COMMENTARY: Tigers Try To Return To Normalcy

by - Correspondent -
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Not even a week after the most destructive attack on this country in the nearly 225 years of its existence, today we attempt to get back to some semblance of normality.

We try to put the horrible pictures out of our minds, hoping to shun the nightmares which have haunted us since just before 9 a.m. last Tuesday. We try, but it's unlikely the images of loaded aircraft slamming into the World Trade Center towers in New York will ever escape our memories.

President George W. Bush said Sunday that the word "normal" will never hold the same meaning for Americans. He is correct.

Our lives have been forever altered, and all we can do now is try to move forward while never forgetting those whose lives were lost; never forgetting that our freedom has been attacked, and understanding that it's just a matter of time before we strike back.

War is looming, and yet somehow, someway, we must move forward.

On Clemson's campus, thoughts again are turning toward football. Slowly, perhaps, but turning nonetheless.

As Tommy Bowden said toward the end of last week, eventually his team - and the country - have to get back to work.

"A lot of people said we've gotta go on like nothing happened," he said. "But I think out of respect, that's why I think our conference made the right decision (not to play last weekend). Out of respect for the people who lost lives I think there ought to be a significant mourning time.

"After that, let's go on. But I don't think it's backing down or running from terrorism to set aside a time for mourning."

To a man, Clemson players interviewed in the aftermath of last week's tragedy felt playing football was not only inappropriate, but meant little in the grand scheme of things.

Yet they, like many other Americans, found themselves working the day after the attacks.

They also found themselves having to face serious adult decisions perhaps a year or two sooner than they had planned.

"There are a lot of guys (for whom) it would have been a distraction trying to play," said senior guard Will Merritt. "We don't want to take away anything from those families who have lost loved ones in this tragedy."

Merritt, like millions of others across the country, will never be able to completely purge the images from his mind.

"It was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," he said. "Just how graphic the scenes are, and to know those people were trapped in there and the thousands of people being killed, it was the most gut-wrenching thing.

"All I could do was just turn around, drop down on my knees and start praying for the families who lost loved ones...It's a date you'll remember for the rest of your life. It puts football in a very minor perspective when something like this happens."

Yet football will go on, beginning this weekend. The country, hungry for an outlet for its nervous frustrations, no doubt will turn out in droves at stadiums across this great land.

And we should.

The very fabric of our society has been threatened in the past week, and it's mandatory that now we show the world - not to mention each other - that the American way of life will not be destroyed by, as Bush said, a "faceless coward."

It will good therapy for everyone, fans and players alike.

"We're kind of anxious to get back in the routine," Merritt said. "You won't ever forget it, but you do have to move on."

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