Where were you 10 years ago today?
Any other day on the calendar, you might have trouble remembering, exactly. However, when you're talking about September 11th, you don't even have to identify the year in question. That's how powerful, how vivid, the memories of that day that changed our world still are for those of us who lived through it.
Today, the Patriots depart for Miami to face the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. But before then, as our nation pauses collectively to reflect, several members of New England's coaching staff share their thoughts on the events of that unforgettable Tuesday in 2001.
BILL O'BRIEN offensive coordinator
"We just hired [offensive assistant coach] George Godsey here at the Patriots, who I had the privilege of coaching at Georgia Tech. He was our quarterback that year, I was the offensive coordinator – Sept. 11, 2001. George O'Leary, our head football coach at Georgia Tech at the time is from New York and actually had a brother and brother-in-law who were firefighters that, thank God, survived, but were involved in the World Trade Center rescue and all the things that were going on that day. So, it was an unbelievable day.
"We were undefeated at the time and getting ready to play Florida State. We were game planning for that game and obviously that game was canceled. We had a bye the next week and we ended up not playing for three weeks and then we lost to Clemson in overtime and our season didn't go quite the way we thought it would go after the way we started out. It was a very tough time not only for the country but for all the people that we knew that were involved in that day.
"We had a number of kids on that team, although it was Georgia Tech in Atlanta, we had a northern flavor on that team because a lot of our coaching staff was from the northeast. So, we had some New York kids and some of them had relatives directly involved with that day, and, so, I think for them it was something that was good for those guys to get back to playing ball, which wasn't for a week or two later."
DANTE SCARNECCHIA assistant head coach/offensive line
"I remember that Tuesday morning sitting in our offices [in the old Foxborough Stadium] working on the game plan for the next game and all of sudden you start hearing things and turning on the TV and thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, this is unbelievable.' Then ultimately playing the game, the one thing that sticks out in my mind is [former Patriots guard] Joe Andruzzi and his family. He has two brothers in those buildings and his father that's a fireman as well. His incredible relief that his family was OK through all that. That's the one thing that was hugely emotional for all of us, especially prior to the game. I thought that was really incredibly emotional."
JOSH BOYERdefensive backs
"Yeah, I remember exactly where I was. I was coaching at the University of Dayton, a grad assistant. I had to go back to my apartment to get some books, after a morning workout, and just happened to turn the TV on. I remember just kind of being mesmerized. I was staring at the TV and I had somewhere to be, but at the same time, I just watched the TV for about an hour. My first thought was … the previous year, I coached at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I was responsible for recruiting New York City. Had a lot of the Catholic schools in the five boroughs there. My first thought and concern went to those guys that I knew out at Wilkes-Barre. I didn't know if anyone was in the Twin Towers or what the situation was, but that's where my first thoughts went.
"After that, we came back and cancelled practice for that day. We were supposed to play that week and ended up practicing the next day – Wednesday and Thursday – and were even getting ready on Friday to travel to Austin Peay in Tennessee. Once the NFL cancelled their games, college pretty much followed suit and our game was cancelled.
"I can just remember the week pretty vividly, and like anyone else who loves this country, it was a sad and tragic day. At the same time, it was really great to see all the patriotism that came out of the event."
SCOTT O'BRIEN special teams
"I was in Carolina and I was game planning and the news hits and everyone got to the televisions. I was game planning for our next opponent, which was actually New England. That was the game that was canceled and we had to make it up at the end of the year.
"It was hard. We didn't really even know what was going to happen. I think we practiced Wednesday and Thursday of that week until we found out we weren't going to play that weekend. It was hard like you can imagine for anybody. We weren't quite sure what was going to happen but it was a good thing that we delayed that weekend."
IVAN FEARS *running backs *
"I tell you what, you don't forget that day. You don't. I can tell you exactly where we were. We were sitting in different staff rooms [in the old stadium] … this was a Tuesday morning, we'd already been in there a couple of hours. We were game planning for Carolina. I was in with [other Patriots assistants] Charlie [Weis], Dante [Scarnecchia], Jeff Davidson. We were all in one spot. Brad Seely was in another spot. Somebody came down and told us, 'Hey, a plane hit one of the Trade Centers.' I said, 'You're [kidding].' They said, 'No.' I said, 'Wow, how'd they do that? How do you make that kind of mistake?'
"So, we walked into Brad's office. He had a TV in there. Threw on the news, and as we're standing there watching it, we see the next one hit. And it's like, 'Ho-ly !'
"Then you take a seat. Then we start thinking, 'Well, I bet you there won't be practice. I bet you we won't have a game this week. Boy, this is going to be different.' Then you start thinking about all the things that are going to come with this. And sure enough, we didn't play that week. We had a couple of players who were stuck, away from New England. Couldn't get back. Everybody was making plans to go to Carolina, and we ended up playing that game at the end of the year.
"My neighbor, Tracy, was supposed to be on the plane from Boston that morning, but she stayed because it was her birthday, and she took a flight out of Providence to the West Coast instead of going out of Boston. Her husband called me about midday and he was just all choked up, saying, 'Tracy was supposed to be on that plane.' That's how close it was for us.
"Oh yeah, there was a lot of emotion out there [the next weekend, against the Jets]. You remember Joe Andruzzi's brothers were involved [as New York firefighters]. I tell you what I remember the most, was when that National Anthem played. Of all the years of being a coach, I was ready to cry at the National Anthem. It's like you heard it for the first time all over again. That's what hits me the most about that next week. We were all affected by it … holding back tears."