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Area athletics coaches recall impact of 9/11

Former Brainerd football coach Ron Stolski and current Central Lakes College Raiders volleyball coach Jane Peterson remember 9/11 and the decision to continue to play during a dark week for the country.

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Members of the Brainerd Warriors swimming team hold a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before their meet Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Ron Stolski remembers addressing his team at football practice the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.

The long-time Brainerd head football coach noticed his players warming up a little quieter than usual and thought he needed to say something about what happened earlier that morning.

“I remember gathering the team and saying that our lives will be forever changed in ways that we are not sure of right now,” Stolski said of the 9/11 attacks.

Stolski also remembers telling his team that they’ll remember where they were during the attacks and that the day will forever be marked in history.

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Ron Stolski.

“It was quite a solemn meeting with the kids,” Stolski said. “I said ‘whatever comes will come, but America remains the greatest country on Earth.’”

Practice still went on for the Warriors, who were preparing for their Week Three game against Detroit Lakes Friday, Sept. 14, 2001.

According to the Dispatch published Wednesday, Sept. 12, all of Brainerd’s team practiced except for the Brainerd boys soccer.

Brainerd football hosted the Lakers that Friday with a moment of silence prior to the game.

“It was a beautiful ceremony,” Stolski said.

Looking back at 9/11 in the lakes area
Stolski remembers most teams in the state of Minnesota deciding to play their game the Friday following the attacks.

“I’m not sure if all schools played, but I think they did,” Stolski said. “The decision was pretty simple: our life must go on, but it was a long moment of silence prior to the game.”

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The Warriors would end up defeating Detroit Lakes 45-28 in the game after 9/11.

Brainerd football wasn’t the first team in action for Brainerd High School after the attacks. The Dispatch published Friday, Sept. 14, showed girls swimming and diving, boys and girls soccer, girls tennis and volleyball all played Thursday, Sept. 13.

The same could not be said for professional sports as the National Football League took a week off as well as Major League Baseball, which didn’t return until Monday, Sept. 18, 2001.

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Jane Peterson

Central Lakes College volleyball coach Jane Peterson remembers not really caring about volleyball the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“My two boys were in elementary school, so I was watching the TV and thinking what they knew or what the teachers knew,” Peterson said. “And if the teacher did know what would they even do with a classroom full of kids? I remember just not knowing what to say or do. I remember the only thing I could do was to provide any comfort I could, but I didn’t really know how to do that at all.”

With her volleyball team, Peterson remembers wanting to focus on the relationships with her team in an unknown situation.

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“You know coaches care for teams and people,” Peterson said. “That would be the first thing that comes to mind is how insufficient a volleyball practice is that day.”

Like the Warrior football team, the Raiders’ next game was home Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, against Mesabi Range. Central Lakes would come out on top 3-0 with Peterson saying similar things to Stolski as to why they continued with the game.

“I know the thought to cancel came across people’s mind, but I don’t remember canceling a game or thinking that was the right thing to do,” Peterson said. “This idea of what can you do and what would be the point of canceling the game — to honor the dead maybe, but there are other ways to honor the dead. A lot of people would see honoring death as living your life to the best you can.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

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