Ten Years Later, Hornets Assistant GM Recalls 9/11
By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer
September 9, 2011

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Tim Connelly was driving to work when he received a phone call from a friend.

Are you watching this on TV? the friend asked Connelly, then a full-time scout for the Washington Wizards and now the Hornets assistant general manager.

Connelly initially thought his buddy was referring to the not-yet-public news that Michael Jordan was returning to the NBA in 2001-02 as a member of the Wizards. Several members of the Wizards organization, including Connelly, knew that Jordan had chosen to come out of retirement, but on Sept. 11 the Hall of Fame shooting guard still had not publicly announced the decision.

Instead, Connelly quickly realized that his friend was referring to something much more grave and history-altering. Only a few miles away from his office, terrorists had flown a plane into the Pentagon, killing all 64 passengers on an American Airlines flight, as well as 125 Pentagon workers.

2nd Class Bob Houlihan, United States Navy

Connelly remembers the rest of the day as a surreal and confusing one in the nations capital. Also a native of nearby Baltimore, Connelly had numerous friends who were employed by the federal government. In the days before cellphones were as omnipresent as they are now, his immediate concern was trying to figure out how to contact everyone he knew, in order to determine if they were safe. Fortunately, no one Connelly knew was harmed in the attack.

I have a lot of friends who worked in the government, Connelly remembered this week. When you live in D.C., youre going to know a lot of people who work in the government. I was just trying to catch up with as many friends as I could, making sure that everyone was OK.

I didnt know anyone who worked in the Pentagon, but I knew people who did regular business there. I also knew people who lived two blocks from the Pentagon. D.C. is extremely small (geographically).

A decade later, its easy to forget that in the aftermath of 9/11, there was significant fear across the nation that the attacks might be a precursor to further terrorist plans executed on American soil. At the time, particularly in New York City and Washington, there was a significant and understandable emphasis on security at virtually every public building.

Connelly remembers eating in a Baltimore restaurant and seeing two armed security members, outfitted with Kevlar vests and equipped with M-16 rifles.

There was a military presence everywhere you went, he said. Everyone was on alert. No one knew what was going to happen. A fear gripped the region and people were saying to each other, What could possibly happen next? Everyone was leery of traveling around the area.

Like all major American sporting venues, the Wizards home called Verizon Center and located about three miles from the Pentagon substantially tightened its security measures after 9/11. The Wizards corporate offices are also located in Verizon Center, meaning Connelly reported to work at the arena each business day.

Every day we came in, it was like the kind of security youd see on a game night, he recalled. There was security at every door, and they would do things like sweeps in the parking lot, looking underneath your car (to check for bombs).

Not long after 9/11, Connelly was driving by Union Station, near Capitol Hill, when he saw a large group of people running toward him, in the opposite direction he was traveling. There had been a bomb scare in a nearby building. With tensions high and nerves frayed by the recent national tragedy, no one second-guessed orders to immediately evacuate the premises of any building.

Things would return to relative normalcy in D.C. and across the country in the weeks following the terrorist attacks, with sports playing a role in that process. For the Wizards and professional teams across the nation, the 9/11 tragedy marked a new era in which security and fan entrances to sporting venues became considerably tighter and more organized.

As Connelly puts it, the 9/11 attacks forever removed the sense of invulnerability that I had about the U.S. And at the same time, in the events aftermath, it showed me how strong and resilient we are as a country.

As for Jordan, after initially planning to announce his comeback to the NBA in early September 2001, out of respect for the victims of 9/11, he postponed his press conference to Sept. 25, a few days before training camp. He donated his 2001-02 NBA salary to victims of the tragedy.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Buy 2012-13 Season Tickets Now