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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Two NYC-area natives will have home on their mind during NFL debuts

By Matthew Coller

On the biggest night of their lives, Jaleel Johnson and Tashawn Bower will be carrying the weight of memories of the attacks on New York City on September 11, 2001.

Of course, we all live with the unshakable images of that day, in which more than 3,000 Americans were killed by act as of terrorism. But for Johnson and Bower, taking the field on 9/11 for both of their NFL debuts hits closer to home than for most of the Minnesota Vikings’ roster.

“Being so close, you know people who were effected and you still have a heavy heart and you always will,” said Bower, who grew up near Newark, New Jersey, his house within in sight of the Twin Towers. “To go out there and get a win would be something that means a lot to me.”

Bower, an undrafted free agent who played his way onto the Vikings’ roster during training camp and preseason, was only six years old in 2001, but had no trouble recalling the chaos of that tragic day.

“I remember our teacher telling us about it and I remember her husband worked in one of the buildings,” he said. “It was definitely a crazy day. I’ll always remember where I was, how everything was so frantic and crazy.”

His teacher’s husband escaped and Bower was lucky enough not to lose family or friends in the attacks.

While the nerves of seeing his first NFL action will be overwhelming – especially on the Monday Night Football stage – Bower knows that he won’t be able to avoid reflecting on his home town during the lead up to kickoff.

“During that national anthem, it’s probably going to be emotional for a lot of people back home and I’ll be thinking about everyone back home and what this whole day means,” Bower said.

The Vikings have planned a stadium-wide recognition in memory of 9/11 victims that will include the display of a full-field American flag and a flyover by a B-52 Bomber.

Johnson will have Brooklyn on his mind on Monday night. The Vikings’ fourth-round pick spent his first 14 years in New York before moving to Chicago. Like Bower, he was very young but clearly remembers where he was on the morning of September 11.

“I was actually in second grade. And I could see the smoke from the towers,” Johnson said. “I didn’t see the collision, but it was definitely a scary being in New York and being so close to it. Being in the second grade, I had no idea until I got home and saw that the Twin Towers had been hit.”

As he’s grown older and moved away from New York, Johnson said he’s come to understand the impact 9/11 had on his city.

“Only being in second grade, I knew what happened, but it didn’t hit me as hard as it did older people, as I got older and I saw how it affected everyone,” Johnson said.

The post Two NYC-area natives will have home on their mind during NFL debuts appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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