Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, September 16, 2001

It’s not time yet for
the sounds of football


There would have been whistles and shouts this weekend, cheers and grunts, tubas and drums and songs over loudspeakers.

We would have heard the sweet sound plastic makes when it pops, that wonderful noise that comes when young men in football pads crash into one another with beautiful force.

Instead there is silence.

Stadiums stand empty. No bands. No people. No chili and rice.

Instead they are lonely and quiet, and we hold our loved ones close.

It's still too soon. The silence is still healing. Still appropriate. Still respectful. Still right.

We need it right now.

Because there are other sounds out there this weekend. Sounds we hear when we aren't even listening.

We hear Peter Jennings. And the networks. And the stories. And the sobs.

We see people, even when we aren't watching. Working, working, working, slogging through melted steel, walking right through the boots under their feet. We see people lining up to help, desperate to do anything. We see ourselves in them, refusing to give up. We see them clutching pictures of people who are yet to be found and probably won't be. We see airplanes, again and again and again, disappearing into skyscrapers and clouds of flame.

We see the sky falling. We see a city crumbling. We feel a nation mourning.

We hear them. We keep hearing them. We hear the final cell phone calls. We hear the voice mail messages that were the last things left behind.

We hear them.

Today we need the silence.

We need just a little peace.

We need time to sort out our feelings, emotions swirling all around us now. The shock is fading. The human reality is sinking in. It's real now. So many emotions. Sadness. Pride. Despair. Anger. Defiance. Togetherness. Fear.

We have no idea what New Yorkers are feeling, and yet we feel it along with them at every step.

We can't play football now.

We can't. Not yet.

Not with firemen and families showing us the best in America under the worst of conditions. Not with the unknown still looming on the horizon. Fear is behind us now. But there is more fear ahead.

We know that the coming days will mean more than just flag-waving and candle-lighting.

Today is a time for silence.

It is what's right.

It would have been nice to lose ourselves in Florida-Tennessee, to escape into college football all weekend. It would have been great to follow UH to Reno. To watch pro football today. It would have been wonderful to have a high school game to shake us out of our shock and despair, to remind us it's time to start living again, to make us feel like we're showing the world that we are still strong.

And it will be. We will be.

The day will come again when those athletes will bring us to our feet, to help us let loose, to yell about something other than terrorism, to celebrate something other than America triumphing over horror, to curse something other than man's inhumanity to man. We will look again at these young people as a symbol of the best we have to offer.

Our stadiums will sing and rock and shine as never before.

But right now our best are still sifting through rubble in New York City. Still finding more in themselves than they knew. Still never ceasing to amaze us with their heart and their courage. Still somehow going on.

All the other sounds are too strong today. We hear them.

We hear them still.

Today is too soon to drown them out. Today we honor them with silence.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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