Desert Edge football honors 9/11 through community service
September 13, 2017 by Kynan Marlin , Arizona State University
While the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, happened 16 years ago, many remember it like it was yesterday. Though one coach’s players may be too young to have any recollection of the event, he is still trying to help keep the memory alive through community outreach.
After the Desert Edge Scorpions won their first home football game last Friday, many within the team woke up early the next morning at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 9, to help the Goodyear Fire Department with its annual 9/11 Memorial Breakfast.
Players and coaches helped set up chairs, tables and other supplies to help the event go as planned.
Jose Lucero, first year head coach for Desert Edge, was asked by the fire department if he was willing to continue the tradition of the football team helping out in the event and he said yes.
“The biggest thing we try to teach the kids with things like this is to understand that there is more in the world than just themselves,” Lucero said. “Anytime we have the time to give back it is important to get our kids out of their bubble and out of their comfort zones to help other people.”
At the event, the athletes learned important lessons that will build their character past the game of football.
“I think they’re trying to teach us to become better men as we grow up through our lives and giving us good examples,” running back Kody Ball said.
“It just teaches you that you’re not the only person in this world and sometimes you have to give back to other people,” wide receiver and defensive back Gilbert Aguirre said.
However, the football team did not stop with helping the local fire department.
On Sept. 11, players helped the yearbook teacher, Marti Eldean, hold up red, white and blue paper chains that she created, which had the 2,996 names written of those who lost their lives on 9/11.
“I think it shows how much it means to people in the community and the people around us,” Lucero said. “With the Goodyear Fire Department, it was nice because we were helping the fire department out. But even when we did our chain here there were people driving by honking horns and people taking videos and people posting it on the internet, that don’t even have any affiliation with Desert Edge, but just how touched and moved they were.”
The public support has a bigger influence than just local nostalgia; it also provides a teaching moment for the athletes involved.
“It did impact a lot of peoples’ lives even though we’re here in Arizona,” Lucero said. “It just helps those kids see a little more of what that day is about.”
The day bears a different emotional impact for players depending on the family connection, including Aguirre whose father works for the fire department.
“9/11 plays a big part [in my family] because a lot of firefighters did lose their lives,” Aguirre said. “Just to think if we would have been in a different place at that time then I might not have my dad. So we do think about it a lot and we’re lucky to have my dad still here.”
Though others on the team may not have such a personal connection to the service, it still means something to them.
“It means… I don’t really know to be honest,” Ball began to say. “Like, going to it just makes me feel like a better person. It’s just something that we all need to do on that day. Just take a second, realize what happened and do as much as we can to help.”
While some coaches may find helping out in these community events are enough to pay their dues to the national tragedy, Lucero took yet another step in telling his own personal story to the kids.
Lucero was a junior at Saint Mary’s High School on 9/11 and vividly remembers coming down for breakfast and learning from his mother that a plane had crashed into a building in New York. He was watching the broadcast live as the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center.
The Desert Edge coach remembers going to football practice, which was close to Sky Harbor Airport, and his coach took a moment to look into the empty sky because every other flight was grounded that day following the attacks.
“I just remember looking at it and trying to grasp what was going on,” Lucero said. “Now the biggest thing is that you try to remember the people whose lives were lost and show gratitude to those who have risked their lives to defend our freedoms here.”