Remembering the most emotional night in Lambeau Field history
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, sports leagues around the country came to a halt.
When the National Football League resumed play two weeks after 9/11, the first Monday Night game was held in Green Bay.
On perhaps the most emotional night in the history of Lambeau Field, two people took center stage, surrounded by fans who shared their same emotions.
“It was an event that everyone took part in, the energy of the stadium, even remembering now, 20 years later, it’s still a special moment,” recalls Chris Gizzi, the Packers Strength Coach.
In 2001, Gizzi was a linebacker for the Green and Gold and a member of the U.S, Air Force Reserve.
On the morning of September 11th, he remembers feeling torn between team and country.
“One of the first people I was on the phone with was my reporting officer back in Colorado Springs and he was very clear, continue the mission, continue what you’ve been assigned to do, do your job and I think that gave me a lot of resolve to keep going forth as my role with the Packers, but also as a public relations officer, so making sure we tell the story and make sure that people believe in what we do defending the country,” says Gizzi.
A few days before the Packers retook the field, in front of the nation on a Monday night against Washington, Gizzi was notified of an unexpected honor.
“It was Coach Sherman’s idea, he presented it to me at the end of the week, I didn’t know exactly, what exactly he wanted, but the way it worked out, I think the fans are as responsible for that as anything too,” says Gizzi.
To a thunderous ovation, Gizzi led his teammates onto the field carrying an American flag.
“It was about as electric as I’ve ever seen the stadium, I got carried across that field, it was a group effort, it was awesome to be part of something bigger than yourself,” says Gizzi.
Just moments after the Packers dramatic entrance, we talked with country music star Martina McBride, invited to Green Bay by the NFL
“It’s such an honor to be asked to sing the anthem anytime, but especially since the events of a couple weeks ago,” said McBride in 2001.
20 years later, McBride says she still remembers that night vividly, as one of the most powerful moments of her life.
“We were all still so raw and so in shock as a nation and to be asked there was such an honor for me and as I started singing the whole crowd was chanting USA, USA and then they all started singing along. Honestly, after 9/11, I’ve sang the National Anthem all my life, we all have right, from kindergarten on, but after 9/11 was the first time, and maybe even at Lambeau Field was the first time, that I really understood the weight of those lyrics and they just took on a whole new meaning,” recalls McBride, before adding, “It was a powerful moment man, I go back and watch the video every once in awhile.”
Those at Lambeau Field that night will tell you the patriotic pregame ceremony even trumped the Packers victory, a night McBride calls the highlight of her career.
“It’s the top moment, just because it was so special and it also endeared me to Green Bay forever and ever,” says McBride.
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