Joe Judge talks often about wanting the Giants to reflect the New York and North Jersey area.
Friday, that seemed more important to him than ever.
The head coach held his daily press briefing wearing an FDNY baseball cap to commemorate the lives lost and the courage of first responders on the anniversary of 9/11.
“This is always a significant day in American history,” Judge said. “We talked to the team about it this morning, that it’s not about what happened to the country on 9/11, it’s about how the country responded. I think that’s the lesson everyone has to take about how resilient this country is.”
Judge was a teenager in college in Mississippi when the World Trade Center was attacked 19 years ago. Most of the players on the team were infants or toddlers or in elementary school at the time. Nearly all of them grew up in other areas of the country or the world. For them, there is very little personal connection to what the New York City region went through that day and the days following.
But they all find themselves in the midst of another phase of American history right now, and Judge said it is important that the lessons of 9/11 be carried on in these times.
“You look at a lot of things that are going on right now across the country, how divided a lot of people seem, but it’s amazing how much this country can truly work together and respond when needed,” Judge said. “At the time I was thousands of miles away but you watched the way the city of New York came together in this time of crisis. Now I’m looking across a river at a city that is exactly where the tragedy happened. You listen to the stories today of guys who were in the [team’s] building the day that happened, how they could see the smoke coming up from the city, and it puts a much different perspective on it.”
The players responded to the somber tone of the day. Evan Engram opened his media session with an unprompted tribute.
“Today is a real important day in our history, especially in this area,” he said. “It’s important we remember those lives and those heroes. I will forever offer my condolences and prayers to the families of people involved.”
Jabrill Peppers had a more personal connection. He said he has “very vivid” memories of being in school in New Jersey that day 19 years ago and seeing the smoke come across the Hudson River.
“My prayers go out to the families that were affected,” he said. “I personally know people who had their dad in there, their uncle, their sister… Being from here, it hits a little bit harder.”
Judge noted his appreciation for those who sprang into action on 9/11, not just first responders and military personnel who “have our back” but “the Todd Beamers of the world, the action they took to bring down the third plane and save more American lives.”
Nineteen years later those measures still ring out.
“People have to remember, it’s not just a day, there were actions taken on that day that brought this country close together,” he said. “I think if we can focus more on how we can respond as a nation and work together we can get past a lot of this crap we are dealing with now.”