The Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Ed McCaffrey had a season ending broken leg in the first game of the season against New York Giants. I remember it like it was yesterday…because it happened on September 10, 2001. I watched the game and was worried about what that injury meant for one of the greatest wideouts in the NFL. The next morning, when my radio alarm went on, I heard the KBCO morning show host Bret Saunders talking about New York hits and devastation. I thought I heard him say something about a New York player hitting Ed McCaffrey. As I continued to awake, my ears and mind weren’t connecting. “Wait…did he say players or…planes? Planes? No, the Broncos played the Giants not the Jets. Planes hitting what? Wait, that’s not Eddie Mac he’s talking about.” Of course, he was talking about the planes that had just been crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon. I turned on my TV and in seconds I saw the clip of the plane hit the 2nd tower.
“Where were you when you first learned about the devastation of 9/11?” That will be the question of my generation. The next question will be, “Did you know anyone who died?” Yes, yes I did. Sandra Teague. I share her memory with many friends from being counselors at a church camp in the mountains of North Carolina. As an adult, Sandra had become a well-respected Physical Therapist. On the morning of 9/11, Sandra boarded AA flight 77 for a dream trip to Australia but instead lost her life in the Pentagon. (Note: Sandra’s name is on this tribute float from a parade in 2002. It was in a parade in a Colorado, and the makers of the float had no idea who she was or that anyone she knew would even see the float.)
All of us have different takeaways and responses when tragedy happens. There is no wrong or right way to respond, for these responses are uniquely ours. The first time I boarded a plane after 9/11, I touched the outside of the plane in memory of Sandra and all of the others who boarded planes that day and never made it home. I’ve done so ever since. I paused a few extra moments as I boarded the plane on both of my cross-ocean dream trips. I have also become a passionate advocate for kindness. Sandra was one of the kindest and most authentic women I’ve known. She did not judge others. I seek to honor her memory through advocacy for kindness, diversity, and inclusivity.
On this 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001, I appreciated the tributes today by the NFL teams. The NFL and 9/11 will be forever linked for me.