PHOENIX, September 11, 2017 — Sixteen years after the worst terrorist attack of this century, Americans pay tribute to the fallen. We remember that even during those darkest ensuing days, there were plenty of heroes.
Much has been said of President George W. Bush and America’s Mayor Rudy Giuliani. What they did mattered, but plenty of people with zero political power helped as well. Heroism takes many forms. Most of us will thankfully never have to rush into a burning building to save another person.
In dark times, everyone from athletes to comedians can take our minds off of the overwhelming pain and loss felt during a tragedy.
So while we rightly acknowledge the police, firefighters, and EMTs, some others who helped us heal after the 9/11 attacks also deserve recognition. We remember that during those darkest ensuing days, that heroism takes many forms.
In no particular order, here is a list of people who on September 11 and subsequent days helped America heal. Whatever one may think of these individuals in totality, during the September 11th aftermath they were heroic.
Howard Stern — He stayed on the air, and on the day of the attacks reasonable people would think they were listening to a news program with David Brinkley. The following day, Stern had to figure out how to be funny. He was masterful. He hammered his own staff members who did not show up to work. He made a big deal about how police and firefighters were rushing into burning buildings while his own staff was getting drunk and hiding under the bed. He demanded they show up to work and verbally beat the daylights out of anyone
He demanded they show up to work and verbally beat the daylights out of anyone He was hysterical and heartfelt.
David Letterman — His interview with Dan Rather was one of the great interviews of all time. Letterman started out by wondering if he ever wanted to do a show ever again. Even in conducting a serious interview, Letterman managed to somehow get in a couple of jokes.
He asked if al Qaeda was angry because they did not have cable television. From that day, the opening intro referred to New York City as “the greatest city in the world.” The other late night comedians all nervously watched. After Letterman’s emotional show, the rest of them all came back to work.
After Letterman’s emotional show, the rest of them all came back to work.
Gilbert Gottfried — Everyone in the comedy world was nervous. Jokes were done carefully and cautiously. One month after the attacks, Gilbert Gottfried told a totally tasteless joke. He has repeatedly gotten fired from gigs for telling horrible jokes at the wrong time. This time he told a horrible joke at the right time.
He said that he had an al Qaeda nickname in junior high school. He was known as “Nevah been laidin’.”
The room erupted in laughter and comedians finally started getting back to normal.
Paul Tagliabue — After the attacks, every league waited until the NFL decided what to do. NFL Commissioner Tagliabue remembered his predecessor Pete Rozelle saying his biggest regret was not canceling games two days after JFK was assassinated. Tagliabue would not make the same mistake. He gave the players a week off to
Tagliabue would not make the same mistake. He gave the players a week off to heal, but realized that the league had to return the following week to give people something to cheer for.
After the NFL came back, other sports did as well. His calm, steady leadership was well-received by owners, players, and fans. He remains a beloved figure today by Leatherheads because of getting the biggest decisions right when it mattered most.
Chris Berman and Tom Jackson — NFL Primetime and the National Football League took the week off on Sunday, September 16. They returned on September 23. Gone was Berman’s bombast. He talked about how football properly took the week off, and then properly returned. He spoke about teams playing hard and flags waving high.
He gave serious analysis to the emotional reactions of the fans who love America and love football. Jackson as always gave the calm, sober, subdued analysis with the same heart and character he showed on the field as a player. At the end of the season, Berman noted that maybe it was destiny that after such an attack on America, a team named the Patriots would win it all.
Jack Buck — At a St. Louis Cardinals game in the thick of a playoff race, Buck read a poem and asked a passionate question. “Should we be here?” After the crowd roared its approval, Buck answered, “Yes!”
Americans wanted to retreat into anything, and sports filled a major void for many.
Jim Fassel — The head coach of the New York Giants had to get his players ready after many of them had seen people they knew senselessly murdered. Giants players went into the rubble themselves to help with the effort. Quarterback Kerry Collins proudly had his FDNY hat on.
With the NYPD and FDNY demanding the Giants play hard, the team went to Kansas City and played inspired football. The defense especially turned up the heat in a gutty, classy, 13-3 victory.
The defense especially turned up the heat in a gutty, classy, 13-3 victory. After the game, the Giants players returned to help inspire the real heroes leading the relief efforts.
Lee Greenwood — His song “God bless the USA,” was derided as hokey by some, but after the attacks, nobody was laughing. Concerts saw everyone holding up cell phones as candles as fans cried together and hugged each other.
Patriotism was very much in fashion.
Alan Jackson — He brought the heart. He reminded people that whatever your politics, we had to love each other. He asked a simple question. “Where were you when the world stopped turning, on that cold September day?”
Toby Keith — He brought the alpha male macho testosterone for those who were worried that America was wracked with self-doubt. Osama bin Laden said America was a “paper tiger.” He was dead wrong.
Keith reminded bin Laden, “We’ll put a boot in your ass, it’s the American way.” At that moment Keith said what Americans were feeling. We demanded justice after 9/11, and we got it.
Keith dedicated his song to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and inspired American troops all over the world.
God Bless America and the many heroes of that Cold September day.