Collins: Meeting Real Heroes

Standing only a hundred yards from where the two most recognizable buildings in the world stood only days before, the sheer mass of debris and rubble is greater than what my mind could have ever allowed me to think is possible. The entanglement of twisted devastation usually reserved for horror films or science-fiction novels was laid out in front of me in an all too real-life form. I stood in utter amazement and I knew that I could never forget what I was seeing at that very moment.

Sometime within the next few moments, I realized that underneath all of that reality lays a human catastrophe this country has never seen. I thought not only about the people underneath that wreckage, but of the families and friends they have left behind. Wives and husbands, children, mothers and fathers, all victims of cowardly acts incomprehensible to us all. Kerry Collins video

But as I looked around and saw this mountain of heartache I also felt something else — a spirit the likes of which I have never seen in my lifetime, and most likely will never see again. Fathers searching for sons, brothers searching for brothers, friends searching for friends, only days after standing side by side doing not only what they loved, but what they felt was their duty, all in the hopes of saving one more life with complete disregard of their own. It became clear as to who these people in front of me were: Heroes. Heroes in every sense of the word. Better men then most of us could only hope to be. Better men than I could ever be.

These heroes were thanking my teammates and me for taking the time to offer our support and encouragement in the face of an indescribably grim task. However, they were the only people who deserved to be thanked on this day, and for many days to come. Days later, a group from the Giants including players, trainers and front office personnel had the opportunity to visit with some of those loved ones that were left behind. We shook hands, we talked, we laughed and cried with families and friends of New York’s bravest and finest even though they were strangers. It felt awkward at times, sharing such personal moments with complete strangers. As the day went on more and more of these moments occurred, I began to understand that even though I never met these people before, they weren’t complete strangers. These were the people who stop me on the street and say “nice game” or “what were you thinking on that one?” These were the people who watch us on the television every week, or who can recite the section, row, and seat number of the season tickets they’ve had in their families for 35 years. These are the people who support us through good and bad, thick and thin, touchdowns and interceptions, wins and losses. Die-hards. Now, they needed our support. We tried to reciprocate that support in perhaps a more intimate way than any of use could have ever imagined that we would. But mind you, we are not heroes. Not heroes like I saw in Lower Manhattan only days before. Not heroes that run in while everyone is running out. Not heroes that serve and protect for the safety of the people. So in the aftermath of such a horrific tragedy heroes have emerged, true heroes, images of which will stay with me for a lifetime. 9/21/01

-- Kerry Collins