The land of the free

Herald staff

SNOHOMISH — For a few hours Friday night, life went on here like it always has — many in the town turning out for a big football game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

But Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on the United States weren’t forgotten. Those attending the Lake Stevens-Snohomish game fell silent for a moment in remembrance of the lives lost in New York, Washington, D.C., and rural Pennsylvania.

Similar scenes were repeated at high school stadiums throughout Snohomish and Island counties, with moments of silence followed by school bands playing "America the Beautiful" and the national anthem.

With most U.S. college and professional sporting events canceled through the weekend, Friday night high school football became one of the few escapes from the images of pain being shown 24 hours a day on television.

Snohomish High School senior Natasha Chavez was relieved to have a much needed break, though she said nothing could immediately wipe the tragedy out of her mind.

"I cried my eyes out when I saw it," said Chavez, who had the American flag painted on her cheek and wore red, white and blue ribbons in her hair to go along with her Snohomish pom pom. "It’s been very hard to come to school and maintain concentration.

"I think the media is overdoing it a bit. We need the information. We need to see some of it, but it’s nice to pull my eyes away from the television — to have some sort of distraction."

Most Snohomish fans found a way to mix in a little blue with their customary Panther red and white Friday night. Cars in the parking lot were decorated with flags or its colors. Painted across the rear windows of dozens of cars were messages like: "We will rise above the ashes and honor those we’ve lost" and "Land of the free, home of the brave."

Red, white and blue buckets were passed through the stands all evening so fans could make donations.

A half-hour before the game, as both teams ran through some final drills on the field, the crowd lit candles and sang "God Bless America." "Taps" and the Snohomish band’s version of "God Bless America" followed the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance. More than a few tears were shed.

Their was no chatter and no cheering.

Just respect.

Then, stadium announcer John Pringle said, "Let’s play some football," and that’s what they did.

Snohomish senior Josh Roberts, who was wearing an Uncle Sam hat along with his letter jacket, was glad high school football was played Friday night.

"This gets my mind off of what’s happened," Roberts said. "It’s nice to get out and watch a good football game. This town is based on football, basically. The whole town is here together."

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