Today is not a great day, and it doesn't have anything to do with soccer.
Sept. 11 will never again pass by as just another day on our calendars. Just six years ago, we suffered through the worst tragedy of this generation in a scene that hopefully will never again be repeated in this country or anywhere else in the world.
You may be spending today reflecting on 9/11 and you may run across some tales of true heroism. Well, this isn't one of them. But I will share with you how Sept. 11, 2001 went down for me.
I was actually out of the country for most of September 2001. I was in Trinidad & Tobago, covering my first major international soccer tournament and one of the few I've traveled to cover. Back then, I wrote for internetsoccer.com and was lucky enough to have received an invite to help cover the Under-17 World Championship. It actually had some really long name that we had to put into every story on first reference: FIFA Under-17 World Championship Trinidad & Tobago 2001 Presented by JVC. I believe that was the full name we had to write. See, we (and by we I mean the internetsoccer.com staff) covered the tournament for FIFA.com. I think it was the first tournament that FIFA provided its own content for.
I left on Sept. 2. I flew from San Diego to Dallas to Miami and then on to Port-of-Spain. The last leg was four hours but it seemed like it took twice that to get there. Trinidad, as you might imagine, was stunningly beautiful and very humid.
So I'd been in Trinidad for more than a week when it happened. The tournament hadn't yet started but we were cranking out multiple stories a day. I covered Group D, with Paraguay, Costa Rica, Iran and Mali. There haven't been too many players who have gone on to great things from that group but I interviewed players like Edgar Barreto of Paraguay, Christian Bolanos, Randall Azofeifa and Gabriel Badilla of Costa Rica and Hossein Kabei of Iran, all of whom participated in the 2006 World Cup. Actually, I don't remember interviewing Kabei; the Iranians were a little protective of their players.
Anyway, on Sept. 11, we were supposed to have a meeting to discuss coverage of the tournament. Aside from reporters, there were people there to handle TV, radio and other technical aspects. The night before, a bunch of guys had gone to a local bar (The Pelican I think) to watch the Giants-Broncos NFL game. I passed and did what I did every night there: drink beer. I didn't get plastered every night but we just kind of hung out and drank beer. So on the morning of 9/11, my roommate and I decided not to watch TV. We watched TV every morning and we just got bored of it. After a while, though, we flipped it on and saw what was happening. It didn't seem real. It was like, a plane flew into a building? Huh? But then slowly it dawned on us. A plane flew into a building, and then another one flew into another building? The twin towers? And the pentagon? What?
It was really happening. Of course, my first thought was with my family. Since my family all lived in Southern California at the time, I wasn't too concerned but still I had to call them. So I checked in with my wife and then my parents and everything was okay with them.
But it didn't really hit me until the buildings collapsed. We had gathered in the boss' suite to watch some of the coverage and then after a while we had to run through our meetings. Then, someone updated us about the events and told us the first building had come down. I'd never been to New York and never saw the twin towers but that still had an instant affect on me. It was just getting from bad to worse. So we just kind of wrapped up the meeting, went back to the boss' suite, got pizza and watched in horror.
As the days continued and the tournament got underway, we kind of took our minds off of it. But not a day went by that a Trini didn't offer condolences to me. They didn't know that I was SoCal born and bred and didn't have a personal connection to New York, but it didn't matter. I was an American and it happened in my country. Ultimately, I appreciated the Trinidadians' concern and sympathy.
I was a bit concerned about my flight back home. I wasn't slated to return until Sept. 22 so I figured some sort of order would return as far as air travel was concerned. When I had to leave - and I was disappointed because I'd had such a great time - I didn't have any problems with traveling or anything. It felt kind of strange to return here and see a ton of American flags. That's what struck me first, the number of flags waving because it really hadn't been like that before.
Anyway, just thought I'd share my own 9/11 story. I guess if nothing else it just shows to me how important soccer has been in my life. Even in moments as terrible as 9/11, I still had soccer to keep me going.