By Will Vandervort
This day every year always brings back memories of what happened in New York City on September 11, 2001.
I’ll never forget that morning. It seemed like a normal day at first. The sun, like today, was shining brightly in the blue sky. There was a cool breeze in the air that was telling us all that fall was almost here.
Like any morning, I got up, let my dogs outside to play and then took a shower. I had breakfast and then got ready for work. Usually, I would watch the Today Show or SportsCenter while getting ready for work, but on this day, I chose not to watch television or listen to the radio.
So I shuffled off to the newspaper I was working at—The Newberry Observer. I had a big story to do that afternoon for my high school Game Day section that I produced every week. In my car, I’m sure like most of you do; I leave my radio on a sports radio channel. So when I turned on my car, I was surprised to hear the late Peter Jennings of ABC News on my radio.
At first I thought I must have accidently turned the channel the last time I got out of the car so I checked it and discovered it was indeed the right channel. So I wondered to myself, “Why is Peter Jennings on my sports channel?”
As I listened, Jennings started to explain how a freak accident occurred and that an airplane flying from Boston flew into one of the buildings at the World Trade Center. I was stunned. I thought to myself, “What a horrible accident.” I listened to Peter Jennings describe what happened as I drove to work. They were trying to figure out what caused the plane to run into the building when I drove into the parking lot.
I thought it was just a terrible accident and I prayed for the best for the people involved as I went into the newspaper preparing to get on with my life. Little did I know, what I thought was a terrible accident turned out to be one of the worse acts of terrorism in world history.
So I walked into the front door of the paper as I always did and spoke to the receptionist. Like always, Miss Sherry greeted me with a smile and asked me how I was doing. I obliged and told her I was doing fine, but I was a little somber after hearing about that horrible plane accident in New York. She agreed and I head to the back.
At that time, I heard someone in the conference room so I opened the door and saw Lisa, one of the news reporters, watching the television intently. I asked her if everything was okay, and before she could answer, she said, “OH MY GOD!” I ran over to the television and there it was, another plane flying into the other World Trade Center Tower. I could not believe what I saw. I knew this wasn’t an accident at all, but instead an attack on our country.
At that point, the government immediately shut down all air traffic and we soon discovered Washington, D.C. was under attack as a plane flew into the Pentagon. We later learned that a fourth plane crashed in an open field in Pennsylvania. It was headed to the White House, but the people on the plane bravely took over the plane from the terrorist and crashed it, killing all on board.
When it was all over, everyone across the world stood in shock. No one could believe what had just transpired in those few hours. The World has never been the same since. The War on Terror soon began and it still runs on today – now 12 years since those violent attacks.
In all, nearly 3,000 people died on that day. It’s the single worse day in American History.
Though I choose to honor those who sacrificed their own lives trying to save those people in the burning buildings – like all the first responders – and though I choose to remember the ones who unnecessarily lost their lives, the thing I remember the most about this day is how we as Americans did not let it control our lives.
Though it was hard, we all got back up and we went to work the next day. We went to the grocery store. We let our children head back to school. We got on an airplane, again. Sure it was scary, but we knew we had to do it. We could not let the terrorist win.
That’s what they wanted. They thought an attack like that would shut our country down. What they discovered is that it brought us together and made us stronger.
To honor those who had lost their lives, sports leagues and school athletic departments across the country all decided it was best they close down sporting events for a week to honor those that had lost their lives. At Clemson, it canceled its home game vs. Duke, which was scheduled for September 15, 2001, and moved it to December 1.
Until this year, that’s the last time Clemson did not play after the second game of the season.
Sports leagues and colleges opened back for business the next week and what a memorable week it was as everyone across the country honored those who lost their lives in what we all know as 9/11.
I was in Clemson for the Tigers first game back following 9/11. I was in Clemson Memorial Stadium on September 22, 2001 as the Tigers were hosting Virginia that afternoon. This was Clemson’s first game back since the attacks and as always, Clemson did it right. There were American Flags painted in both end zones that day and the school had a special ceremony to remember all the victims.
I can remember the emotions in the stands as people all around me where crying. I had never been to a football game before or have since where I saw people actually crying uncontrollably. It’s something I will never forget.
So on this day, just for a second, it doesn’t have to be too long, but please take the time to stop what you are doing and give a moment of silence for those who tragically lost their lives on 9/11. And let’s remember how that day brought our country together and made us one again. Let’s not forget that.
Let’s work together as one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Let’s do it for those nearly 3,000 people that died.
At least today, let’s remember how we all became one.