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NFL planning special 9/11 tributes at Kickoff Weekend games

We will never forget the terror Osama bin Laden helped formulate and orchestrate, and just more than four months from now, it will be brought back into our consciousness.

The first full slate of games scheduled to be played this season falls on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. We all know what that date means and what happened at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and in a field in Pennsylvania, where a struggle between brave passengers and hijackers caused United Flight 93 to crash, saving lives while sacrificing their own.

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And the NFL has plans to pay homage to those who were affected most by the tragedies with special tributes at games that weekend.

"We will use the national platform to remember and reflect upon those who lost their lives and honor families who lost loved ones," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said via e-mail. "We also will salute the American spirit, the early responders on 9/11 and everyday heroes.

"We designed the schedule in a manner that would enable us to help appropriately commemorate, on a national level, September 11th and what it represents to Americans."

While a full slate of games is on tap for Week 1, three games stand out. The Washington Redskins will play host to the New York Giants, the Arizona Cardinals will play host to the Carolina Panthers, and the day will be capped by "America's Team," the Dallas Cowboys, playing in the shadows of New York City against the Jets on Sunday night.

The reason why games are in D.C. and New York are obvious. Those were the regions most directly impacted and are the nerve centers of wealth and power in the United States. The Jets and Redskins are planning special events, complemented by the league.

"We have been working on league-wide plans and anticipate announcing details in the coming weeks," McCarthy said. "There will be elements that will be used thematically by all clubs and teams will make additional plans in their markets. We plan on having in-stadium and on-air tributes and other special activities."

Arizona is where defensive back Pat Tillman played before he opted out of the NFL and voluntarily enlisted into the military, spurred by the terrorist attacks. He lost his life trying to help forces ferret out terror, and he is a hero who has helped us put a face on so many others who have sacrificed so we can watch, play and love the game of football.

Roy Dabner / Associated Press
The Pat Tillman statue outside University of Phoenix Stadium is a popular destination for fans.

Tillman's No. 40 is retired by the team, an eight-foot bronze statue graces the grounds outside of University of Phoenix Stadium, and every Veterans Day a tribute is paid to his honor. The Cardinals said that other plans are being formulated for their game on Sept. 11.

As glorious of a day as this can be, especially knowing that the mastermind of the horror that caused the anniversary met an inglorious ending, there is still trepidation.

The labor dispute between NFL owners and players could cause the delay or cancellation of games. For now, both sides say they expect the season to go on as scheduled, but there is significant ground to cover for that to happen.

If it doesn't, we will all find ways to commemorate, but it would be a lost opportunity to make something special out of something we'll never forget.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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