- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

FOXBORO, Mass. The New York Jets' 10-3 victory over the host New England Patriots yesterday was much less important than the fact that the teams were back in action, playing at a packed stadium just 12 days after the deadly terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon that caused the postponement of last week's games.
"It has been an emotional week … trying to get ready to play and to keep your emotions under control," said Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde, a Long Island native. "A lot of the guys are emotionally drained right now. This ranks right up there with the best [of his teams' victories during his 15 seasons] because of the circumstances. The patriotism out there, the people waving their flags, made you feel proud to be an American."
Herman Edwards dedicated his first victory as coach of the Jets to the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who tried to save lives at the devastated World Trade Center. He plans to present the game ball to New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The lengthy pregame ceremonies in front of 59,007 flag-waving fans featured military personnel, firefighters and state troopers. They also included Patriots guard Joe Andruzzi's three brothers, New York firefighters who participated in the rescue efforts, and their father, Bill, a former New York policeman. The Jets coaches wore baseball caps from the fire or police departments. There were more than 3,000 no-shows, but the majority sentiment was that it was time for life to return to normal, exemplified by the pregame raising of the flags over Foxboro Stadium to full staff at President Bush's request.
Meanwhile, one of the most moving ceremonies was in Kansas City, largely because of the New York Giants, whose practice field is about 10 miles from where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood. Players could see the smoke from the attack site for days.
After the Giants beat the Chiefs 13-3, linebacker Mike Barrow spoke of visiting the families of firefighters who died in the attack.
"They would look you in the eye and tell you, 'My husband was a season-ticket holder,' " Barrow said. "If Notre Dame can win one for the Gipper, we can win one for our fans who were lost."
Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue were among league and team officials wearing navy blue New York fire and police department caps. The officials, newly returned after their salary dispute was settled last week, also wore the caps before the game.
Once the game started, Giants coaches wore the hats on the sideline.
Tagliabue, born in New Jersey and a New York resident, thanked fans for their support.
"I know I can speak for the firefighters, police and safety officials when I thank all of you today who are honoring them and most importantly who have supported them in such public and extraordinary ways in the last 10 days," he said.
Giants players received at least two loud ovations from Chiefs fans once as they headed back into the locker room after pregame stretching and again when they took the field just before the game.
"What we witnessed a couple of weeks ago was life or death," Testaverde said. "Football is about giving people enjoyment. People wanted us back on the field to have an opportunity to take their minds off what has taken place for a little while."
Desert Storm veteran and Patriots fans Walter Clark agreed.
"It was right that the games weren't played last Sunday," Clark said. "There should have been a week of mourning. Now everybody has to get back to their normal lives."
But not quite normal, even with the regular NFL officials back from their three-week salary dispute. Fans had to endure lengthy lines as they and their possessions were checked before entering the stadium. Foxboro is less than an hour from Boston's Logan Airport, the departure point for two of the four doomed airplanes Sept. 11.
The Jets and Patriots have had an often bitter AFC East rivalry, especially since coach Bill Parcells left New England for New York in 1997, but yesterday's mood wasn't antagonistic. The Jets' defensive starters were even high-fived by Patriots fans in the front row before the pregame introductions.
"No one has given me a hard time," said fan Gary Nicholson of Huntington, N.Y., who wore a No. 80 Jets jersey in Patriots country. "This tragedy has united this nation. People realize there's more to life than whether your team wins."
Woonsocket, R.I., stockbroker Paul Careau agreed: "I hate to say something good has come out of what happened, but it has brought Americans together. People are proud to be Americans. There are racial inequalities and a lot of people don't get along, but I haven't heard or seen any of that since the attacks."
That togetherness was demonstrated again when some of the home fans pointed out to security guards a New Englander who had thrown beer on a New Yorker after former Patriot Curtis Martin scored to put the Jets on top 10-3 with 2:29 left in the third quarter.
"The game is secondary today," said lifelong Patriots fan Craig Richard, who wore a No. 11 New England jersey along with red, white and blue boxer shorts. Richard flew in for the game from his temporary work assignment in Austin, Texas. "We're showing the people who did this that our lives are going on and we're still together. We're not going anywhere."
* The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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