Today, on 9-12, the NFL asked us to be the united country we were on this same day 20 years ago. And to bring that point home, they gave us Juliette Candela.
She sang the national anthem Sunday at the end of a tribute video put together by the NFL and narrated by Steve Buscemi. Juliette Candela sang in front of the World Trade Center Memorial. She sang to remember the victims of 9-11. And she sang to make her father proud. Her dad died 20 years ago in the terrorists attack of the Twin Towers. He was one of the 2,977 souls who died that day, that we, as a country, honored on the 20th anniversary.
Two decades ago, Juliette Candela was only six. On the morning of 9-11-2001, she was thinking mostly about being a first grader and how she was days away from turning seven. Then her world changed.
John Candela, her dad, was a trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, a brokerage firm that took up floors 101 through 105 in the north tower of the World Trade Center. American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into floors 93 through 99. No person who was in the building above the impact survived.
In an interview with INews, she remembered that she was playing in her school’s gym when her teacher came to get her. It was about an hour before lunch. Her teacher told young Juliette Candela that her mother was coming to get her.
“I didn’t understand why I couldn’t play,” Juliette Candela said. “I remember protesting and said ‘I’m not going, I want to go to gym’ but she put my backpack on and I’d never seen someone so serious. It scared me.”
Juliette Candela Said Her Mother Told Her ‘Daddy’s Not Coming Home’
She remembered the conversation she had with her mother. Juliette Candela was almost 7 back then and she still remembers in vivid detail. Her mother, “said my name and put her hands on my shoulders. She was very steady and said, ‘There’s been an accident and daddy’s not coming home.'”
On Sunday, Juliette Candela’s performance was featured at every NFL arena with an early game. She sang the national anthem. And every player and every fan knew how her life two decades ago.
But she also represented the point the NFL tried to stress. Our country, collectively, got back up on Sept. 12, the day after the horrendous attacks dropped us to our knees.
Steve Buscemi, a well-known actor, narrated the NFL’s video about 9-12. Two decades ago, Buscemi found his old firefighting gear and rushed to Ground Zero to offer his help. He’d worked as a firefighter for Manhattan’s Engine Company 55 in the early 1980s. Buscemi volunteered to dig through the rubble of the two towers.
“The day after, we picked each other up,” Buscemi said in the video. “We did it by having faith and belief in one another, and in something bigger than ourselves. We did it together, and we did it by remembering who we are. But more importantly, who we as Americans aspire to be.”
Buscemi said 20 years can go by in the “blink of an eye.” And soon we see a photo of little Juliette Candela, with her big brown eyes, next to her father. And then we see Juliette so grown up and performing the national anthem on a day filled with hope.