This past Sunday was the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on our country. It was also the opening Sunday for the 2011 NFL football season. Therefore, late Saturday afternoon, Sean and I arrived in Baltimore to prepare for the Baltimore Ravens’ opening home game against our rival team the Pittsburgh Steelers. We had a lovely dinner with Michael Saturday night. We talked football, family and fall events. After dinner, Michael went off to team meetings, and we took a leisurely stroll around the beautiful Baltimore harbor. Nervously, we laid all our game day gear out in preparation for the next day and tucked ourselves into beds. We were worse than children on Christmas Eve. We couldn’t sleep and kept saying, “Are you still awake?”
Finally, the alarm went off on Sunday morning and like firemen jumping into their clothes for a five alarm fire, we were up and out. Sean likes to watch Michael warm up so we were in the stadium early. As we went through the turn-style, we were handed a small American flag. I knew it was the anniversary of September 11th, but we hadn’t had our TV on all morning in our haste to get game ready.
As the fans poured into the stadium, they were ALL handed the same small flags, but each one really disregarded it; the flags were stuck in back pockets, put in hats, headbands, ponytail holders and any other spot where one’s hands became free of them. There was energy in the air. The Steelers were in town! Pre-game tailgating and trash talking was going on, and fans were filing into the stadium. Then an interesting series of events began to transpire. No, I did not hurt someone for talking badly about the offensive line; however, it did cross my mind. “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood began to play on the PA system and one by one individuals started to rise out of their seats to pay respect as each branch of the military was represented and proudly brought in our flag to prepare for the National Anthem.
Actor Robert De Niro spoke on the jumbotron, about the heroes of 9/11, and how we were going to honor them. He asked for a moment of silence. You could have heard a pin drop in a sold out stadium, the same stadium that in just a few short moments was hosting this rivalry game. If all that was not enough to take your breath away, suddenly “Taps” was being beautifully played with strength and dignity.
As I was taking all this in, I realized I had tears streaming down my face and so did most people around me. Last, but definitely not least, a giant American Flag was spread across the entire field held by veterans, current military and both football teams, including my son, as our National Anthem was being sung and Air Force jets buzzed the stadium. As the song ended and the roar of the jets had passed, instead of hearing the expected cheering from fans for their team, you faintly heard USA, USA. It got louder and louder and everyone searched for their little flags and proudly began waving them in the air.
The entire stadium was standing cheering for our country; we cheered USA, USA to ease the pain for what we lost, for where we are going, and for a future that includes life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For a rare moment it did not matter if you were a Ravens fan or a Steelers fan. We were one entity, The United States of America. There was going to be a winner and a looser in just a matter of time on that field and there would be happy fans and very unhappy fans, but for a brief perfect moment in time, we united and all barriers were broken, and we were one!
Photo credit by JB Osborne
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