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'Emotional weekend' | Washington Football opens season with September 11 tribute

The Washington Football Team will have a tribute to the people affected by the 9/11 tragedy before their week 1 game at FedEx Field.
Credit: AP
Honor guards stand at the Pentagon Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Arlington, VA, partial graphic

WASHINGTON — Twenty years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, Ryan Fitzpatrick was a freshman at Harvard University, preparing for the school's first football game of the season. He would never play in that game. 

"It was a day I don't think anyone will ever forget," Washington's new quarterback Fitzpatrick said. "We were trying to use our cell phones but the phones were not working. We were just trying to process what the heck was going on." 

Harvard University is located in Cambridge Massachusetts, just 7 miles away from Logan Airport in Boston where two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, departed before hijackers flew the planes into the World Trade Center in New York City. There were four planes total: American Airlines Flight 77 that departed Washington Dulles International Airport and was flown into the Pentagon in Arlington County and United Airlines Flight 93, which departed Newark International Airport and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers.

Washington Head Coach Ron Rivera recalls being in meetings as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Eagles on that fateful day. 

"One of the secretaries had her TV on and we caught a glimpse of what was happening," Rivera said. 

Two days after the attacks, the NFL postponed the Week 2 games, which included the Washington Football Team's Monday night game against the Green Bay Packers. 

Twenty years late, Rivera and his team President Jason Wright are making space for the team to honor the lives lost. The duo went to a wreath ceremony at the memorial at the Pentagon Tuesday. 

 "You really do reflect," Rivera said. "It was a powerful thing." 

Team captain and receiver Terry McLaurin was only 5 years old at the time. 

"This is a very big moment for our country," McLaurin said. "I think it's very important that we remember the people who lost their lives, the families that are still affected to this day, and we have to continue to keep them in our hearts. I think we just keep loving each other and support each other. I think if we can get more of that in our country, I think we can make some steps forward to changes that we are all trying to see."

RELATED: Biden to mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 at 3 memorial sites

Rivera said the team plans to remember those affected by the 9/11 tragedy in a pregame ceremony Sunday. 

"This is going to be an emotional weekend for a lot of people" McLaurin said. "I want to make sure people are respectful of that. I know it won't change anything, but maybe they can see us this Sunday and find some joy. We also understand it won't bring back the lives that were lost but we are very fortunate for the people that sacrifice their lives and it doesn't go unnoticed."

RELATED: Washington's impending name change is still a focus for fans ahead of team's first game | Locked On WFT

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