Sept. 9, 2011
BY DREW RUTHERFORD
America will pause this weekend to mark an event that shaped the world we live in today. Patriotic displays will be visible at college football games all across the country on Saturday, as the following day will be Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
While the day undoubtedly carries special meaning for all Americans, it weighs a little heavier on those who lost someone that day. Patrick Lenoir, former Tennessee offensive tackle (1988-91), falls into the latter category. His brother, Rob, died in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
"Obviously it was a little more personal for my family and me," Lenoir said. "He was a great family man and a great brother. He looked at everyone the same way. He was a true Southern gentleman."
After first hearing the news on the radio in his car, it didn't register with Lenoir that his brother was in any danger. But a few moments later he received a call from his father that stopped him in his tracks.
"I watched it just like everyone else in the country," Lenoir said. "We watched it together on TV as a family for several hours. We were praying that people would make it out. An hour became 10 hours, then 16 hours and so on. It was hard to make sense of it all."
Watching rescue workers pick through the rubble of the Twin Towers, the Lenoir family held out a glimmer of hope. But ultimately, reality was inescapable.
"There was always a little hope," Lenoir said. "We thought maybe he would turn up somewhere. Five days later they were pulling people out. We were praying for a miracle, but we just came to the realization he was gone."
It took two years to identify a bone fragment found in the rubble as that of his brother, John Robinson Lenoir.
As the Vols take on Cincinnati Saturday, both Lenoir brothers will be present--Patrick in body, Rob in spirit. In remembrance of all those who lost their lives that terrible day, Lenoir will carry the American flag through the block "T" formed by the Pride of the Southland band as the Vols take the field.
"The events of 9/11 had a tremendous impact on not only the lives lost but on millions of others who were affected in some other fashion," head coach Derek Dooley said. "The remembrance of that day provides an opportunity for all of us to appreciate how fortunate we are to live in this country and to enjoy all the things that are great about this sport. We are proud to have one of our former lettermen, a Vol for Life who was affected deeply by that tragic day, lead us onto the field on Saturday."
Without question, the moment will be memorable for the 100,000 Americans in the stands at Neyland Stadium, but it will carry a deeper meaning for the Lenoir family.