Tragedy on a Bright Sunny Day

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Twenty years ago was a bright, sunny day in Clarion, Pa.

The Moniteau and Keystone school communities came together to form “USA” on the field at Keystone prior to the Sept. 14, 2001, football game between the teams.

I was oblivious to the world going on around me that morning as I headed – after both planes had crashed into the World Trade Center – to Wal-Mart to pick up film (for those of you of a certain age, film is what we old-timers used to need to take pictures) that we were having developed for my job as the Assistant Sports Information Director at Clarion University.

It’s hard to believe knowing what I know now that no one in Wal-Mart that morning seemed to have a sense that anything in the world was different.

In fact, it wasn’t until I got to the office that day and was sitting at my desk that I knew our country was under attack.

I remember our secretary, Lola, calling out from the room across the hallway that the World Trade Center building had collapsed.

I literally believe that I said she was lying. Buildings didn’t collapse. And especially not superstructures like the World Trade Center. It was unheard of.

But it was real. And life changed in a blink of an eye.

My brother called me from I think college wondering if I had heard from our parents because he had heard that a plane had crashed near Pittsburgh and he couldn’t get a hold of them.

My mom, at the time, was working as an admissions person for Bradford Business College and traveled around Western Pennsylvania.

I tried calling the home phone and I think a cell phone – cell phones were fairly new then but I do believe my parents had one – and for a couple of hours got nothing. In the end, it turns out she had the day off and they weren’t anywhere near Shanksville but I remember that feeling of unease not knowing.

The rest of the day is sort of a blur. I remember going home and watching hour after hour after hour of news coverage. I remember my wife and I were babysitting a little baby named Forest (maybe it was spelled with two rs or two ts, at this point I don’t remember) and holding him – he wasn’t even a year old I believe – and wondering what kind of world he was going to grow up in.

Over the next few days, I remember the debate over sports being played whether at the high school, college, or pro level.

I remembering sitting in the office of my boss, Rich Herman, and crying. I didn’t know what or how to feel or what to think.

My roommate from college, Mark, called from I think the state of Indiana and said he was grounded there when all planes were grounded and was going to be driving back to Philadelphia and would be passing through Clarion and could he spend the night. Of course, he could. It was great to see him even if the circumstance stunk.

There was a football game at Keystone High School that Friday night – one of the few still played that night – and the bands from both teams and the teams themselves formed USA on the field. That is something I will never forget.

There were high school football games on Monday. There was no baseball for a while.

And then, slowly, we started coming back to normal or as normal as it could be.

All of a sudden I had to go through metal detectors to get into baseball games. And American flags popped up on uniforms everywhere. God Bless America became a thing in the Seventh Inning. And flying was never the same again.

I grew up hearing from my papap, my mom’s dad, about how people never forgot where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor. I grew up hearing my mom tell me she never forgot where she was when Kennedy was assassinated. And I can recall vividly where I was when I heard those towers fall.

Today marks 20 years since that horrible day. And It is hard not to get a little choked up writing about it. For those of you old enough to remember that day, you know what I am talking about. For those of you born after that day, I hope you never have to see anything like it in your life.