Hunting Weekend to Bring Solemn Remembrance

Hunting Weekend to Bring Solemn Remembrance
This Sunday, Sept. 11, I plan to be doing what I was doing ten years ago on that fateful day that airplanes and buildings fell from the sky after the nation's worst ever terrorist attacks. I'm going to be hunting.

A decade ago, I was bowhunting whitetails in the Badlands of North Dakota not far from where Teddy Roosevelt made a name for himself as a rancher, a hunter and an outdoor writer.

In the Peace Garden State to cover the 2001 Professional Walleye Trail championship tournament in Bismarck, I had flown up a few days early to chase velvet antlered whitetails in the rugged and empty terrain of the High Plains.

When my flight left DFW International Airport on Sept. 8, 2001, my wife and young children walked me all the way to my gate to see me off on my trip. How little did I know that just a few days later they would never be able to do that again.

After arriving in one of the nation's emptiest and most beautiful states, two fellow ESPN Outdoors co-workers and yours truly hunted hard for a few days with little success.

On that fateful day of 9/11/01, we came out of the whitetail woods along the rugged and picturesque bottomland surrounding the Little Missouri River and headed towards Killdeer, N.D. for a few more provisions. As we climbed up the highway late that morning, our cell phones suddenly lit up like Christmas trees as we came into range of a cell tower.

Within minutes, we knew what the rest of the world had already known for a couple of hours. Thousands of Americans lay dead. The nation was under brutal attack. And war with an unfamiliar enemy had only just begun.

A short while later, we were finally able to put visual images with the unbelievable words that we had heard from our wives, our parents, our friends and other co-workers as they poured the news into our mobile phone message accounts with heart-felt emotion. Like them, we were left with a horrible feeling of disbelief, of unfathomable loss, and if I'm honest, a few tears rolling down my cheeks.

As I sat in a treestand later that afternoon trying to make sense of it all in some of the most beautiful surroundings I had ever seen, an unusual visitor came in behind my stand. An incredible 6X6 bull elk, one of a couple of thousand that roam the North Dakota Badlands.

With no elk tag in my pocket, all I could do was watch as this regal symbol of the American West thrashed a nearby tree with his antlers.

And as I watched this magnificent beast leave his mark upon the wild world, I listened to the moaning wind in the cottonwood trees. And smiled a wry smile that somehow, someway, this nation would emerge from that dark day and muster the courage and conviction to win this fight, no matter how long it took. Or how much it would cost.

So on this Sunday's 10th anniversary of 9/11, I'll gather in the pre-dawn light with my boys as we venture out for an early teal hunt before heading off to church services.

As the sun rises, I'll solemnly remember the nearly 3,000 souls that were lost on that horrific day of smoke, flames, explosions, screams and tears. And I'll mourn the thousands of U.S. soldiers who have paid freedom's ultimate price in the past decade to make sure that such a terrible day never occurs on our soil again.

I'll listen to the wind blow once again. And I'll probably shed another tear or two. All the while as I remember that dreadful day in September some 10 years ago.

May we all remember. And may we never forget.

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