John Mara went to the top of Giants Stadium that fateful day, Sept. 11, 2001, and he won’t ever forget what he saw about 11 miles away, the smoke billowing from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, America on fire.
“I walked back down to my office and watched them both come down [on TV],” said the Giants’ co-owner, who attended six funerals in the aftermath.
“For me, the sight that I will never get over was, for several weeks after that, driving into our parking lot and seeing cars parked at the park and ride station. The same cars were there for weeks afterward in the same spots. Obviously, those people perished that day. That was just such an eerie, horrific feeling to see that every day.”
Mara was at MetLife Stadium Tuesday for a news conference to reveal that Army and Navy will commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 at The Meadowlands. There they will stage “America’s Game,” their college football rivalry for the ages, on Dec. 11, 2021.
“We’ve always wanted to have this game, but particularly being able to do it on the 20th anniversary year of 9/11 was especially important to us,” Mara said.
It took the service academies, the Giants, the Jets, MetLife Stadium, The Meadowlands Regional Chamber and the state of New Jersey to team up after bidding for the game brought proposals from several venues.
“It was a factor in our thinking to find a way to make it work here in the shadow of Ground Zero,” Navy director of athletics Chet Gladchuk said.
Navy leads the series 60-50-7. The game has alternated between Philadelphia and Baltimore the last four years and will be back in Philadelphia this year. The 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022 games will also be played at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Now add MetLife to the lineup.
“They were going to get a game, and it just so happened that during this time, you hit a 20th anniversary,” Army director of athletics Boo Corrigan said. “You kind of look at each other like, ‘All right, tell me why we’re not going to do this?’ ”
Roger Staubach, the former Navy and Dallas Cowboys great and co-chair of the Army-Navy Host Committee, contacted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie about three months ago to push for the 2021 deal to get done.
“We’re greatly indebted to the folks at West Point and the Naval Academy in Annapolis,” Christie said, “for giving New Jersey an opportunity on that 20th anniversary to recognize the sacrifice of the people here in this state and our region by moving the Army-Navy game here to MetLife Stadium.”