Unity We Felt After 9-11 Can Return And NFL Is Example Of How That Can Happen

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NEW YORK — After completing his assigned block of 9-11 victim names during Monday’s remembrance ceremony in lower Manhattan, one of those chosen for the reading quoted Romans 12:21 from the Bible and spoke of America in terms right out of a MAGA rally.

“Do not be conquered by evil,” the reader quoted Scripture, “but conquer evil with good.”

Then he said, “May God bless the greatest country on Earth, the United States of America.”

And standing a few feet away in a group of Democrat politicians that dominate this blue state and sanctuary city, vice president Kamala Harris applauded acknowledgement to the word of God and pride in country.

Who knew Kamala Harris was about America First?

9-11 families read names of the fallen in annual ceremony.
9-11 victims families read out the names of the lost in a ceremony held every year, including Sept. 11, 2023. (Photo by Armando Salguero)

Honor The Victims, Heroes Of 9-11

Today is September 11, 2023.

Twenty-two years ago we were all changed forever as Islamic terrorists deliberately and wickedly piloted two commercial jets — American Airlines 11 and United Airlines 175 — into lower Manhattan’s iconic Twin Towers.

Another plane, American 77, slammed into the Pentagon. And yet another plane, United 93, crashed into an open field near Shanksville, PA., following a passenger revolt against hijackers who had taken the flight.

The events of that day that led to scores of deaths — believed to be 2,977 victims and 19 hijackers — have not been forgotten.

No one has forgotten.

9-11 Memorial Museum reminds us that we shall not forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
The lobby to the 9-11 Memorial Museum near Ground Zero (Photo by Armando Salguero)

Sept. 11 Lives In Our Memories

But something beyond the lives and dreams that were taken that fateful day has definitely been lost.

We’ve lost the unity and agreement we experienced throughout the country in the days and months following the attacks.

You must recall America was a divided country before 9-11. The echoes of one political party accusing another of stealing an election could still be heard that September morning. Liberals and conservatives were at odds in the halls of government and in neighborhoods throughout the country.

But 9-11 changed that. At least temporarily.

After the attacks we closed ranks. We stopped scoffing at New York’s many failings and all of us became New Yorkers. We stopped giving each other the side eye and turned an unblinking glare on a common and newly identified enemy.

Most of us put aside our many, many differences in the name of a common good. And a common cause.

Amid terrible destruction meant to tear us down, we built consensus and unity and even agreement.

9-11 families remember the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
Flowers laid at the 9-11 victims memorial on anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 (Photo Armando Salguero)

Unity Birthed On 9-11 Has Faded

That solidarity is faded now. We’re more divided than ever, torn asunder along lines of race, culture, ethnicity, economic standing, gender, even gender choices, if you can believe that.

The people who woke up that morning 22 years ago might be shocked at the depth of our profound disagreements.

So why do I write about this? What does a sportswriter, after all, know about America’s societal fissures?

I know they are not irremediable. The country is not irreparable. I know our problems are not irreversible.

And I know this because I cover the NFL. I see how men and women of different colors, religions, backgrounds, political leanings and intelligence levels regularly work for teams and put aside their differences.

They find agreement in forming a kinship, a community, and their team.

Tonight, the New York Jets will play the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, mere miles from Ground Zero, and I know we’ll see unity from each team. The Jets and Bills, like most other NFL teams, have spent weeks trying to bond for their common good.

Not every team succeeds at this exercise to the same degree. But every team knows this must happen to merely hope to succeed.

We should learn this for the sake of our country.

I know Monday night we’ll also see unity between the teams.

Bills coach Sean McDermott is a Christian. He doesn’t often speak of it but he’s devout.

Jets coach Robert Saleh is Muslim. His family immigrated from Lebanon decades ago and he is the NFL’s first Muslim coach.

And I know that tonight both will be meet on that field at MetLife, representing different teams and wanting different outcomes. And they will show respect for one another.

I know they’ll be representing different colors — the Jets in green, the Bills in blue — but both will be wearing gear commemorating the heroes of 9-11.

Think about that.

Jets coach Robert Saleh and Bills coach Sean McDermott will share a moment Monday night.
Aug 26, 2023; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) and head coach Robert Saleh leave the field after the first half of their game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Jets And Bills Come Together On 9-11

Two rivals with different agendas finding agreement.

Football is a great unifier. It’s probably one of the few things remaining that we as a country find consensus about.

Even those who don’t love the game acknowledge it is wholly American. It’s belongs to us. Every metric shows it is resoundingly popular here.

And why not? What other exercise can bring 90,000, sometimes 100,000 people all wearing the same colors together in one venue and it not be an army mustering before a historic battle?

What other endeavor forces so many people in a locker room’s confined space to put aside their personal aspirations for the greater ambitions of the team?

You might believe this a too-sentimental view of a cold, hard billion-dollar business. But in the face of so much division, the memory of September 11 makes room for sentimentality.

And it makes room for the possibility this divided country can find some agreement again.

Follow on X: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

One Comment

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  1. As Kenny Chesney likes to say, “music and sports bring people together.” The NFL lost that for several years with their social justice parades and as a result they lost a lot of fans. At concerts and sporting events, people don’t want politics, they want to go and have a good time, the NFL needs to get back to that and cut out the political BS.

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