Good morning everyone, I hope your victory Sunday is treating you as well as mine is. There are a few things worth talking about today so I'll get right to it.
It has been 10 years now since we were all witness to the most vicious attack ever perpetrated against the American people on their native soil. It is also the day after a Cougar victory that was carried out in a manner beyond all reasonable expectation. I have written before about why football, especially in a down time like this, matters. As we remember 9/11 today it is clear that while football matters, then and now, there are other things more important which also bear recognition.
Before getting into my quick thoughts on the game yesterday and the season so far I would like to recognize the WSU Coaching Staff for carrying out one of the classiest moves I have ever seen. If you haven't heard yet, when the team came out yesterday Chas Sampson, the Cougar lineman that served 4 1/2 years in the Army, was the Cougar to lead the team onto the field carrying the American Flag yesterday. It was simple, there wasn't a lot of fanfare about it, and it exemplified the best of the low key, but respectful, recognition of our service men and women and their sacrifice that allows us to enjoy freedom, family, football, and life in a nation that is safe.
After leading our team onto the field we actually got to see Sampson in action a bit as the Cougs absolutely dominated two of the three phases of the game. By now I'm sure you've seen the highlights and read every article so I'm not going to recap it all here. What I will say is that as an unabashed optimist this game absolutely surprised me in every way possible. After witnessing what the Cougars brought to bear against UNLV with the first "real" game-week to prepare I'm beginning to think that my initial predictions regarding this team might be more possible than I'd ever dared imagine. Mr. Rancourt and I have gone a few rounds on how far this team can go this season on Twitter. While I'm still waiting to see what happens when the competition level really improves I'm also more confident in this team and coaching staff than I was. We might just have something special on our hands here folks, a legit team that can compete with anyone in the Pac-12.
After the jump I have shared my reflections on September 11, 2001 and where I was and what it meant to me, as well as my appreciation for everyone that has sacrificed for our nation since.
As I sit here thinking about the Cougs the NFL is getting ready to show the National Anthem at the Rams and Eagles game. There have been a number of poignant videos, speeches, and writings released in the last few hours across every platform possible. Instead of trying to impress upon you the importance of the heroism of those that lost their lives that day, or give you a commentary on what has followed I feel the need to simply share where I was and what happened that day in my world. I encourage you all to do the same, here and elsewhere because as our history lives on in our memory it is our stories that define the full impact of the events we have witnessed.
When the first plane hit the towers I was asleep. I awoke in the interim between the first and second impacts. As I usually did, I turned on the TV to MTV since in the early AM they actually bothered to play music. I can't remember exactly how it happened, but after getting myself some breakfast I hit the remote or something and dropped from channel 37 to 36. In the time it took the screen to flash from MTV to C-Span I went from ignorance of what was going on to seeing the second plane flying into the second tower. I didn't finish my breakfast. I stared, and stared, and stared some more. It was and will forever remain the most shocking thing I have seen in my life. However, I still had to get to school. We were only a few weeks into my sophomore year of high school and there was no announcement of a cancellation or anything.
At school the full force of what had transpired began to become apparent to me. For those of you who don't know, my hometown, Oak Harbor, is a military town. It exists almost exclusively because of the presence and support of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Nearly everyone in my school was a military brat, myself included, and those few that weren't were either from founding families of the island or were there because of military contracting work on the base. Everyone at school had questions, chief among them being "Is there going to be a war?" "Are our parents going to have to fight?" and amongst the seniors that shared a class or two with me "Will there be a draft if there is a war?"
For me there was only one question. "What about my Dad, will he be recalled?" Twelve days beforehand we had celebrated his retirement after 22 1/2 years in the Navy. We did a full ceremony in the ball room of the CPO Club on base, I had even participated in it in my NJROTC uniform. In both my father's and my minds our time jumping through hoops for Uncle Sam's Canoe Club (my Dad's favorite nickname for the Navy) was done. However, he had his ceremony while he was on leave, not on his actual retirement date. When the towers fell he was still an active duty member of the US Navy who just happened to be on leave until his retirement date a few weeks later. It was a terrifying thought. As everyone around me, rightfully so, asked questions about their family's, a possible war, and what would happen to our country I simply wondered silently if I was about to have to endure another deployment or more with my Dad gone.
Until he remarried a few years ago, it was me and my Dad, and that was it. We were the family, we were all we had. We had endured a lot of nasty ugly things and had come out on the back end of it. His retirement was symbolic of the end of not just his career but the end of some damned hard years. We had made it and in a few minutes thanks to a few misguided people it looked like that was going to come crashing down around us both.
Thankfully, mercifully, it didn't. As the days, then weeks, then months passed it became more clear that my Dad would not be recalled into active duty, that he wouldn't be off half way around the world, and that I wouldn't have to go live with my aunt until he returned. Every day for at least 6 months I thanked God it didn't happen. In the wake of the tragedy of 9/11 it felt selfish, it felt bad, but it didn't matter. I wouldn't apologize then and I still don't think I would now, but I can certainly appreciate now what it meant for those whose fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters did go and did sacrifice in the immediate months following 9/11 as well as the ten years since. Today as I watch football now as a 25 year old man looking back on that 15 year old kid I will remember that I got lucky. Not everyone did.
It is with that in mind that I thank each and every one of you, who has served, sacrificed, and endured for us so that I could not have my world turned completely upside down. God Bless America and You for what you have given. I will never forget.