IRVING Jason Garrett and his wife, Brill, visited the One World Observatory in Manhattan on a summer vacation. The Dallas Cowboys coach immediately realized he needed to get his team to the site when they traveled to New Jersey to play the Giants.
“I probably wasn’t there for 10 minutes, and I kind of looked around and said ‘We’ve got to somehow, someway get our football team here,’” Garrett said Tuesday. “I lived in New York during the time of 9/11, and it’s one of the great tragedies in our country’s history and a really, really challenging time. The response from everybody in that area, and really all across our country, and to a certain extent across the world, to that tragedy was really amazing -- the response to that terrible adversity. It’s captured there. It’s captured there by the memorial, and similarly it’s captured by the building, the One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower. The response is captured well.”
Since becoming the full-time coach in 2011, Garrett has taken the Cowboys to visit the Navy SEALs and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Last year, when the Cowboys spent a week in London for a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Garrett had a team dinner at the Tower ofLondon.
The Cowboys will visit Ground Zero on Friday night, culminating with a team dinner at the top of One World Trade Center.
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“It was a great evening for our team; it was a great bonding experience for our team there [in London],” Garrett said. “This kind of feels the same way to me and to our coaches and to our staff. I think the players are excited about it.
“…I think it’ll be a good experience for everybody. It’ll be great to expose our team, particularly because of their age. A lot of them were young when this happened. So I think the exposure to it -- the tragedy of what it was and then the response from everybody in that area and all across our country – I think it’s significant to our country’s history and inspirational to everybody. I think it’ll be a really special evening to our team.”
Garrett served as Kerry Collins’ backup for the Giants in 2001. The team played a Monday night game in Denver, arriving at Newark, N.J., early on the morning of Sept. 11. The team’s charter deplaned at the gate next to where United Airlines Flight 93 departed.
A few days after the terrorist attacks, Garrett and other Giants players handed out water and greeted first responders.
Several current Cowboys players were only 8 years old when the attacks happened.
“Even at a young age, I knew it was a tragedy,” running back Joseph Randle, 23, said. “So it’s going to be real big on Friday, getting to go check that out. Coach Garrett thought that was important for us, and I do too. That’s going to be something special for us to go view as a team.”
The Cowboys will depart from their usual in-season travel schedule. They normally depart for away games the day before kickoff, following a morning walk-through at Valley Ranch.
This week, they will practice at Valley Ranch on Friday before leaving on their charter for Newark. They will conduct their walk-through at a local high school Saturday.
“I have never visited the World Trade site,” Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey said, “so it will be great for me. A great experience. And it will be good way for the team to bond and reunite. We have already pressed the reset button. Guys are focused. This is a great team building opportunity.
“Life is short. Sometimes as athletes we forget about the most important things in life, and it would be good to go up there and actually get a reality check and see what's real and how valuable this opportunity we have is.”