SI Vault
 
Five Years After
Edited by Kostya Kennedy
September 11, 2006
Pro sports stood still, but many athletes were moved
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 11, 2006

Five Years After

Pro sports stood still, but many athletes were moved

View CoverRead All Articles

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the New York Giants returned from a game in Denver, landing at Newark airport not long before the departure of United Flight 93-the one that went down in Pennsylvania. "I remember being on the tarmac and looking at the plane next to us, which was [Flight 93]," says receiver Amani Toomer (right). "We went to play Kansas City the next week, and it was so emotional ... the last thing we wanted was to play football. I could see the Trade Center from my house, [and] it was smoking for months. I'd never watch the movies [about Sept. 11]. It's too soon."... Toomer's coach, Tom Coughlin, was then with Jacksonville, but his son Tim was in the South Tower when it was hit. "We started calling Tim as soon as I found out," Coughlin recalls. "Every 10 minutes for two hours. I was very anxious. It was 10:30 in the morning when he called back. I'm very aware of the miracles that have taken place in my life. [Tim's survival] is one of them."... Ravens tight end Daniel Wilcox, then a Jet, got close to the scene in New York. "I went to Ground Zero to pick up rocks and talk with families-anything I could do," he says. "The experience was breathtaking. It was out of a science-fiction movie. It made you sad, and it made you grateful to be alive."... The night of the attacks, Vikings tackle Jason Whittle, then with the Giants, went to see an acquaintance who had been injured near the buildings: "He was in a hospital near Ground Zero and had head trauma. I explained my situation to a policeman, who said, 'I'm not supposed to do this.' But he took me over. It was eerie. Like a ghost town."... Royals first baseman Mike Sweeney (right) recalls that one of the team's coaches, Keith Bodie, had a cousin, Nick, a firefighter, who was killed at the Trade Center. "We went to New York a few weeks later," says Sweeney. "We met little Nicky, named after his father. It was one of the most sobering, humbling moments of my life. Me, Joe Randa and Raul Iba�ez ended up going down to Ground Zero. There were letters written by children: 'Daddy when are you coming home?'"... "It was like any Tuesday," recalls Redskins long snapper Ethan Albright. "I went to drive my wife Kathy to where she was meeting other wives for a luncheon. But it was gridlock. We turned around, went home and found out what happened. The next few days at practice it was dead quiet. Since we're so close to Dulles Airport, there are always planes going over. Now there was beautiful blue sky but dead quiet."... Marlins first baseman Wes Helms was with the Braves then, and came to Shea Stadium to play the Mets in the first post-Sept. 11 game in New York. "It brought tears to my eyes, the feel of that stadium that night," he says. " Mike Piazza (right) hit a home run to win the game and even though we lost, the entire Braves team tipped their caps to the fans. That was one of the best moments of my career."... Seahawks fullback Mack Strong (below), who was living in Mercer Island, Wash., was jolted out of bed on his 30th birthday. "My mom called [and said], 'We're being attacked.' My wife had scheduled a party with guys from the team and the neighborhood. We still had people come over, but it wasn't so much to celebrate my birthday. It was to take time out, reflect and pray."... Texas Rangers shortstop Michael Young was with the team in a San Francisco hotel. Says Young, "I got a call from [then teammate] Carlos Pe�a. He said, 'Turn on the TV.' I'm like, 'Are you crazy? It's early.' He said, 'Just turn it on.' I did, and I just sat there. My wife was with me. We sat and didn't say a word, glued to the TV. Saw everything. Saw the second plane hit. Saw both towers go down. It's one of those things you're never going to forget where you were, who you were with."

1