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Writers give first-hand account of tragedy

By GREG AUMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 14, 2001


The Internet, much like the current generation of young adults, has known little in the way of national tragedies. Nothing in the past five years -- not Columbine, not Princess Diana, not JFK Jr. -- comes close to what the country saw Tuesday.

Never before has the Internet factored in the way our country mourns. People flocked online in record numbers, overwhelming sites with unprecedented traffic. Across the board, sports sites quickly and rightly cast their news aside, long before events were canceled or postponed.

By late Tuesday, sites had shown that sports play a role in such a far-reaching story. Many sites have a presence in New York, meaning writers could offer first-person accounts of how they were affected on a more personal level than most Americans.

Sportsline.com's Jay Glazer, a New York-based writer, wrote Tuesday of his relief in learning that the wife of Giants running back Tiki Barber, a close friend, was okay after an early scare. Barber, whose team had lost to the Broncos the night before, said that if anyone mentioned the game to him, "I would literally freak."

A day later, Glazer told of a day's journey through the rubble that was lower Manhattan, searching for an old friend he would never find. "I breathed in the ashes of our friends and neighbors," he wrote. "I want amnesia, because any good memory I had before Sept. 11 is buried under wreckage in my mind."

CNNSI.com's Peter King, an NFL writer who lives across the river in New Jersey, told of his feeling of helplessness and his decision to drive to a blood bank Tuesday afternoon. He found a facility with six cots, but lines stretched for three blocks with people willing to wait hours to do their part to help victims.

"I got choked up, and I just had this ridiculously optimistic thought at such a ridiculously pessimistic time," King wrote. "People are good."

Leigh Montville, a longtime Sports Illustrated writer, said in a piece for CNNSI.com, Garnet "Ace" Bailey wasn't just an anonymous scout for the Los Angeles Kings, but a former Boston Bruins hockey player who he interviewed 30 years ago.

CNNSI.com's John Donovan looked at the tragedy from a parent's perspective, wondering how or when he'll be able to explain Tuesday's events to his 31/2-year-old son.

"Maybe you have a child, too, or a niece or a nephew or a younger brother or sister," he wrote. "How do you explain to them that some people are filled with a hate you cannot know, an evil you cannot comprehend? How do you explain to them Sept. 11, 2001?"

ESPN.com's John Clayton talked about the possibility of war with former Cowboys defensive tackle Chad Jennings, who was a pilot during the Persian Gulf War, and the site also had commentary from author Hunter S. Thompson, appropriately titled "Fear and Loathing in America."

TID-BYTES: The University of South Florida's official site (gousfbulls.com) is still largely abandoned -- the site has no mention of the Bulls' football victory at Pittsburgh last week. School officials had said a relaunched site would be in place by Labor Day. ... Times Bucs writer Rick Stroud will chat at tampabay.com/chat at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. ... The Eagles aren't coming to town, but fans can spend Sunday afternoon at 700club.com. The Eagles' fan site has an amusing game called "Stadium Survivor" in which fans navigate an Eagles player through all the obstacles associated with Veterans Stadium, including snowballs, beers and batteries.

- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com.

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