A decade later and people still remember exactly where they were when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers. Brian Gionta is no exception.
With his career at Boston College behind him, the Rochester, NY native was particularly nervous that Tuesday morning in 2001. It was Day 1 of his first-ever NHL training camp and the rookie winger was looking to make an impression on the Devils’ coaching staff.
“I arrived at the practice facility in West Orange, NJ around 7:00 a.m.,” recalled Gionta, who was just 22 years old at the time. “We were going through our medical exams when we heard the news. We couldn’t believe it – I mean, we had all just gone out for dinner in the city the night before. All the guys were huddled around the TVs in the rink to find out as much as we could about what was going on. The phones weren’t even working at that point.
“There were a few spots inside the arena where you could actually see the Manhattan skyline,” added the Habs captain. “We could see the smoke pouring out of the towers. I knew a few people who were in there – former classmates and some friends of friends.”
When Gionta woke up that morning, he knew it would be a day he would never forget. But his memories of September 11 are of anything but experiencing his first day as a professional hockey player.
“The league shut down operations for a couple of days,” he continued. “Seeing everything that happened put what we do for a living in perspective, for sure.”
After spending a busy three days in New York for an NHL media tour, the father of two is heading back to Montreal this weekend with his thoughts and prayers on the people who were affected by those terrorist attacks 10 years ago.
“I’ll definitely read and watch all the tributes they have this weekend,” he explained. “My father-in-law was a firefighter. I want to show my appreciation to all those people who risk their lives to protect others. I’ve never made it back to Ground Zero in the past 10 years to see the work they were doing to rebuild things and the new monument they’re unveiling this weekend. Hopefully I’ll get to see it soon.”
Alexandre Harvey is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis.