Monday, September 11, 2006
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Terror struck the Steelers deeply five years ago today, just as it did most Americans, and it changed the way they think, act and contemplate their future.
The Steelers have achieved uncommon success in the five years since terrorists rammed two commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and one far short of its intended target when a passenger uprising caused it to crash into a field in Somerset County. They've won a Super Bowl, and competed in three AFC championship games.
Coincidentally, the Steelers arrived on a chartered jet from Jacksonville the day before the terrorists attacked, having lost the opening game of the 2001 season to the Jaguars. They will prepare this week to fly to Jacksonville for their second game of the season a week from tonight.
Fullback Dan Kreider was in the training room receiving treatment for a calf injury when the news thundered through the team's UPMC training complex that Tuesday morning, an off day for the players. His thoughts were similar to many players who wandered in and out of the trainer's room that day.
"This is bigger than football," Kreider remembers thinking. "This is your country and people are dying."
Many Steelers weren't here yet, still playing in college, such as linebacker Larry Foote, a senior at Michigan then who remains affected by the events of 9/11 five years later.
Foote worries about the future.
"You know these days are coming to an end, I believe, just watching the news and what's going on. Stuff is just crazy. It's going to be a nasty place at any minute. With all these bombs and poverty going on, people are desperate and they're going to do crazy things."
At the University of Florida, Max Starks remembers precisely where he was when his mother called him with the news.
"I was in my dorm room, Hall 95, room 208. It was a Tuesday. I had a late class so I was sleeping in. About 10 o'clock, I got a phone call from my mom: Wake up, wake up, wake up. A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center."
Starks, drafted by the Steelers in 2004 and their starting right tackle, turned on his television.
"It was an eerie feeling. I thought of my freshman roommate, Carlos Perez, who was from Hoboken, N.J. His brother worked in the World Trade Center. The first thing I did was call Carlos. I said 'Carlos, is your brother OK?' He said 'I can't get through, the phones are jammed.' He was really worried.
"Then, I went to class and nobody could focus on class or anything, so the teachers let us out. We went down to the team meeting room and coach [Steve] Spurrier was talking to us about how we have to practice, just in case they still want us to play the game, but 'I don't think the game will be played just for security reasons.' But we need to go about our day, we can't let this mess us up.
"Right before practice, I got a call from Carlos. His brother was late that day for work and missed it by 15 minutes. That was a blessing. It hit that close to home."