Remembering 9-11: Ten Years Later

Sept. 7, 2011

By Courtney Ratkowiak

U-M Alumni Who Lost Their Lives
David Alger, MBA'68
Yeneneh Betru, MD'95
Brian Paul Dale, JD'91
Paul Friedman, MSE'83
James Gartenberg, '87
Steven Goldstein, '88
Darya Lin '91, MSE'97
Todd Ouida, '98
Manish Patel, '02
Laurence Polatsch, '90
Stephen Poulos, '77, MMUS'78
Gregory Richards, '92
Joshua Rosenthal, '79
Christina Ryook, '98
Meta Fuller Waller, '73
Scott Weingard, '93
Meredith Whalen, '00
Mark Zeplin '90, MBA'93

At about 9 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, four days before Michigan's scheduled matchup with Western Michigan at home, quarterback John Navarre (1999-03) was in his Tuesday morning Communications class when he learned a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York City.

The campus came to a halt. Students left classes. Navarre came home to find his roommates huddled around the television, including defensive lineman Steve Baker (1999-2002), whose father worked in the World Trade Center. Baker learned later in the morning that his father had been in the subway, running late to work, when the first plane hit.

Practice that afternoon turned into a team meeting, and the team discussed whether or not to play the game that Saturday. Some players were fearful Michigan Stadium could be a potential target and needed time to cope with the magnitude of the attacks. Others felt sports could provide a sense of normalcy during a national crisis.

"Steve Baker's father, came out from under the subway, got back in cell phone service and the whole world was chaos," Navarre said. "He could have been in that tower. And Steve Baker stood up and said, 'We have to play.' Someone who almost lost his dad to this said, 'We are a beacon of freedom, we have to continue and show this isn't going to keep us down.'"

Coach Lloyd Carr told the team that day that if they wanted the game to be postponed, he would make sure university president Lee Bollinger understood the players' wishes.

"The whole thing is a blur, because there were so many more important things than a football game and it was very obvious when we met that our players were devastated by what had happened," Carr said. "We took a vote and it was overwhelming that they did not want to play on Saturday."

A week and a half later, when the Wolverines resumed their season and took the field against Western Michigan on Sept. 22, Baker's sentiment from that Tuesday afternoon echoed throughout the Big House. The players wore American flags stitched on their jerseys, and the pregame mood was somber and quiet.

For many years before Sept. 11, due to television broadcast requirements and timing of pregame activities, the team didn't come out onto the field until after the band played the Star-Spangled Banner. Carr told then-athletic director Bill Martin before the game that the Wolverines should never again be in the locker room during the national anthem, and the players have stood on the sideline ever since.

The players and coaches talked on the afternoon of Sept. 11 about how fortunate they were to have their freedom, families, and all they took for granted. During the national anthem, moment of silence and the Michigan Marching Band halftime tribute show on Sept. 22, in which the crowd sang 'America the Beautiful' with the band, that message hit home.

"When the Michigan Marching Band brought out the American flag that covered the whole field and played America the Beautiful, it was the most emotional moment that I've ever experienced in almost any place," former executive associate athletic director Mike Stevenson, who retired this past January, recalled. "People, including me, were weeping. It was just a powerful moment."

Ten years later, with the anniversary of Sept. 11, the day after the first night game against Notre Dame, the U-M Athletic Department has set aside a portion of time during the game to honor the memory of the 2,977 people lost in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

"We have taken a long, hard look at this and talked with many other institutions around the country. We know each university has struggled with the need to return to normalcy as a symbol that terrorism will not prevail. ... Our players and our coaches would like to return to the field as soon as possible, so that they might be part of the healing that must happen nationwide. ... Michigan Stadium will remain dark this Saturday as we pay tribute to all those who are missing and lost in this week's tragic events. Sadly, we are learning that some of the casualties are friends, relatives, colleagues and alumni. Each of this country's universities is paying its respects in different but equally important ways."
Excerpt of former University President Lee Bollinger's statement following the events of 9-11

"With all the other things we have going on with the night game and all the excitement, and all the things we want to do, we would be remiss if we did not commemorate the significance of Sept. 11 and the 10th anniversary," athletic director Dave Brandon said. "We still feel we have a responsibility not only in the area of safety and security, but we also have a responsibility to not forget."


Ten years ago, Brandon was a university regent and the chairman and CEO of Domino's Pizza. Sept. 11, 2001, was the date of a 600-person team meeting for all employees of the Ann Arbor facility. As Brandon gave a quarterly update presentation, he noticed two employees in the front row, whispering and looking at their Blackberries. He paused the meeting, asked what the men were talking about, and learned a plane had hit the World Trade Center's North Tower.

Brandon spent the rest of that day locating Domino's employees, ensuring none of them were directly affected by any of the attacks, and helping those stranded on business trips return to their families.

At the same time, his teams worked to get security clearance to deliver pizza to rescue workers at Ground Zero. Within 24 hours, Domino's created a makeshift supply chain using resources from New York and Washington, D.C. Using propane tanks, ovens and refrigerated trucks, the company set up portable pizza stores next to the police barricades at Ground Zero and the Pentagon to provide food to those on the scene.

"It's kind of a practical problem that people don't think about, but here you've got these thousands of people crawling all over this rubble and setting up these rescue stations, and who's going to feed them?" Brandon said. "We saw ourselves uniquely positioned to be able to help them."


While Brandon and his company worked to deliver 12,000 pizzas to rescue workers, his predecessor at Michigan, Bill Martin, worked in the hours after the attacks to decide if there should be 110,000 people in Michigan Stadium that Saturday.

Before the NCAA eventually canceled all Division I football games for that weekend, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney and the 11 university presidents decided to cancel all of the conference's games.

Martin and his staff immediately began working to fit the Western Michigan game back in the schedule. By that Friday evening, Martin finalized the plan to eliminate the bye week in late September and push back both the Western Michigan and Illinois home games by one week.

"I brought in three others on my staff, we sat around my conference table with schedules and phone numbers and just started dialing to see what we could do to accommodate everybody in this domino effect," Martin said. "That involved darn near around-the-clock negotiations, phone calls and discussions with multiple, multiple schools."

But while Martin discussed football scheduling with the Big Ten athletic directors, he was most worried about his son, Mike, who worked a few blocks from the World Trade Center. He hadn't been able to reach Mike that morning. Martin learned later that day that Mike had left work safely and tried to call his college roommate, who worked in the World Trade Center. A few hours later, Mike's friend arrived at his door in the East Village, head to toe in dust.

The details of the football scheduling conversations and memories of all the teams involved have somewhat faded. Ten years later, that story and that image -- the dust and the soot seen in so many photos of that day -- is what has stuck most in Martin's mind.


Department of Public Safety deputy chief Joe Piersante, a lieutenant in 2001, was conducting firearms training at the Police Academy range on the morning of Sept. 11. Less than an hour after the second plane hit the World Trade Center's South Tower, the DPS canceled training and called a lead team meeting to discuss Michigan Stadium security.

"Seeing the planes on live TV flying into the twin towers, it was kind of surreal -- and then we took a step back and realized we were responsible for a game coming up with over 100,000 people, and we needed to get back and get our act together," Piersante said. "At the time, people weren't really screened coming in to the stadium, so we had to take some drastic steps to provide security for the stadium."

In the following days, the meetings evolved to include Stevenson and his team, the Ann Arbor Police Department and the FBI. A no-bag policy was instituted for the Western Michigan game, which still stands, and airplanes with banners were banned from flying near the stadium.

Before Sept. 11, Michigan Stadium had one security camera. Now, federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers all monitor cameras on game days from a Tactical Operations Center. In addition to a commercial plane no-fly zone, banner planes are required to fly a mile from the stadium. Bomb-sniffing dogs patrol entrances at games, vehicles entering the stadium are scanned for explosives and the stadium is locked down on Fridays before games. The Department of Public Safety has weekly meetings on Michigan Stadium safety with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

The drastic changes in game day security in Ann Arbor mirror the change in the nation in the past 10 years, with constant vigilance in the fight against terrorism. But although so much has changed, the spirit of the tribute planned for the Notre Dame night game will reflect the patriotism of that Sept. 22, 2001, Western Michigan game. A decade later, those involved in that game still feel the responsibility to not forget.

"At that stage, after such a horrible, tragic event, there weren't many things that could have brought people together and helped us to understand that we were going to carry on," Carr said. "I think a lot of credit goes to the way our players and our coaches and our fans responded, and I think that speaks to one of the values of this game. It brings us together."

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