Friday, September 11, 2009

Coach Tom Coughlin and September 11, 2001 [J. Mark English]

Steve Serby of the New York Post, caught with New York Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin. Coach Coughlin reflected on the events that occurred in New York City eight years ago today:

This was the day eight years ago when Tom Coughlin needed a miracle. This was the day terror struck and Coughlin, the coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars on that fateful morning, didn't have a playbook to tell him how to stop his heart from pounding during those frantic, frightful hours when he wondered whether his son would make it out of the South Tower alive.

"There was no way you could make that time flow by . . . I had my assistant call every two or three minutes just to leave messages on his phone. He didn't pick it up . . . 'Try him, try him, try him, try him, try him,' " Coughlin recalled yesterday.

Coughlin, 63, won his Super Bowl with the Giants at the end of the 2007 season. He had won Super Bowl XXV as an assistant under Bill Parcells. Those were football games. This was life-and-death.

"Because of my faith, I always say that the Holy Spirit took him by the hand and walked him out of the building," Coughlin said, stopping on his way to lunch after practice, three days before the start of the 2009 season.

"The frustration of trying to communicate with someone who's in that circumstance . . . believe it or not, my son Brian, who was in law school, got Tim on the phone, like on the 29th floor. I finally got him on the first floor, on his cell phone, and the only thing I could say to him was, 'Tim, get out of there, fast as you can.' They had practiced a route to safety, and when he got up on that ramp, getting away from the building, that's when I kinda said to myself, 'Thank God he's out of there.' "

Tim, 37 and a bond trader at JP Morgan Securities, was working for Morgan Stanley on the 60th floor. He had made it down to the 44th floor when his tower was hit. His father reached him, finally, as he got close to the bottom of the building.

"I never heard any panic," Tim recalled, "but kind of a general sort of, 'You-really-need-to-get-out-of-there-as-soon-as-possible theme coming from him," Tim said. "You could see airplane seats, just debris everywhere."

Some 15-20 minutes later, as Tim scurried east, then north, his building crumbled. He didn't see it. "I heard it," he said.

What did Tim say to you? "He told me where he was . . . he told me that when he was coming down, firemen" -- and here Coughlin's eyes become moist -- "it chokes me up to talk about it -- the firemen were going up into 2000 degrees," Coughlin said. "Passed him on the stairs!"...

...."When this date comes up, it certainly makes everybody stop and think about where they were on that particular day," Coughlin said. "And of course your heart pours out -- what happens for me and for my family is we just stop and think about all the people who lost their lives in 9/11, and we reflect on the wonderful people and causes that we have been able to become aware of being here in the greater New York City area.

"We thank God obviously for our blessings, but we're very much aware of the families, and we see them all the time -- I saw a fireman up at training camp who had a shirt made up in honor of his dad . . . he lost his dad on 9/11 . . . so it's still a big part of us."

Tim still thinks about the friends, acquaintances and security people who never made it out. He doesn't feel safe anymore whenever he is in New York City. "I tend to not relax as much as I probably need to," he said.

His father was asked if 9/11 changed him. "I like to consider myself a patriot," he said, "but even more so, because of that."

Coughlin will mention 9/11's anniversary to his Giants today. "It's the New York Giants," he said. "It's red, white and blue, that's what I always talk about."

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