During a visit to West Kentucky University to play the Hilltoppers, the US Army Black Knights charged onto the field with every player carrying an American flag. It was part of an effort to honor the victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks.
College football programs around the United States showed support for those affected, with the Army's tribute hitting close to home for many Americans.
Speaking to the times Times Herald-Record, Black Knights head coach Jeff Monken, 54, shared his experience on September 11, 2001 and its aftermath.
Back in 2001, Monken was a 34-year-old assistant coach in his fourth season on the Statesboro campus, and Paul Johnson was the head coach.
It was just before 9 am on the morning of September 11 when the team's strength coach knocked on the door, poked his head in and broke the news of a plane crashing into one of the towers at the World Trade Center in New York.
Monken noted that there was stunned belief among all the coaches in the room.
"We all kind of looked at each other and said that was crazy," said Monken . "Not too much longer after that, he poked his head back in the door and said a plane hit the other tower. We all just were kind of stunned, maybe not knowing what to do."
"We probably watched two more plays," he added, "and I remember saying to everybody else, ‘Let's go find out what the heck's going on in our world right now. This is crazy.’ And we all just kind of trickled off to our offices."
The US Military Academy post at West Point closed down immediately and athletic officials canceled that weekend’s game with the University at Buffalo. An unsettled feeling of what lay ahead persisted, but life continued.
Pro and college sports canceled events that week, except for a poignant candlelight ceremony at Washingtonville High School. Monken said "it was important to honor the dead, protect the homeland and return life as we knew it prior to the attacks."
"As an American and as a human being, just to see what was going through that suffering and just the attack on our country and all the emotion it goes with that … I think we all remember. … I think the feelings of patriotism from so many Americans really came out of that."
Monken continued: "The great thing about our country [is] the resolve and the grit and the toughness that's the backbone of our nation, and there's no better example of that than our military."
"I think that's one of the great things about the spirit of this country," he said. "When we feel attacked as a country, we come together and we really want to protect our freedom, our democracy and who we are as a nation."
The Black Knights defeated the Hilltoppers in a thrilling 38-35 victory to move to 2-0 on the season.
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