WVU Football Visits 9/11 Memorial - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Football Visits 9/11 Memorial

Former WVU quarterback Chris Gray's name along the North Pool. Former WVU quarterback Chris Gray's name along the North Pool.

Many of the Mountaineer football players had not even made it out of elementary school when they witnessed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

They can think back now, as college students, to what they remember about the horrific images that flashed across their television sets that day when the towers at the World Trade Center fell.

"I was in fifth grade, actually, and I was in class," junior defensive lineman Will Clarke recalls. "We were wondering what was going on and, as kids, they didn't want to tell us that the towers were being hit by terrorists. It was a crazy situation."

Clarke recounted details of that day while gazing upon the grounds where all of the mayhem took place some 11 years ago. He and his West Virginia teammates and coaches visited the 9/11 Memorial on Thursday, an opportunity to see ground zero and the way that the city has chosen to honor the memory of lives lost.

The team arrived just before 6 p.m. following a practice at Fordham University and while many of them stayed close to a tour guide to learn more about the Memorial and what they symbolize, others strayed from the pack, reflecting on what lay before them in a more personal manner.

To each, it seemed that the magnitude of what they were witnessing stood out the most. The Memorial stretches over eight acres, with two pools where the North and South Towers once stood.

Camera phones out, the Mountaineers took pictures of the scene, many of them posing by the pools or the "Survivor Tree," which had been nursed back to health following the attacks and replanted where it had first been placed back in the 1970s.

The tree, which was just 8 feet tall in 2001, now reaches 35 feet into the air. 

"This is a life-changing experience," said junior defensive lineman Shaq Rowell. "One of the tourists told us that over 2,000 people lost their lives and I really can't put it into words."

The Survivor Tree and the Freedom Tower, or One World Trade Center, symbolize the rebuilding in the area as the nation moves on from the tragedy, still remembering those who were left behind years ago.

Seeing the construction on the museum and various structures nearby lifted the hearts of the players who came to see the Memorial.

"I don't see anything but positive things going on. They're building these buildings, just letting people know that what happened can't hold America back," said Rowell.

Around the North Pool, a familiar name to WVU fans is listed among those who lost their lives in the towers.

Christopher S. Gray, a quarterback for the Mountaineers from 1988-91, is forever remembered in the N-44 section of the Memorial.

On Thursday, the current group of Mountaineers paid tribute to Gray and so many more.

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