A reflection on 9/11, its impact on athletics

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, September 11, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Local coaches Craig Beesley, David King and Jeffery Gibson can tell you where they were on 9/11 and in the days that followed. According to old issues of The Natchez Democrat, athletics remained largely unaffected at the high school level in the Miss-Lou.

It began as a normal Tuesday at school. Football season was well underway, so David King was preparing to take the Trinity Episcopal Saints to Woodville to play Wilkinson County Christian Academy. He was in the library when it happened, he said. 

In the days following, president George W. Bush announced a national day of mourning to take place on Friday, Sept. 14, 2001. As a result, the Mississippi Private School Association asked teams to reschedule their games to Saturday or Sunday. At the time, King was supportive of the rescheduling. 

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“This is certainly a time of mourning and football isn’t that important compared to what else is going on right now. If this is what the MPSA thinks we should do out of respect, then we certainly will!” King said in the Sept. 14, 2001 issue of The Natchez Democrat. 

Their game in Wilkinson County went on as scheduled as the Saints won a close ball game 48-37. Trinity’s quarterback Chad Ridley scored six touchdowns in the game, two rushing, two passing, a punt return and a kick return. WCCA’s quarterback Stephens McVea had five touchdowns in the game. 

“I’ve been in a whole bunch of them in my seven years here, but that was about the best one I’ve been in,” King said in the Sept. 16, 2001 issue of The Natchez Democrat about the game. 

Wilkinson County High School head coach Jeffery Gibson was in his apartment in Monticello, Arkansas on 9/11. He had recently graduated from college at the University of Arkansas Monticello where he played football. 

At that point, he was not a coach but was transitioning from being a student to live after college, he said. As the scenes unfolded on tv, he could not believe it was really happening. 

“It just didn’t seem real. I remember that we could not believe this was happening to the United States,” Gibson said. “We were dumbfounded about it. It was like something out of a movie. I felt bad because you would see people jumping out of buildings. It made you appreciate your loved ones and brought people closer together.”

In the time following the attack, he said the country was closer together. He began to appreciate things because there were people who were willing to do whatever it took to threaten freedoms, he said. 

The attacks did make people more vigilant and pulled communities together.

Cathedral athletic director Craig Beesley said he can remember being at school in class when he heard about the planes hitting the trade towers. As word spread, classes began to gather around the tv’s watching the news. Athletics were impacted because the families of players and coaches were impacted, he said. 

“At every field in every event, there were special prayers and a moment of silence for years,” Beesley said. “It eventually led to military days at our football games.”