the Towers, but also the first responders and all those that tried to save our great Americans that perished that day and get people out of the Tower," Fitzgerald said. "So, you know, it's a heavy-hearted week, I think, for our entire country, and one that I'll definitely visit with our guys about, but look forward to honoring our heroes as our guests on Saturday and several local ones during the game."
Although the impact of the 9/11 tragedy still lives on and affects many throughout the country–even on a daily basis–Fitzgerald stated in a press conference yesterday that the strength and courage shown by many citizens on that day will not be forgotten by the Wildcats.
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"You know, I think it's one of those days that I think everyone will always remember where they were, what they thought and who was impacted that touched their lives," Fitzgerald said. "And you know, think about how spoiled and privileged I am, I'm a football coach, just coaching ball and thinking about my family. This week makes you remember those that we lost and those that you know, when tragedy hit, they didn't run from it, they ran to it. That type of resolve and respond is what our country's been built on."
In the words of head coach Pat Fitzgerald: "Thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by 9/11, and I look forward to honor heroes this weekend."
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