OPINION: THE YOUTH ARE ALREADY MOVING FORWARD

By Al Mattei

Founder, TopOfTheCircle.com

In the late summer of 2002, a field hockey derby was taking place under the lights at Arlington Yorktown (Va.). Crosstown rival Arlington Washington-Lee (Va.) had come to renew its ancient rivalry with Yorktown.

For the record, Yorktown got three first-half goals in a 4-0 win over Washington-Lee, playing plucky and opportunistic defense in front of goalkeeper Carolyn Klein, even defending four corners in the final half-minute of play and after time expired.

But the occasion of the game was significant. Washington-Lee and Yorktown are the two field hockey teams closest to the Pentagon, and played their rivalry game a scant two days before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"It's been a very rough time, and one of the toughest years," said Yorktown head coach Becca Kuehn. "I think everybody's been affected; they either knew somebody, or know someone who knew somebody. But they really came together as a team. It was a really horrible thing that happened, but it was great thing for this team, because we really came to know each other."

You might not know that there had been an attack on America if you had been at Yorktown High on Sept. 9, 2002. Few American flags adorned the cars in the parking lot, none of the navy and white uniforms worn by the teams sported flag patches, and nobody was dreading the sounds of aircraft taking off and landing at nearby Reagan National Airport.

Instead, to a woman, American field hockey players are moving on. Two days before the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, Yorktown and Washington-Lee were not concerned with reliving the attacks and their aftermath, but were only concerned about how to negotiate the ball forward on the adventurous multiuse Yorktown pitch.

"We really did well in working the right side of the field," Kuene said, indicating a threadbare patch of ground which serves as the sideline area for the Yorktown football team. "It actually helps us because it's very smooth, and it's probably easier to work than the grassy side of the field."

On the other bench, Washington-Lee coach Susan Proto was worried about how her team would respond for its first game of the season.

"Coming in, we were pretty tight, but we managed to play well in the second half," she said.

Oddly enough, Proto's team was to have played its home opener Sept. 11, 2002, but a request to move the game was granted.

"We'll definitely have a big advantage, since our next game is at home," she said. "And we're not used to playing on a field like this."

Young people in the American culture are seen as being purposeless if not downright shiftless. Ennui with all things in authority -- parents, teachers, peace officers -- is a given. Yet, a year after year after the worst act of war on American soil in almost 200 years, young America is remarkably resilient.

None of these teenagers were huddling in fear as they did some 363 days earlier. None were wondering when the next attack might come.

That's probably because these two teams, over the past year, found their own ways to show respect to those who died at the attacks. Washington-Lee built their own homemade memorial on the grounds of the Pentagon. Yorktown had a candlelight vigil, and were planning another one for the first anniversary of Sept. 11.

And you get the feeling that Yorktown won't be the only team involved in it.

"A lot of my girls have friends on (Washington & Lee)," Kuehn said. "They're probably neighbors with some people, and probably grew up playing field hockey together. And still friends."

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