- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

The normal, lighthearted banter that accompanies the first day of training camp was absent.
"I keep asking myself, 'How could this happen in the most secure country in the world?' " one Washington Capitals player said to no one in particular as a dozen men watched yesterday's shocking events unfold at 10 a.m., when the particulars weren't even known.
"It's like you're watching a movie, but all of a sudden it's real," another said.
"It sure puts what we do for a living in perspective," came a hushed voice from the rear.
Early in the day, Andrei Nikolishin was aware of the developments in New York City but was unaware of what was happening near Washington, events that transpired as he drove from medical tests in Annapolis to more tests in Odenton.
"Are you telling me this is happening here?" the native of Russia asked in amazement, collapsing in a chair in the players' lounge. There was only silence from the others as they watched the Pentagon burn on TV.
"These things, you're always told these things can't happen in the United States, and they have," coach Ron Wilson said. "We're right in the middle of it… . I personally believe in the United States and [believe] we're going to get to the bottom of this. And hopefully we can get to the bottom of this in a hurry."
The scene at a somber Piney Orchard Ice Arena, where the Caps opened training camp in Odenton, Md., was played out at arenas, courses and practice facilities across the nation yesterday.
Several University of Maryland football players and a coach had family working at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, but all were contacted and believed to be safe.
Wide receiver Aaron Smith's father, Army Col. Arnold Smith, was in the Pentagon when the plane crashed.
"The first thing I did was try to call my mom," said Smith, a freshman. "I finally got a hold of her, and she said she hadn't heard anything. I sat for about three hours and got a call from Dad. He said he was all right… . That's my father. I love him to death. It would have been a huge blow to me if he had been gone."
The brothers of Terps center Melvin Fowler and offensive line coach Tom Brattan were in the World Trade Center when it was hit, but both called to say they were fine. Cornerbacks Curome Cox and Sal Aragona had relatives working in the trade center, but they also were unhurt. Guard Reggie Kemp's father Reginald works in the Pentagon. Kemp practiced yesterday but could not be reached afterward.
Nationally, the Chicago White Sox got a first-hand look at the carnage. They were in New York to play the first of three games against the Yankees yesterday. Chicago bullpen coach Art Kusnyer witnessed one of the World Trade Center towers crumble as he peered down Fifth Avenue.
"All of a sudden, the whole tower just collapsed," Kusnyer said. "All those poor people. It was hard to watch."
"It was like a horror movie," said former Baltimore Oriole Harold Baines, now on the White Sox. "I came downstairs and people were running. I walked to Lexington Avenue, and I could see the smoke. It was unbelievable."
Said Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig: "The [San Francisco] earthquake in '89, the World Series, that was a tragedy. But this is incomprehensible. The greatest country in the history in the world being attacked. So all of this doesn't mean very much today."
PGA players were set to play the American Express Championship in St. Louis yesterday when they received news of the attacks.
"This is a sad, sad day in America," Tiger Woods said.
"We're all in shock," said Adam Scott of Australia. "Golf is the last priority."
The PGA Tour announced that the World Golf Championship event, featuring the top 50 players in the world rankings and the top money leaders from six tours around the globe, will begin Friday with 36 holes, followed by 18 holes Saturday and Sunday. Reconsidering even continuing with the tournament could be in order, however.
Commissioners from all Division I-A conferences discussed their options for staging this weekend's football games in a conference call hours after the attacks.
Said NCAA president Cedric Dempsey: "The games themselves are insignificant in the face of what has happened today."
Players and officials in other sports had to come to grips with how insignificant their games became in the aftermath of the tragedy.
"We can't worry about our game, our business," Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said. "What were we all doing here? The people who were here, waiting for a meeting to take place. How silly."
* Staff writers Jon Siegel and Duff Durkin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide