Published September 11, 2012 - 11:30am
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I was a wide-eyed high school freshman when my sense of security changed forever.
Eleven years ago today, four coordinated terrorist plots — the most lethal attacks ever on American soil — claimed 2,977 lives in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.
From my desk in homeroom, I was glued to the horror unfolding by the second and wondering if Fort Bragg, the nation’s largest U.S. Army installation just a few miles from our home, was next to be hit.
It all happened so painfully quick, but questions lingered.
I’ll never forget that Tuesday morning and the brave citizens whose lives were lost that day. The imprint college football had on my psyche two weeks later is something that has stayed with me to this day. Williams-Brice Stadium delivered a three-hour outlet to cover-up the madness and shield away questions I had as a 14-year-old kid.
With reservations, my Dad and I traveled to South Carolina’s home game against Alabama, understanding the crowd security warnings against large stadiums, theme parks and highly-populated cities in the wake of the attacks. Our nation’s terrorism alert was on red, the highest its ever been, but the Gamecocks and Crimson Tide provided a channel to displace my fears.
Fans wore ribbons, our country’s colors and greeted one another in a way I had never witnessed.
South Carolina’s thrilling come-from-behind 37-36 victory was one to remember, but the pre-game flyover that filled me with patriotism is what made it so grand. There we were, seated amongst 84,000 fans, blanketed by our motto and the men that protect it.
Al-Qaeda’s maniacal scheme will forever alter our nation’s history, but it’s our ability to bounce back from tragedy and horrific ordeals that makes us great. Americans are resilient and we’ll prove that until the end of time.
United we stand and united we fall, college football can bring us together and it did that for me on Sept. 28, 2001.