February 2, 2014 Brien Straw

Most Inspirational Moment Of Super Bowl XLVIII







FEBRUARY 2, 2014

Okay, so the title’s a little deceptive. This “inspirational moment” didn’t happen at MetLife stadium, site of the game between Denver and Seattle. It was neither an electrifying run by Percy Harvin, a touchdown pass by Russell Wilson, nor any of the many bone-crushing hits handed out by the Seahawks defense.

For me it actually happened on Saturday as my wife and I visited the 9/11 memorial. The hour-and-a-half tour tugged at my heart and brought back the memories of a day that rivals few in my life have.

Yes, there’s our actual wedding day, and the birth of our two wonderful girls - and being the first to hold my oldest daughter is a moment that will always rank atop the list of best things to happen in my life. But beyond personal events, nothing holds a more significant and lasting memory than the morning of September 11, 2001.

Perhaps for those to young to remember, the day holds importance, but I would be hard-pressed to believe it could hold the same significance.

I lived in Atlanta at the time, and was awaiting the “bug-man” for our home’s annual termite inspection. I’m not a morning TV watcher - as if I was a typical New Yorker in a rush to do everything, my morning routine is as brief and structured as possible. Why waste time watching the tube when that time can be more effectively used getting an extra moment or two of sleep?

So as I waited for the inspector to arrive, impatiently because he was running late and now affecting my start to the day, the doorbell finally rang, and with a look of a man already deeply affected, his initial comment was to apologize for his delay in getting to my house but adding, “I’m sure you can understand.” I responded, “No I don’t,” while thinking to myself, dude I don’t want to hear excuses, get this inspection over so I can get my butt to work.

Rather than explain, he urged me to, “turn on the TV.” As I followed his instruction, my first view was the North Tower of the World Trade Center ablaze 90 stories up.  Almost before I could conceptualize what I was watching, a second plane plowed into the South tower.

I couldn’t actually believe what I was seeing. So shocking and almost impossible to mentally process, I felt as if perhaps I was watching the trailer to the latest Hollywood action thriller. Unfortunately, this was not the work of special effects, it was real. My day, and more significantly, my life was forever changing before my eyes.

Seemingly about a half-hour later a third plane hit the Pentagon, and what seemed about a half-hour after that, United flight 93 crash landed in a Pennsylvania field.

Suddenly the entire country was in full-on panic mode not sure what would happen next. As if in a hypnotic trance, I was glued to the television for the remainder of the day. The how’s and why’s of what was happening filled my mind as I watched the horror unfold in lower Manhattan.

As the finest and bravest of New York’s fire, police and rescue crews risked life in a manner that seemed without reasonable thought rushing into the towers, were images of people jumping 90 floors to their death rather than burn alive. How desperate and hopeless could a person be to choose a thousand-plus foot jump to certain death as the best viable option?

Then the  South  Tower collapsed as if it were the final move in some sick, distorted game of Jenga.  Not long after, the North Tower collapsed one story crushing down atop the floor beneath. In seconds, two of the three tallest buildings in the Western hemisphere were a pile of rubble that seemed 20 stories high. I think it was midnight when my wife ordered me to turn off the television, and allowed my mind and soul a respite from that day’s events.

Paying visit to the site on Saturday, I lost track of the number of times holding my emotions in tact seemed impossible. Pictures of victims filled the walls of the make-shift museum (a permanent and much larger museum is soon to open). A portion of the window from one of the planes was on display, crumpled and bent as if it were a discarded scrap of paper. Huge yet mangled structural support beams from one of the towers were bent and twisted as if they were made of aluminum foil.

As the tour - led by a survivor of that fateful day - brought us to the huge infinity reflecting pools that now replace the towers, names of victims are cut from the bronze ledge that surround the pools, symbolizing the utter vanishing of those lost on 9/11. (I believe I was informed that less than 30 people were ultimately able to be identified from the small fragments of their bodies that were uncovered in the rubble.)

A dozen years have now passed from the day that has forever changed our way of life. No Super Bowl moment could possibly match the indelible  images from that day. No line awaiting a security check point can be so annoying if it means we will never have to relive a day like September 11, 2001.

With Mother Nature’s assistance, New York City - all apologies to New Jersey where the game was actually played - comes off as the perfect host for the biggest game of our football crazed society. Yet no matter how many “big” moments happened in Sunday’s game, no image of my wonderful visit to New York can compare to Saturday’s emotional visit to the 9/11 site.