Suns Organization Saddened, Angered

by Jeramie McPeek
VP, Digital
By Dustin Krugel
Posted: Sept. 14, 2001

Much like the rest of the nation, the Phoenix Suns organization and players were stunned, saddened and angered after watching Tuesday morning's horrific terrorist attacks unfold.

"I couldn't believe it. I thought it was some movie. I still can't believe it," said guard Stephon Marbury, who grew up in Brooklyn, less than a 15-minute cab ride from where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood hovering over New York City's skyline. "It's hard, especially coming from New York. I've been in the World Trade Center and I've seen the World Trade Center. You never would think something like this would ever happen."

Forty-eight hours after the tragedy, Marbury had yet to hear from people he knew who worked in the buildings, which collapsed within hours of being struck by two hijacked jetliners.

"I have friends, his sister (pointing to his friend) was inside the building and she got out," said Marbury, who first learned of the situation when another friend called him while he was still asleep in Phoenix. "A couple of other people I know got out, but there's still people that I know from the past that worked there and they're not even accounted for."

Tuesday's catastrophe also hit home for Vinny Del Negro, whose hometown in Springfield, Mass. is approximately 150 miles northeast of Manhattan.

"I talked to a couple of people in New York, actually one of my good friends last night who lives in Manhattan," the veteran guard said. "One of his friends, who I had known, passed away in the crash."

Suns swingman Jud Buechler knew something was wrong when he received an early morning wakeup call from his mother-in-law, who told him to turn on CNN.

"It really scared me because 6:45 a.m. (Phoenix time) is a pretty early phone call. That's usually when something is wrong," he said. "I turned it on and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was just in shock."

Suns swingman Dan Majerle was already awake and getting his kids ready for school when he was interrupted with live news coverage of the fire that was spreading through the first of the World Trade Center towers.

"I was actually watching in my living room," he said. "I saw the first one burning and I actually saw it live when the second plane crashed. That's how I found out."

Not all of the Suns heard the news right away. In fact, rookie guard Charlie Bell was oblivious to the events taking place on the east coast until he arrived at America West Arena for informal workouts.

"I didn't think it was real," said Bell, who arrived at AWA about 9 a.m. "I came in here in the training room and everybody was sitting down watching it. They told me about and it blew my mind."

Not surprisingly, the discussion among the Suns, as with most of their fellow citizens, quickly turned to questions about what America should do next.

"That's a really good question," Buechler said. "I asked my wife that last night, 'What is the first step? What should we do?' I don't know. I'm looking for some leadership. First thing you probably have to do is take care of the families of people that were affected and get to the cleanup process."

Majerle wants to punish the perpetrators now.

"My personal opinion is take action right away, not only against the people involved, but the people who have been harboring these people," he said, echoing the strong statements of President George W. Bush following the attacks. "Enough is enough. For us to be attacked here and take away our freedoms and innocent people dying ... I think we are the greatest power in the world and I think it is time to show it."

An obviously upset Marbury apparently agreed, saying only, "You don't want my opinion on that."

Much like most of the sports world this week, Suns players expressed different viewpoints regarding whether it was appropriate or not to continue on with the games. Most major sporting events, including all NFL and Major League Baseball games, were cancelled through this weekend.

"My first thoughts are, 'How can you go out there and play right now with this stuff going on in our country?'" Buechler said. "I think it would be very difficult to go out and play a game.

"My other thoughts are maybe we should play just to let these people that caused these horrific acts know it hasn't affected us to that point. Keep things going and not let them know they've really hurt us that badly and that we've cancelled all those events."

"I think we should play," Majerle said. "I think there's a time period where you should obviously mourn and make sure everything is safe, but I think it is better for everybody to go out there and go on."

In addition, many players expressed a concern for flying after the four commercial flights were hijacked Tuesday.

"I don't like to fly anyways," Buechler admitted. "I'm uncomfortable as it is in the air and now with the events that have taken place it adds a whole new scare to flying. Getting on a domestic flight right now, I don't know what they are going to have to do in terms of an armed guard, police on the flight or whatever. Obviously, you are going to have to beef up security, which is going to make it difficult to even fly, because you have to get to the airport earlier. But these things have to be done for our safety."

One of Majerle's biggest concerns was explaining to his oldest daughter, 6-year-old Madison, what had transpired as he drove her to school Tuesday.

"She asked a little bit about it and I just tried to explain it the best I could and make sure she knew she was safe and that her family is safe and secure," he said. "I think the school she is going to has done a very good job. Today she got dressed up in red, white and blue. I think that's pretty cool."

Bell said he'll never forget the day America was attacked and he'll likely share the painful memories, as well as the inspiring stories of heroism and patriotism that have occurred in the aftermath, with his own children someday.

"It's something that will be in history books," he said. "Probably 10, 15 years from now, they will be teaching about it in schools."

The entire Phoenix Suns organization will observe the President's "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance," as the America West Arena will be closed on Friday. In addition, the NBA has cancelled its league meetings, scheduled to begin next Thursday in Orlando, in light of the tragedies.

"We're going through something that I've never experienced in my lifetime," said Suns Chairman and CEO Jerry Colangelo, who is currently grounded in Milwaukee, waiting for air service to fully resume. "This tragedy is right at the top of the list and we as a country have an awful lot of sobering up to do as it relates to the vulnerability that, obviously, we have.

"But I am very confident that the resolve of the American people will make this even a greater country, and it's time to focus on those issues and not the mundane thoughts of every day life, as it relates to games, by way of example, and entertainment. Right now the focus should be on prayer, your loved ones, and what makes America such a great country."