Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Waking up in his dorm room on that September morning, Dennis Dottin-Carter turned to his television to see if it would be a nice weather day. Football players like to know if they'll be dealing with afternoon heat at practice.
"I saw the first building fall. I saw the plane hit the second building. It was so surreal. I couldn't stop watching."
No one could take their eyes off the images of the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Dottin-Carter was a 21-year-old defensive end for the University of Maine and just another person watching his world change in front of his eyes. He learned another plane hit the Pentagon and his thoughts and fears went to his mother at work in a federal building in Boston.
Was she OK? A phone call confirmed that she was.
Ten years later the memories are still fresh. Dottin-Carter is the defensive line coach at Maine, his third season on Jack Cosgrove's staff. Maine football was the community he turned to on that anxious day. Just as so many other student-athletes sought reassurance on other campuses, Dottin-Carter leaned on his coaches and teammates.
"Coach Cosgrove didn't try to sugarcoat anything. He was a very good leader. He told us to make sure our families were OK. You don't know how much comfort he was to us. I had family in Brooklyn, too, and I made sure I called them."
Four planes hijacked and turned into flying bombs. Thousands of innocent lives lost. The fractious society that is America quickly closed ranks. What happened at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in a Pennsylvania field, where the fourth plane went down after the passengers fought back made it all very, very personal.
George Towle, the University of Southern Maine's women's cross country coach, was on his way to the Back Cove area of Portland for a morning run with a couple of his runners. He didn't pay close attention to the early reports of what was initially called a small aircraft flying into one of the World Trade Center towers.
After the run he learned a whole lot more. "One of my runners (Tiffany Cook) was the wife of a Navy pilot (stationed at the Brunswick Naval Air Station). Her reaction hit close to home."
Towle returned to his office on the Gorham campus. He didn't call a formal meeting of his team because so many of his runners were stopping by his office anyway. "They were numbed. We all were just blankly watching TV.
"There was a kind of uneasiness. But when you're young and haven't been scarred enough to get the bigger picture, you're still waiting for answers."
Steve Quinones, USM's women's soccer coach at the time, was trying to reach his mother, who worked next to the World Trade Center. He couldn't reach her at first and his panic brought support from others.
USM AD Al Bean was on the phone with Rick Simonds, his counterpart at St. Joseph's. Each made the decision that their teams should not play and should not travel. "We talked about the situation and how we could and should support students and staff who were having great difficulty with what had happened," said Bean.
"It was a violation like nothing most of us had ever experienced and now we know things will never quite be the same. We had been attacked on our soil and that was new and very unsettling. I felt sick for those killed in the towers and all the others who lost their lives."
By the time Bob Russo unlocked the door to the Portland Boxing Club for the nightly workout, the news was about 10 hours old. "It was solemn, very quiet, like I've never heard it before," said Russo. "Our parents had Pearl Harbor but this was something we had never seen before. What a blow. Then came the rage."
Maine had opened its football season with a win over Colgate days before Sept. 11. Its second game with North Dakota State in Fargo was canceled. Cosgrove told those players who wanted to leave campus to do so and hug their families.
"Coach put things into perspective for us," said Dottin-Carter. "I count my blessings now."
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: