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Game offers spirited tribute to Sept. 11

Image of: U-M band
Jamie L. Nix, director of the Michigan Marching Band and the Donald R. Shepherd Assistant Professor in Conducting, led the band as it prepared for last Saturday's home football game. The band put on a lively half-time show to honor the victims of Sept. 11 and celebrate the spirit of America. (Photo by Paul Jaronski, U-M Photo Services).

Sept. 22, 2001, is a date most Michigan football fans never will forget.

No Big Ten championship was on the line. No big records were set that day. No special ESPN highlights were created. In fact, the game proved to be a workmanlike, 38-21 victory over Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium.

But for the 109,837 in attendance that day, it was more about life getting back to normal after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Michigan Stadium has never been so quiet as the moment of silence prior to that game, never so patriotic or loud as during the singing of the National Anthem and never so moved as during the halftime performance by the Michigan Marching Band.

Now, nearly a year later, the band and athletic department last week planned a slightly different approach to honoring the anniversary of the attacks.

“Personally, it is hard to believe a year has passed already,” says Bill Martin, the Donald R. Shepherd Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “I am sure everyone has stopped and reflected on Sept. 11 and remembered that the world we live in has changed. The playing of the National Anthem is a very big moment, and helps us remember some of the challenges we face in the world today.”

Approaching the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, the Michigan Marching Band once again was front and center in U-M’s game-day tribute to the victims of Sept. 11. While last year’s sober performance came during a time of intense national mourning, the band worked last week to prepare an uplifting half-time show that celebrates the spirit of America.

“We didn’t want it to be a somber show, but more of an upbeat performance and a celebration of America,” says Matt Burrows, director of development and marketing for marching and athletic bands. “We do want to recognize what happened one year ago, but we also want to show that (the United States) is still here.”

The Michigan Marching Band will give an encore performance of its special show Saturday when the Wolverines play at the University of Notre Dame.

The highlight of the show comes when the 246 band members form an outline of the continental United States. Three flag bearers enter the outline carrying American flags and march to areas representing the three sites directly affected by the events of Sept. 11: New York City, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.

The band’s set includes “New York, New York” and finishes with a medley of American songs, including “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” During the finale, the band presents its flag, which measures more than 60 feet in length.

The half-time performance was the centerpiece of a planned stadium-wide tribute by several U-M departments. The color guard was being expanded to conduct the traditional raising of the flag before a 20-second moment of silence. As has been done in every U-M home game since Sept. 11, both teams are brought onto the field for the playing of the National Anthem.

Scoreboards at the north and south ends of the stadium were to be programmed to highlight the University’s events as it prepares to honor Sept. 11. The U-M athletic media relations office has produced a commemorative game program with a special cover—the flag presentation from last year’s half-time show—and pages containing a list of campus events that will mark the anniversary of the national tragedy.

In addition, American flags fly atop the perimeter of the stadium. The Stars and Stripes replaced the normal Big Ten member flags after Sept. 11 and have flown above the stadium during every home game since the Sept. 22 contest. Martin says he will continue to fly the flags the remainder of the season.


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