ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) – The 54th meeting between Navy, and Air Force football held more meaning to it; than adding to the growing history between both service academies, as Saturday marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Players from both sides ran on the field, carrying the American flag, to the voracious cheers, and applause of their friends, and family adding to a backdrop filled with nearly 37,000 people in Navy-Memorial Corps Stadium.
“It was a great atmosphere, you know, capacity crowd,” Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo said about the 9/11 anniversary in his post game press conference. “It’s great to see, just for the reason that we’re here. Remembering 9/11. I think for our country, there’s so much divisiveness now. I think it was cool for a day just to put all of that aside. Put all the politics, put all of that stuff aside, and we’re all Americans. Not Democrat or Republican. Not White, Black, Brown. None of it. Just remember 9/11.”
Throughout the game, moments were taken to honor the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks, and to remember the 14 Naval Academy graduates, and two Air Force graduates who lost their lives on that day.
“Remember those that have passed away on that horrific day, and those that passed away after that.” said Coach Niumatalolo, “And we have some players on our team, that played on Navy Football that gave the ultimate sacrifice after 9/11 because of the conflicts that arose from 9/11. And so it hits us very closely, we have some players on our team, and I think all of us in this room know somebody that was there, or relative, or a friend. I thought a great thing for just this day, we were just all Americans.”
The game itself ended in a 23-3 loss for the Midshipmen, making it two games in a row for the Navy Football program.
“For me it kind of puts everything in perspective.” said senior Chance Warren. “I’m sitting here sour, and very upset about a loss. But 20 years ago today, so many people lost loved ones, so just kind of put it in perspective that, I’m out here playing college football with some of my best friends, and brothers for life. Regardless of wins, and losses, things can be a lot worse.”