Choudhry's Chronicles

By: Saleem Choudhry

Saleem Choudhry - Researcher
Saleem spends his days gathering, interpreting, and disseminating information about the game of pro football. He now shares in his blog some of the more unique stories and facts that he has uncovered while working with the Hall’s vast collection of more than 18 million pages of documents.

Reflection on 9/11


Sep 07, 2011
The opening weekend of the 2011 NFL season will mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In honor of that moment, the NFL, its players and fans will take time to remember the courage and resilience that followed the events of that tragic day with special tributes in all its games on Sunday, September 11.

Ten years does not seem like a long time ago, but it is incredible when looking back at how much our country has changed since that dreadful day. It really goes without saying that our entire way of living was altered with that horrendous event. Instantly gone were the seemingly carefree days we enjoyed in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ten years ago I was excited and looking forward to a new NFL season. Kickoff Weekend 2001 had just concluded and the big thought in my mind on the Tuesday after was how the Denver Broncos were going to rebound after losing wide receiver Ed McCaffrey. The Pro Bowl receiver had just suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 31-20 Monday night victory against the New York Giants.

That day, instead of reporting to my office at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I assisted in the Hall's efforts at our annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Charity Golf Classic at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Glenmoor County Club in Canton. The event, which is an important fundraiser for the Hall of Fame, is always a nice break from our everyday routine and a great opportunity to interact with our Hall of Fame members. Each year about 25 of the game's greatest come back to Canton to play in the event and support the Hall.

Group photo before the start of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Golf Classic on Sept. 11, 2001
 
The Hall of Fame staff performs a variety of duties to help pull off the function each year and one of my early duties that day was to stand guard at hole number seven, which is an intimidating 185-yard par 3 over water. My job was to watch the hole from 9 to 11:00 AM to serve witness in case one of the players hit a hole-in-one. If someone was lucky enough to pull off that type of shot they would win a free car. I guess my role was to guard against any chicanery.

Just as the event was about to start, which was around 8:55 AM, an attendant at one of the vendor stations located around the course told me that a small plane had crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. My initial thought was that the plane must have lost control and steered into the building. That was all I heard for the next two hours. None of the players I chatted with as they were playing through made any mention of the incident.

At 11:00 AM I headed back to the clubhouse. While on my way I crossed paths with John Muhlbach who at the time was the Chairman of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Trustees. I casually asked him if he had heard about that "small plane" that hit the World Trade Center. He proceeded to throw me into a state of shock when he detailed what had occurred. Two separate commercial jets had flown into each tower at the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. Both towers had collapsed and the entire country was in a state of emergency.


I didn't believe him. I couldn't. How could all of that have occurred in the short time I was sitting near a putting green on a golf course? It wasn't until I went inside the clubhouse and saw on television all of lower Manhattan immersed in smoke that the painful reality of what he just told me was confirmed. The rest of the day seems like a blur as I and most of the staff stared in horror at the nonstop coverage on TV.

It took great amount of time for the county to get back on its feet again. I think that the healing process was aided immensely by the sport of professional football. It is one of the few things that can bind all walks of life. No matter what a person's age, gender, race or income is, all can easily unite over their love and passion for football. This unique thread helped seamlessly stitch a weary nation back to great standing.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has several items in the collection that were worn by players and officials in that first game after 9/11. They have been proudly exhibited in the Hall's traveling display Pro Football and the American Spirit for close to 10 years.