'Can You Imagine?' Huskies Awed By 9-11 Memorial
Dec. 5, 2011
By Gregg Bell
NEW YORK - C.J. Wilcox looked up into a clearing morning fog at what until 10 years ago was the north tower of the World Trade Center. A passenger jet flew overhead.
Washington's shooting guard just shook his head.
"That's crazy, a plane going straight through a building," Wilcox said. "Can you imagine?
"People were burning, jumping out of the building."
The World Trade Center is now a plaza with two, chilling squares in the ground, as the Huskies saw Monday morning on their first full day in Manhattan.
The memories of their experience will last far beyond these six days in New York, which include Tuesday's game against 16th-ranked Marquette and Saturday's against No. 3 Duke at Madison Square Garden.
And the 9-11 site isn't the only memorial the Huskies will experience this week.
The team just had new, purple patches sown into their game jerseys with the initials and years of the life span of former Husky Andrew Moritz. The former walk-on, a member of UW teams that made consecutive NCAA tournaments in 1998 and '99, lost his three-year battle with a desmoplastic round cell tumor last week at the age of 33.
At the 9-11 Memorial, blackened, bronze tablets ring the perimeter of each square. Each tablet is inscribed with the names of each of the 2,983 people that died in the terrorists attacks on this site plus at the Pentagon and in a field in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
The place where the 110-story towers melted to ground after hijacked airliners slammed into them has streams of water cascading from the side walls into pools 18 inches deep. Each water stream represents a person who died in the worst day in our nation's history. That crash of water in the pools represents the crashing of countless lives that day.
The water then cascades again into what is known as "the void" in the center of each memorial, black holes into the souls of a city and of a nation. They look infinite from street level but are actually each 2 ½ stories deep. The water recycles from the bottom of "the void" back to the top of the walls, representing the circle of life.
On the northwest corner of the former World Trade Center site, construction continues on a new, 105-story One World Trade Center.
The Huskies took photos and videos with their mobile phones among the hundreds of visitors, citizens and firemen and police officers alike.
Some jaws dropped.
"Just so you know this building here has 105 floors," Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar told 10 of his players gathered around him at the north tower memorial pool, pointing to the new building. "The flames (on the World Trade Center on 9-11) brought down 110 floors."
Shawn Kemp Jr. was shaking his head.
"Can you imagine having to sit up there or jumping?" the freshman forward asked.
"Yes," Romar said. "A lot of people just jumped out of the building."
Romar wanted his players to see this. He and UW director of basketball operations Lance LaVetter arranged for the Huskies players, coaches and staff to tour the memorial on this visit to New York.
The December gray wasn't the only reason the players were chilled. They were listening to their coach describe the day as they stood behind the inscribed names of Scott Mitchell Schertzer, Angel Perez Jr., George Paris, Dipti Patel ...
The names went on and on, in three staggered -- and staggering -- rows all the way around the pool.
"I was at work, in St. Louis, that day," said Romar, who was the coach at Saint Louis University until he came to UW for the 2002 season. "When the first plane hit, I was going into someone's office saying, `Can you believe what's going on?'
"Then all of a sudden on the TV another plane hit."
Tyreese Breshers, a Husky who was forced to retire from basketball before last season because of a medical condition found in a physical, was in grade school in Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I was scared all day at school. My class was on the second floor," he told Romar Monday.
Aziz N'Diaye was about 10 years old and at his family's home in Dakar, Senegal. He, too, was riveted to his television that day, as Africa also covered the unfathomable event live.
"Yeah," he said, "I thought it was a movie or something."
Lisa Bruce, a learning specialist from UW's acclaimed Student Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) office, is on this trip as part of the Huskies' academic course on drama that includes them attending the Broadway plays "Memphis" and "The Lion King" Wednesday and Thursday.
Bruce was a student at nearby New York University 10 years ago. Her dormitory was five blocks east of the World Trade Center. She was awakened on 9-11 by the first hijacked jet slamming into the north tower. She ran down to the site to see what was going on and saw firefighters racing into what was then a building burning in the center.
"No one ever imagines those buildings would go down," she said.
Thankfully, she was still in her pajamas while watching the tragedy unfold a few dozen feet in front of her. By the time the second plane hit the south tower and buildings fell, Bruce had already run back to her apartment to change her clothes.
That may have saved her life.
"I am a survivor of 9-11," she said solemnly, behind Romar and the players at the north tower memorial.
"This trip is hard for me."
She and her dorm mates were evacuated for three weeks after the attacks. When she moved back in, she could still smell the burning materials from the fallen World Trade Center.
"Everything below 14th Street was closed. We had to use a special bus to get to our dorm," she said. "The military was in charge of the whole area. It was like a war zone.
"Those were strange times. And difficult when you were only 19."