This Saturday, Rutgers football will suit up in Syracuse, New York for a pivotal inter-conference contest against the old Big East rival Orangemen. The contest is sure to be a competitive one, and it will feature several players from the New York/New Jersey area on both teams.
Perhaps fitting, yet perhaps an even greater reminder to us all that there are things far more important than football, the game will be played on September 11th. Yes, on the 20th anniversary of one of the most tragic, traumatizing, and memorialized days in our nation’s history, college football teams across the county will suit up and engage in athletic competition.
None of us should have any doubt that millions across our United States will take moments of pause to reflect upon the meaning of the date in their own way. For two decades many amongst us have preached not only solemn reflection upon the heroes we lost that day, but the idea that we must press forward, and we must not let those events change who are. That’s why the games will go on as scheduled. But for the game taking place in New York, between two New York-area teams, we would all be remiss not to give a bit extra toward our moments of reflection, and our pensive silent pauses.
Syracuse Defensive Back AJ Calabro, from New Jersey, lost his father in 9/11. And for Rutgers, a school with its main campus located only 37 miles from Ground Zero, and its Newark campus less than 10 miles from it, with a direct path train to the World Trade Center, the date has a deep significance.
37. An ironic number, given that tragically, Rutgers lost 37 of its alumni in the terrorist attack. The smoke from the falling towers could be seen from many places across New Jersey, including from the Rutgers practice field, according to Head Coach Greg Schiano, who explained how difficult the day was for some players, who had friends and relatives working and traveling to the area that day: “We had coaches who had family members and wives who were working in the city. We had some players...we actually had two players, whose moms were supposed to be in the towers that day, and thank God they weren’t...and I'll never forget, it was eerie, from out practice field you could see the smoke on the horizon.”
First responders from across New Jersey and New York responded to the scene to assist those on the ground and to fill the ranks of the fallen. Today, Rutgers University has a World Trade Center Health Program, one of very few in the nation, that continues to treat heroes who suffered trauma and injury on that day. The University also participates in an ongoing and painstaking process to identify the remains of loved ones lost in the attacks.
So it is only fitting that the Rutgers Football program, an extension of the University and the Rutgers and New Jersey community, will not engage in athletic competition on Saturday without constant reminders, and a dedicated honor to those we’ve lost, and to the meaning of the day. That is why the team has committed to wearing uniforms which not only solemnly commemorate the day, but which honor each of the 37 alumni lost. Keith Sargeant of NJ Advance Media has also reported that subsequent to the game, the team plans to present uniforms to the families of the 37 fallen alumni. Head equipment manager Mike Kuzniak, a former United States Marine, came up with the idea and worked directly with Adidas on the uniform design.
The entire nation was effected deeply by the attack on September 11, 2001. The entire nation is entitled to reflect, grieve, and memorialize those events in their own way. Rutgers has more than earned the ability to do that, and on Saturday, they will commemorate the day as they’ve chosen to. It is important to Rutgers to honor the fallen, specifically their own. They will run out onto the field bearing the names of the 37 Rutgers alumni who tragically lost their lives on that day, including football letter winner James Martello:
- Paul A. Acquaviva RC’94
- Evan J. Baron NCAS’81
- David O. Campbell RC’72, GSM’74
- Alexander H. Chiang GSNB’82
- John R. Cruz RC’93
- Brian T. Cummins GSN’91
- Gavin F. Cushny UCN’85
- Michael A. Davidson LC’97
- Jayceryll M. de Chavez LC’99
- Michael A. Diaz-Piedra III NCAS’74
- Patrick J. Driscoll GSNB’75
- Judy Santillan Fernandez UCNB’97
- Stephen J. Fiorelli ENG’80
- Colleen L. Fraser LC’74
- Jeffrey B. Gardner CC’87
- Alayne Friedenreich Gentul RC’78
- Barry H. Glick NCAS’63
- Richard J. Guadagno CC’84
- Charles H. Karczewski RC’89
- Brendan Mark Lang LC’89
- Ming-Hao Liu GSNB’89
- James A. Martello LC’83
- Brian E. Martineau NCAS’88
- Michael J. McCabe UCNB’83
- Virginia A. Ormiston ENG’81
- Dominique L. Pandolfo RC’96
- Jon A. Perconti LC’93
- Donald A. Peterson GSM’67
- Patrick J. Quigley RC’82
- Tom B. Reinig GSM’78
- Richard D. Rosenthal GSM’75
- Maria Theresa Santillan NCAS’96
- Scott M. Schertzer LC’97, SMLR’97
- Neil G. Shastri RC’98, RBS’98
- Michael C. Sorresse NCAS’89
- Kristine Marie Swearson UCNB’96
- Gregory K. Wachtler RC’98