Sept. 11, 2008
FRESNO, Calif. - While California is 2,900 miles from Manhattan, 2,800 miles from the Pentagon and 2,600 miles from Shanksville, Penn., many current Fresno State coaches, student-athletes and staff were in the area or affected by the terrorist attacks on our country on Sept. 11, now proclaimed Patriot Day.
All one needs to do is mention that date and your gut drops, you get goosebumps and your mind races to all of the feelings you had back on the date seven years ago and to the very moment you remember hearing about the attacks.
Current senior women's golfer Taylor Siebert remembers where she was on that day and how it affected her family, having an uncle live a mile from the twin towers.
"My uncle lived in NYC so it was scary for a while because we didn't know where he was," said Siebert. "All the phone lines were out so we didn't know if he was ok. I remembered waking up in the morning and was watching the news and only the first plane had hit. I thought it was weird and while I was watching the second plane hit. I was thinking you were always going to remember where you were at that specific moment. I remembered I had school and some of the teachers let us watch in class to give us updates. My uncle called my grandparents late the same day so we found out pretty quickly but it was scary not to know. I remember he told my grandparents that the ashes and debris covered the whole city and shut down everything. It stretched so far that he couldn't get to the places he needed. He also said he was lucky because where he lived the wind was blowing the ashes in the opposite direction."
Athletic Training Graduate Assistant Javier Jimenez is in his second year at Fresno State and is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. Jimenez recalls that day in Brooklyn when he was a senior in high school.
"I was in class and the school made an announcement on the loud speaker that one of the twin towers was hit," Jimenez recalled. "Then in the next class they had said another plane hit the second tower. After that we got sent home. I usually took two trains to and from school but they were shut down so I had to take the bus. There was debris all over Brooklyn and it looked like a construction site. The bus then dropped me off two miles from my home so my friend and I walked to Sunset Park which overlooks all of Brooklyn and all we could see was black smoke."
Jimenez then went on to say that the night of Sept. 11 was scary because all he could hear was helicopters which were watching over the city, but nobody knew for sure if it was over.
Head volleyball coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell was living in Southern California at the time and remembers her father waking her up saying, "We are in war."
"We had a very good friend working in New York at Columbia University at the time and was downtown running and trying to get across the bridge in time and she did," said Netherby-Sewell. "She was fine but heavily affected. Less than a year later I got hired on at Columbia and one of my players, her boyfriend died in the tragedy. So seeing how someone was directly affected was intense and just living in New York for many years was an interesting time during a period of togetherness. My husband is from New York so he still has a visual of the whole thing. So many people I know were directly affected."
Sue Behme, the head women's lacrosse coach, was coaching at Nazareth College in New York at the time.
"It was surreal," said Behme. "It didn't affect me directly since we were seven-and-half hours from NYC but it touched some of my players and definately many players in our conference who were from NYC and the Jersey area. I remember walking into the athletic department that day and the staff telling us a plane hit the first tower and we couldn't believe it. They asked us all to meet in the dining hall and I watched the second plane hit live with my team. It was awful and something I will never forget."
The Fresno State athletics department was hit personally with the loss former Bulldog defensive end Navy Lieutenant Commander Otis Vincent Tolbert and Todd Beamer. Tolbert was working in the C corridor on the first floor of the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashed into his office in the Department of Defense building in Arlington, Va. He was one of 125 Pentagon personnel killed or unaccounted for in the terrorist attack. Tolbert was buried Sept. 27 with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Tolbert played for the football team from 1980-83 and graduated in 1985 with a degree in criminal justice. He was raised in Lemoore and a 1980 graduate of Lemoore High School. The town of Lemoore calls him an "American Hero," and a portion of Highway 98 that runs through his hometown is named in his honor as "Lt. Cmdr. Otis Vincent Tolbert Highway."
He was also honored with a tile dedicated to him in the Smittcamp Alumni House and another tile in the Bulldog Walkway located in the north entrance of the Save Mart Center.
Tolbert's wife, Shari and the couple's three children, Amanda, Brittany and Anthony were presented with a memorial plaque unveiled at a halftime ceremony of the Bulldogs season opener vs. Weber State on Sept. 10, 2005 in Bulldog Stadium.
Beamer, also an Alumnus of Fresno State and a former walk-on on the baseball team, was aboard Flight 93 that day. Beamer was the man whose voice was heard through recordings with a 911-operator after the passengers had heard about the plane being hijacked and World Trade Center attacks.
He told the operator that several people had been killed and the pilots were removed from the cock-pit. Later, he told the operator that some of the plane's passengers were planning to "jump on" the hijackers. According to reports, Beamer's last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's Roll," a phrase that became a slogan for those who began the War on Terror overseas.
Back in 2001, Fresno State joined together with the American Red Cross and on Sept. 14, coaches and student-athletes were at Lowe's for 13 hours accepting monetary donations in the fund drive effort. In the end, over $100,000 was collected on that Friday alone.
In addition, all of Fresno State's events that week were either postponed or canceled: football vs. Utah State, volleyball at San Diego, women's soccer at Auburn and Georgia, men's soccer at Gonzaga and Portland, men's and women's cross country Fresno State Invitational and the women's basketball prospectus day.
Fresno State also announced on Sept. 20, 2001 that security would be increased at home events to protect fans and participants. Many of the changes made seven years ago are still in tact. For example, all purses and bags are checked at the gates, no open bottles or cans are allowed in the stadium, there is no re-entry at any event, all gates open two ours prior to games, teams are escorted to and from Bulldog Stadium and fans are not allowed on the field at the conclusion of a game, to name a few.
At tonight's 7 p.m. soccer match vs. Florida International, Fresno State will honor those victims of the Sept. 11 attacks by holding a moment of silence before the game. The Air Force ROTC will also present the flag.
"Sept. 11th is on everybody's mind and we want to recognize all the military and support services (fire and police) and recognize them on this day," said head soccer coach Steve Springthorpe. "We appreciate all that they do for us as individuals and for our country."
"Join the State, Fresno State!" - The Bulldogs continue non-conference play at Bulldog Stadium on Thursday, September 11 as they host Florida International at 7:00 p.m. for Proud to be an American Night. All military and local government agency workers will receive two free tickets with presentation of official ID at the box office. September is also Youth Soccer Month. All youth soccer players 8th grade and under who wear their jerseys get in for free and their rest of the family is admitted for $2 per person. To purchase tickets, click on the tickets icon at the top of this page, call the Bulldog Ticket Office at (559) 278-DOGS, or stop by the Bulldog Ticket Office.