It’s hard to grasp the idea that it’s been ten years. Those horrific images are still so clear. I was 3,000 miles away when it all happened, and still feel those moments in my gut.
For the millions of New Yorkers, DC-residents, Bostonians and more, it was of course right there in front of you. That dust cloud didn’t settle for days. The holes in the skyline of New York are still there, as are, of course, the holes in peoples’ lives.
The rugby community felt the attacks of September 11, 2001 extremely hard. Rugby players were working in the World Trade Center, they were serving as police officers and firefighters. They were flying in airplanes.
Many of these people became heroes. Some died. I am proud to have been a teammate, however briefly, of one of those who died being a hero. Many of us can say the same about those who perished.
I wonder still if I would have been as brave as those on Flight 93, or those who walked up the stairs at the World Trade Center to save others. I don’t know; I wasn’t there. All I know is many, including many rugby players, did step up for their fellow human beings, and did so with great bravery and selflessness.
Still more rugby players volunteered to go overseas to root out and defeat the attackers and those who supported them. Many more rugby players have died serving our country since. I don’t think I have played a rugby game or been to a rugby practice that didn’t include active military, recent veterans, or the children of some. I coached a girls high school team that at one point had a third of its players with parents deployed, killed in action, or waiting to be deployed. And that’s no rarity I am sure.
It's like that horrible day is always with us when we play this great game, because the ripples are still there.
So Sunday is 9-11-11, ten years after Muslim extremist terrorists crashed two commercial planes into the World Trade Center Towers, crashed another into the Pentagon, and tried to attack the White House with a fourth, an attack foiled by the heroic actions of the passengers, including Mark Bingham and my former University of Rochester teammate, Jeremy Glick.
Through the years we are brought back to that day. When NYAC won their first Super League title in 2005, wing Mike Lugano's thoughts were with his brother, Sean, dead four years earlier. When talented players graduate from college, often we don't see them anymore, because they are now on a ship, a desert road, or in an airplane, serving our country.
Bingham’s death sparked a movement, the growth of gay (and proud of it) rugby teams, and an international gay rugby championship – his death, while a tragedy, did a huge amount to help gay men be comfortable in mainstream rugby, and to help everyone realize a gay man can be tough, brave, patriotic and manly.
The ripples are still there.
We as a rugby community lost friends, teammates, former All Americans, and leaders, and then sent friends, teammates, All Americans and, above all, leaders, overseas to make sure it won’t happen again.
Time to remember; time to kiss your wife and your kids, your mom and your brother. Time to tell your teammates you are grateful for them. Time to thank those who have risked their lives for us. And time also to remember that in the months following 9-11, people thought of rugby players as heroes.
At least twice I heard of stories of a team traveling on a plane, and the flight attendants saying “ladies and gentlemen, we have on this plane 30 rugby players; there will be no need to worry about our safety today.”
Maybe hyperbole, but we've all seen the bravery of our teammates in action.
RUGBYMag.com’s list of rugby players who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Andrew Alameno - Mount St. Mary's RFC New York- World Trade Center
Mark Bingham - SF Fog RFC California - United Flight 93
Edward "Ted" Brennan 3rd - Holy Cross RFC New York – World Trade Center
Matt Burke - Xavier High School Rugby Club, New York - World Trade Center
Michael Cawley – SUNY Oswego – World Trade Center
Joe Dickey - Wisconsin Rugby Club, Wisconsin - World Trade Center.
Bill Erwin – SUNY Plattsburgh and Saranac Lake RFC – World Trade Center
Tom Foley - Old Blue RFC, New York - Firefighter FDNY - World Trade Center.
Linda George - Providence College Women's Rugby Club, Rhode Island - American Flight 11
Jeremy Glick - Former Capt. Univ. Of Rochester RFC, New York - United flight 93
James Greenleaf Jr. - Connecticut College RFC, Connecticut - World Trade Center.
Charlie Heeran - Xavier High School Rugby Club, New York - World Trade Center.
Tommy Knox - North Jersey RFC, New Jersey - World Trade Center
Ming -Hao Liu - Cheng-Kung Univ. RFC - Taiwan - World Trade Center.
Mark Ludvigsen - New York Athletic Club RFC, New York - World Trade Center
Sean Lugano - New York Athletic Club RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Joseph McDonald - SUNY Albany RFC and Monmouth RFC, New Jersey - World Trade Center.
Christopher Mello - Princeton Univ. RFC, New York - American Flight 11
Mike McCarthy - Lansdowne RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Terry McShane - Long Island RFC, New York - Firefighter FDNY - World Trade Center.
Rob Peraza - St. Bonaventure Univ. RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Tim Reilly - White Plains RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Nick Rowe - Manhattan RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Mike Stewart - Old Blue RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
Mike Taddonio - Siena College, New York - World Trade Center.
Patrick Waters - Brockport State Doggies RFC, New York - Captain, FDNY - World Trade center.
Brent Woodall - New York Athletic Club RFC, New York - World Trade Center.
- Alex Goff