Back on 9/11

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2014 – 10:17 am

It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.

Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”

And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.

I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.

“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.

The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.

A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.

Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.


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Posted in Blog | 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “Back on 9/11”

  1. By Pete Dowdle on Sep 11, 2014 | Reply

    I remember that season, where the Card’s ended up going 7-9. They caught Washington much later in the season (they actually played their make-up game on their last game, in January), after Washington’s bad 0-5 start (Washington finished 2nd in the division, 8-8), and I thought that yet another unfortunate result of what happened on 9/11 (I really don’t compare a team’s season to the great loss experienced that day; I’m just noting an observation). Rarely do I see world events directly or indirectly impact the game, but 9/11 did in many obvious ways… and then in some not so obvious ways. It stands to reason that the Card’s could’ve/would’ve/should’ve finished in 2001 at least 8-8, possibly made the playoffs, and then changed its own history to one degree or another (ten years of postseason absence really took a toll on the franchise, from attracting significant FA’s to getting faster funding and support for the new stadium), had they caught a team like Washington when it was so seemingly hard for it to do any right or good early on.

  2. By John The Draft Guy on Sep 11, 2014 | Reply

    No one will ever forget where they were and what they were doing.
    Shocking, moving, eyes and ears glued on every report.

    Watched a show last night call 9/10. The Mayor race going on, there was bad rain storms, the Yanks were rained out. Just your normal stories. They had the lady who sold pizza to the terrorist at pizza hut. Just a normal day.

    God Bless those families and all who were touched by this horrific act. My prayers are with you.

  3. By Kaleb on Sep 11, 2014 | Reply

    Pat Tillman was an exceptional man. Like many others(Police, Fire dept, Military), he ran toward the chaos when everyone else steered away, and he did it without anyone expecting him to. You don’t see that type of courage in many Americans these days, of which many take for granted their comfortable lifestyles.

  4. By CreditCard on Sep 11, 2014 | Reply

    Pat Tillman is a great example of courage, and love for his country.

  5. By joe k on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    Hi, everybody. Long-time fan from east coast (39 years), first time writer.
    Just had a question pertaining to east coast games. Has the team ever considered moving practice times for the week prior to these games to 10 AM Arizona time (to ease the transition to playing earlier in the day on Sunday)?
    Enjoy the heck out of this site. Keep up the good work and Go Cards!!

  6. By Darren Urban on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    Joe K —

    RE: Practice early

    They did move up practice this week.

  7. By Cactus jeff on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    Thanks for the story Darren. I remember needing to do something, anything, so i went across the street to some neighbor I barely knew. He and his wife were putting in sod. Never a fun job. I just walked up with wet eyes and went to work. His wife started to cry and went inside. My neighbor and I didn’t say much. We just knocked out his backyard and I went home.

    It was terrible. Felt useless, but that seemed to be therapeutic. Thanks to the soldiers for protecting our families. We are good people and we are a good country!

  8. By br in nc on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    I will keep this short, nobody will ever forget where they were on 9/11. My TRAP team and I had just returned from a routine training flight, we all watched as the 2nd plane hit the tower, and we all knew right then it was no accident, we were under attack. We all ran to the flightline, at the time we were thinking that we would probably be taking off for NYC, at the time seamed like we were on the Tarmac turning the Helo’s for hours, but within an hour we found out the Pentagon had been hit as well, the Airfield was a 10 minute flight from the Pentagon, spent the next 3 days pulling survivors at first, then unfortunately spent almost 2 days searching for remains. 38 days later we were in Northern Afghanistan living in the back of our helicopters (and sometimes under them) supporting Marine & Navy “special operators” as well as a group of guys we fettered to as OGA (other government agencies! I didn’t ask, didn’t want to know, and they didn’t offer to tell us who they were!!) It was cold as hell, baby wipes only, no showers, no cooked meals, MRE’s only, very little sleep, and couldn’t have been happier, because we were already starting to get some payback!! Sending those cowards to hang out with Allah, and spending time with their 72 virgins in their so called Paradise!! I refuse to ramble on this post because the more I type the more pissed of I get!!!! Hopefully soon the world will be free of these moronic cowards! ( I know it is not likely, but I can hold out hope that my grandchildren wont have to deal with these idiots! (At least not on the scale that we have had to for the last 13 years!!

    I envy you, I never had the honor of knowing Pat Tillman, I know he must have been one hell of a good Guy even before 9/11. I can’t help but wonder when you were talking to him about the game that was postponed, if he had already made up his mind and had decided he was going to enlist in the Army, once his NFL contract was up. He is a true American hero, and role model

  9. By br in nc on Sep 12, 2014 | Reply

    Not to go off subject, and certainly not to promote another website, but has a front page story about Todd Gurley/Georgia RB – he is turning into a star and a finalist (if he can stay healthy) for the Heisman trophy. I bring him up not because I think the Cardinals should draft him (although that would be awesome!) he is a sure fire early first round pick, and I don’t feel like we need him or any RB in the first round. With Ellington at RB, (steal of the draft, IMHO) and the type of offense BA runs, I can’t see picking a RB in round #1, plus I hope we have the last pick in the 1rst round and he will be long gone by then! But the town he comes from (Tarboro NC) is out here in quiet laid back Eastern NC, it is a tiny town compared to most, but here in Eastern NC it is a midsize town, the city I live in plays this kids HS every year and like us they were at one time (when Gurley was carrying the rock) 3peat NC State Champions. My HS is going for 4 in a row this year. There were 3 RB’s across the state that were all anyone talked about for a few years. 2 were Juniors and one was a Freshman. (The Freshman at the time was our RB!!)
    All the talk was about
    #1 ranked – Keith Marshal, from one of the big HS in Raleigh-Durham area, he eventually commuted to UGA as well, and as Freshmen him and Gurley made a lot of Headlines
    #2 ranked was Gurley (take a minute to read the ESPN story
    #3 ranked was the Freshman at the time, he went to the HS here where I live, my youngest son knows him well, he was only a Freshman and ranked #3 RB in the state. Had his choice of offers from a who’s who of major colleges, ended up picking Tennessee and is a Freshman this year.
    Probably a bore to most posters on here, but if you could just cruise around this area, you would never think this desolate area dotted with tobacco farms and numerous major college athletes, as well as NFL players as well. Just not much to brag about out in these parts folks, so when I saw the front page story, I just had to puff my chest out a Tad! LOL!

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