Sept. 12, 2011
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Steve Sarkisian was preparing to go to work just after dawn in Los Angeles on an early-season Tuesday 10 years ago.
The new, 27-year-old offensive assistant at USC didn't want to be late for new boss Pete Carroll, not in his second week of his first season on staff.
But then he - along with the entire world - became transfixed, frozen by the unfathomable images of Sept. 11, 2001, being broadcast on television.
Sarkisian's chills were personal.
He watched from across the country footage of a highjacked passenger jet slamming into the top of the World Trade Center's north tower. Sarkisian knew his cousin, Danny Trant, was in that north tower working as a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. Sarkisian knew the nation's leading bond brokerage firm occupied floors 101 through 105 at the top that building, above where terrorists had crashed the plane. Watching images of intense fire andblack smoke engulf the melting tower just below the top floors, he knew his cousin had no avenue of escape.
At 7:28 a.m. Pacific time, when Sarkisian normally would have been beginning game and practice preparation for the Trojans, he watched in horror on television as the north tower peeled down onto itself from the top and disintegrated into Manhattan's ground.
Sarkisian didn't have to wait for phone calls. No need for official notification. He knew then, standing across the continent in California, that his cousin Danny, a 40-year-old husband and father and an NBA draft pick in 1984, was one of the 2,751 people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.
"Oh, it was that morning. I knew that morning," Sarkisian said Thursday.
Less than 48 hours later, his Washington Huskies commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by wearing special white helmets with the iconic, block W filled with stars and stripes in their home game against Hawaii.
"My cousin was in the World Trade Center. Worked for Cantor Fitzgerald. Died in the event. So it's got a very personal meaning to me," Sarkisian said.
"But on a grander, broader scale, it should have a personal meaning to everybody. It is obviously a big event in our country's history."
That belief is the basis for Washington's Patriotic Day tribute throughout Husky Stadium.
Special pregame ceremonies included: a military-themed band performance; ticket discounts offered to local military; police and fire personnel; a UW ROTC color guard; on-field recognition of the commanding officers for UW Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units plus representatives of the university's police department and the Seattle Fire Department; a moment of silence for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th; and aC-17 flyover by the 446th Airlift Squadron from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
After Washington warmed up wearing their usual goldhelmets a half hour or so before the season's second game, the sun-splashed crowd at Husky Stadium got a surprise. Defensive tackle Sione Potoa'e, whose father serves in the U.S. Army, led the Huskies out of their locker-room tunnel just before kickoff in their new white helmets. Potoa'e was carrying an American flag that matched the special logos on helmets' sides.
Sarkisian, who spent the fall of 1992 on USC's baseball team, got the idea of his Huskies wearing the helmets to commemorate 9-11 from seeing the Seattle Mariners wear special white, patriotic team caps with flags inside their block S logo for a Major League Baseball game over Memorial Day weekend.
The Huskies' tribute helmet had their usual, purple-and-gold striping bisecting it across the top. It also had the usual, purple facemask plus a United States flag decal on the back right and a Pac-12 conference logo on the back left.
The team wore its traditional purple jerseys and white pants under the patriotic headgear.
Sarkisian prepared a videotaped message recorded earlier this week, to be aired on the stadium's video board during the game's first media timeout.
"We are honored to pay tribute to the individuals and families affected by the September 11 tragedies and give thanks to those who protect America today," Sarkisian said. "Today's tribute allows our program to recognize our military, law-enforcement and emergency-services personnel, and serves as a chance to reinforce to our student-athletes how proud we are to live in such a great country."