Army-Navy football game at MetLife Stadium in recognition of the 20th anniversary of September 11 and its impact on New York City

Images from Army and Navy football Facebook pages ahead of the Army-Navy game on December 11, 2021 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ (Facebook)

New York City was the epicenter of the horrific terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001.

Television footage of airliners crossing the World Trade Center Twin Towers was how most Americans learned their country was under attack.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, the citizens of the United States learned more and more about what exactly happened to what has come to be known as “Ground Zero” at heart. of Manhattan.

A total of 2,753 people in New York City died as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Most were workers from the Twin Towers as well as New York City police and firefighters who responded to the site.

In 2016, the United States Naval Academy and Military Academy sent out a request for proposals to cities on the East Coast and beyond to host the Army-Navy football game.

In the end, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk and his Army counterpart Eugene “Boo” Corrigan agreed that there was only one place that really made sense to host the 2021 edition. of “America’s Game”.

That’s why MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, will host Army-Navy football in the year America recognizes the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“There is a principle of PD that gives the military and navy the ability to make special exceptions for something extraordinary,” Gladchuk said this week. “Coming to the greater New York City area for the 20th anniversary is considered extraordinary. “

Gladchuk was speaking at club level at MetLife Stadium on Wednesday as part of the annual Army-Navy press conference. This NFL facility, which opened in 2010, is home to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

Gladchuk said government officials at the state and city level, as well as the management of the MetLife Stadium and the Giants and Jets property, had embraced the idea of ​​hosting the Army-Navy match at the occasion of the 20th anniversary of September 11. USAA, the financial services company which is the main sponsor of the Army-Navy game, was also fully fledged.

“When we got all the partners together it turned into this wonderful vision to have the Army-Navy game here in the shadow of New York,” Gladchuk said. “It provides the opportunity to host special downtown events that are associated with gambling and to remember the tragic events of 20 years ago in a respectful way. “

It all starts Friday afternoon in downtown Manhattan when Midshipmen and Cadets gather at Ground Zero for a solemn remembrance of what happened at the World Trade Center that day. The Army and Navy Patriot Games, a series of competitions such as tug-of-war and relay races between cadets and midshipmen, will be held across New York City.

The annual Army-Navy Gala celebration will take place at the National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island. Of course, the game itself provides the best opportunity to spotlight the 20th anniversary of 9/11 when a crowd of 80,000 sold-out packs in MetLife Stadium and millions more watch the national TV broadcast on CBS. .

Gladchuk said the match day program will be “present patriotism personified” with recognition of the impact of 9/11 on New York City and the surrounding region. The USAA produced the Army-Navy “Challenge Coin” for the pre-game midfield throwing. Cast steel from the World Trade Center is built into each room, one of which will be given to 1,000 guests at the Friday night gala.

Chevrolet has put together a presentation that will take place at the stadium during the game and as part of the television broadcast. It tells the story of New York firefighter Craig Monahan, who responded to the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks.

After spending hours and hours working in rescue operations, Monahan returned to find his 1992 Chevrolet Silverado completely covered in debris from the fallen towers. This vehicle was made famous for starting despite extensive damage.

A halftime presentation will feature Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA,” the song that became a rallying cry in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Greenwood previously performed the pop hit with the signature line “I am proud to be an American” at the 2001 Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

“I think it’s great that this game can be a centerpiece for our nation to remember those we lost on September 11th and honor those who answered the call and continued to fight it. enemy, “West Point Army trainer Jeff Monken said on Wednesday. . “This is the raison d’être of these two academies: to develop military leaders who react whenever freedoms are attacked anywhere in the world. “

This will be the 24th Army-Navy match for Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who has developed immense respect for what the event symbolizes. Now in his 14th year as a head coach, Niumatalolo has seen several former Navy football players pass away while on active duty.

JP Blecksmith, who played catcher for the Navy in that 2001 match against the Army, was killed by a sniper while leading his Indian company to eliminate insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq .

“These are two institutions that protect our country and its freedoms, two institutions that produced officers who continued to serve and make the ultimate sacrifice because of the conflicts that arose because of September 11,” said Niumatalolo.

“It is very fitting that these two institutions come together to remember this horrific day in our country’s history and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives on September 11, these men and women working there. inside towers and first responders. “

William Squires graduated from the Naval Academy in 1975 and served 12 years in active service as a naval aviator. After another 12 years in the reserve, he retired as a commanding officer and entered the sport facilities and event management industry.

Squires has managed the former Giants Stadium twice and currently runs his own consultancy which has the Giants as a client. He serves as the operational liaison between the team and the management of MetLife Stadium.

September 11, 2001 was a beautiful sunny Tuesday in the New York City area, and Squires was overseeing the filming of a Wendy’s commercial on the grounds of Giants Stadium that morning. Squires was speaking to the producer when an assistant informed them that a plane had just crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

“I rushed to my car and drove to a spot on the stadium grounds that had a clear view of Manhattan. I couldn’t believe how much smoke was coming out of the tower, ”Squires recalls.

As Squires watched, the second plane passed through the South Tower and the former naval officer was stunned by a cold realization.

“I went back to my office inside the stadium, sat down at my desk and cried because I realized we were at war,” he said.

Squires is among those who have strongly advocated returning the Army-Navy game to MetLife Stadium for the first time since 2002. He believes America’s Game should be played at the facility every five years in recognition of 9/11.

“This is a great opportunity for the greater New York City area to recognize all of those innocent people who lost their lives that day, as well as the Army, Navy and Marine Corps members who entered. at war over it, ”Squires said. “Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better place to host this great event. “


MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Dec 11, 2019 3 p.m.

TV: Chs. 13, 9 Radio: 2:30 p.m.

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