I’ve told this story before, many times, so bear with me. But as we reach another 9/11 anniversary, it’s hard not to revisit the emotions of that day in 2001. Never Forget is more than just a hashtag.
The towers crumbling, with the time zone difference, was happening just as I was waking up. By the time I got to the Cardinals’ Tempe facility — covering the team for the East Valley Tribune in those days — that Tuesday, football wasn’t exactly the top thing on everyone’s mind. The media workroom in those days had these giant, yellowish soft chairs in front of the TV, and that is where I sat once I got to work.
A Tuesday is the players’ day off, but as with most Tuesdays, a bunch were still milling around. So it wasn’t surprising when Pat Tillman came in the media room and sat in the soft chair next to me. We both just stared at the TV as the news coverage continued. The Cardinals were supposed to play their regular-season opener in Washington that coming Sunday (the team actually had a bye on the NFL’s opening weekend) but it was hard to believe in that moment there could be a game in Washington after the Pentagon was hit, or in New York.
I didn’t know what I was going to write that day, or even if I was going to write that day. Anything about sports seemed so incredibly meaningless, especially in those hours. But there was Tillman, on a day when players usually weren’t available, and as a reporter, that’s the job. So I took a moment, and if I remember right, I prefaced the question saying exactly what I was thinking, that I was sorry to be asking. But then I did what I needed to do, and asked Tillman about his thoughts about possibly having to play in Washington that weekend after the horrifying events of the morning.
“I wouldn’t be worried about our safety,” Tillman said. “My concern would be if it is appropriate. The importance of football ranks zero compared to what happened.
“When you compare it, we’re worthless. … We’re actors.”
That, and Tillman’s famous words on camera the next day, stick with me every year on this day. When you start seeing the memorials on TV when you wake up on Sept. 11, that’s what pops into my head. When I visited the 9/11 Museum with media relations manager Mike Helm during the Cards’ New York trip last season — an emotionally draining afternoon, but one I highly recommend — that day and those moments always flash once again.
My thoughts go out on this day to everyone who lost someone on 9/11. And for everyone affected by that day, which I’d guess pretty much means every single one of us.
Tags: 9/11, Pat Tillman
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