Print and Go Back ESPN.com: New England Patriots [Print without images]

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Andruzzis return for 9/11 tribute

By Chris Forsberg

Twitter.com/RealPatriotsFormer Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi with his brothers, father, and Robert Kraft.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While admitting it was a bittersweet moment given the approaching 10-year anniversary of September 11, former Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi and his family returned to the field at Gillette Stadium Thursday night in a tribute commemorating the decade that has past since the terrorist attacks.

Flanked by brothers Billy Jr., Jimmy, and Marc, all New York City firefighters, and his father, Bill, a former New York City police officer, Andruzzi participated in the game's opening coin flip. The quintet, all sporting Andruzzi's No. 63 jersey, did the same on Sept. 23, 2001, marking the return of football after the 9/11 attacks and it's an image that many relate to the start of the healing process for a nation rattled by the events 12 days earlier.

"[Thursday's tribute was] an honor for my entire family, for what they stand for, and for what they represent," said Andruzzi, who appeared in 72 games for the Patriots over five seasons and retired in 2006 after two years with the Cleveland Browns. "What happened 10 years ago was a tragedy in this country. We don't ever want that to happen again and, 10 years now, we don’t want to forget."

Andruzzi and his family drew national attention in the days following 9/11. The image of Andruzzi, too choked up to talk as he addressed the media in the aftermath of the attacks, is still vivid a decade later and he admits it remains hard to talk about the frightening hours that day waiting to hear if his brothers and father were safe.

"I have that image in my head, that was played on TV, where I couldn’t speak... I broke down a little bit," said Andruzzi. "But, thankfully enough, my brothers are still in my life. I’m fortunate, but there are others that weren’t so fortunate. And that’s why we are here today, to remember them."