NEW YORK CITY – Upperclassmen on the Iowa football team were in first grade or kindergarten on the September morning in 2001 when the world changed.
For most, the memories are distant if there at all.
But on a raw Christmas morning on the south side of Manhattan, the Hawkeyes gained an understanding of the events that took place 16 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, and how it impacted the lives of people beyond those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Iowa players and coaches joined their opponents from Boston College in taking a break from Pinstripe Bowl preparations on Monday to learn at the 9/11 Memorial Plaza and Museum and gain a perspective of the vastness of the city they are playing in from a 102nd-floor vantage point at the One World Observatory.
“The impact of what took place was so much larger than this one space, but seeing it, being there, put a lot into perspective,’’ said Iowa linebacker linebacker Josey Jewell.
The experience is unique among traditional bowl fare that participating teams experience.
There is no trip to the beach or an outing at an amusement park for the Hawkeyes this year as they prepare for Wednesday’s 4:15 p.m. bowl game at Yankee Stadium.
The team planned to attend a holiday show at Radio City Music Hall on Monday night, following an experience earlier in the day that players said they will not forget.
It started with a 47-second elevator ride to the 102nd story and the top of the One World Observatory, which sits on grounds where the Twin Towers once stood.
There, the Hawkeyes enjoyed a panoramic view of the nation’s largest city but once back on the ground, a single white rose caught the attention of Hawkeye linebacker Bo Bower.
The flower was fresh, placed on one of the nearly 3,000 names etched on bronze plaques that ring two 1-acre memorial pools at the site, each set within the original footprint of the Twin Towers.
The names of all those who perished in terror attacks at the skyscrapers, the first in 1993 and the second in 2001, are all memorialized at the site.
Hawkeye players paused, paying their respects at the memorial pools. Some snapped photos with their cellphones. Others simply reflected.
Bower gained an even better understanding of it as the team made its way through the museum that sits on a portion of the 8-acre site, which also includes a grove of 400 white oak trees.
Inside the building, multimedia exhibits and artifacts tell the stories of those who perished.
Walls in one area are ringed with photos of every person who died at the site and Bower was among Hawkeyes who typed in a name to learn the story behind the face.
He typed in the name of the man who was remembered outside with the white rose, Jordan Lopez, learning about his family, his occupation and what he was doing that September day.
“It really hit home; it became more than a name,’’ Bower said. “The man’s story, it was right there. He was just a man, could have been anyone. Somebody’s son. Somebody’s father. It really made an impact.’’
In a setting seven stories below ground, the depth of the impact, Hawkeyes walked between the remnants of the structure’s original footings.
They walked down a stairway, next to what remains from an original stairway.
They studied artifacts recovered from the site. The burned out hull of a firetruck, twisted metal that once was attached to a tower at the top of one of the buildings, the last iron support beam that was left standing at the site are all on display.
Players and coaches from Iowa and Boston College paused at most, gaining an understanding of what transpired.
It brought back memories for assistant coach LeVar Woods, then playing for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals in a game against the New York Giants several weeks after the tragedy.
Walking through the museum brought back memories of that trip, and he recalled the stench that existed then as the structure's ruins continued to smolder.
It hit home for those like Woods, who have visited before, and for those Hawkeyes making their first visit.
“To be walking there on the site where so much destruction and such a senseless tragedy happened, it impacts you," said free safety Jake Gervase, a junior who prepped at Davenport Assumption.
“Personally, I don’t remember 9/11. I was so young at the time, but it impacted so many people. To see their stories, to see what happened, being here is something I’ll always remember."