Twenty years later, the NFL opened its 2021 regular-season recalling the tragedy and triumph of Sept. 11, 2001.
The tributes came from individuals, from teams, league-wide, and even joined in by media as all the pregame shows beamed across the country a national anthem from the National September 11 Memorial and Museum sung by Juliette Candela, whose father John Candela was killed on 9-11.
The anthem, taped in advance, filmed Candela next to her father’s name on the memorial, which is marked by a small American flag.
The anthem was preceded by a tribute to September 11 and September 12 as narrated by actor and former firefighter Steve Buscemi.
“Many believed America would never recover,” Buscemi said in his trademark voice through scenes of the gruesome attacks. “We know this would not be the case.
“This is the story of 9-12,” he added.
The video, beamed to all the stadiums waiting for the 1 p.m. kickoffs across the league, went on to make the point that after the attacks the country, divided before 9-11, came together.
And two weekends after the attacks sports returned to action giving us …
The opportunity to cheer again.
To laugh again.
To breathe again.
The opportunity to win.
“It’s 9-12 again,” Buscemi noted.
After the anthem played around the league, some fans added to the ceremony with impromptu “USA, USA” cheers of their own…
New York Jets offensive lineman Greg Van Roten showed up to the team’s game at Carolina wearing an FDNY cap in tribute of the 343 New York area firefighters who died at the World Trade Center on September 11.
All around the league, players and coaches wore NYPD, FDNY and New York Port Authority caps. Every helmet worn by player included a small patch depicting a red, white and blue pin with
“Never Forget” signage was everywhere throughout the league’s stadiums.
So out of that tragedy 20 years ago, the NFL was finding inspiration.
Earlier in the week Ron Rivera, the head coach of the Washington Football Team, along with team president Jason Wright, paid respects to the 184 people at who died when Muslim terrorists crashed a hijacked plane into the Pentagon on 9-11.
Rivera and Wright laid wreaths at the National 9-11 Pentagon memorial.
“You really do reflect,” Rivera said. “It was a powerful thing.”
Team captain and receiver Terry McLaurin was only 5 years old at the time.
“This is a very big moment for our country,” McLaurin said. “I think it’s very important that we remember the people who lost their lives, the families that are still affected to this day, and we have to continue to keep them in our hearts.
“I think we just keep loving each other and support each other. I think if we can get more of that in our country, I think we can make some steps forward to changes that we are all trying to see.”