When Sigi Schmid coached the LA Galaxy in a playoff match against the Metrostars on September 26, 2001, he looked to the actions of a friend of his son, Kyle, for guidance.
Kyle, who was 15 years old at the time, had a teammate whose older brother was working in his office at the World Trade Center on September 11 when two hijacked planes crashed into the two largest towers, killing thousands of people and affecting the lives of millions of others.
Schmid saw the affect that the attacks had on the young player’s mother and family. And when Schmid coached the LA Galaxy in the first match in New York since the attack, he drew inspiration from that family.
“You could see how much it hurt people, but you could also see that for a kid to get out and play a soccer game was a bit of a respite,” Schmid said. “That was my thinking as I prepared my team for the game. We became a little two-hour safe haven for everybody.”
It wasn’t easy, Schmid said, to bring his players back on the field after the tragic events just days earlier, but he knew that in many ways, the playoff meeting between the two teams could be a bit cathartic.
He didn’t know what to say to his players, who just 24 hours before the terrorist attacks were on a flight from Logan International Airport that was bound for Los Angeles International Airport – the exact flight pattern of Flight 11, which was the first to crash into the World Trade Center.
“It was a hard game to try and go out there and play. Everybody’s mind was on other things and people were concerned because they had friends or knew people who knew people that were victimized by 9/11,” Schmid said. “My whole approach was that the country also needed to have some entertainment. If we could provide a bit of that distraction and give people 2 hours of happiness, especially where we were playing, and allow their minds to escape a little bit before they had to get back to reality, that was our offering to help people recover from the tragic event that took place.”
On Saturday, the Sounders and Schmid had an opportunity to pay tribute to the thousands of workers who played a role in helping people to safety and nurturing those affected back to health.
“To pay tribute to all the rescue workers that were involved and helped when such a tragedy took place and all that they’ve suffered since then … we are a safe haven again,” he said. “Our message to them is that we still appreciate what you’ve done.”