Tuesday marked the 11th year anniversary of September 11, 2001. With each passing year, the tragic events of that day continue to forever be etched into Americans hearts.
For two members of the New York Jets, it was a day to give back to the local community.
Defensive end Mike DeVito and wide receiver Chaz Schilens visited Goryeb Children's Hospital at Morristown (N.J.) Medical Center that morning, interacting with patients and their families.
"This was great," DeVito said after the visit. "It's always something I like to get involved in. This has got to be the seventh or eighth time I've come to the children's hospital. It's great to see these kids, and just great to see them lifted up and in better spirits."
"That's kind of ironic that it happened and we came here today," Schilens said. "But it just makes you appreciate stuff, seeing people that aren't 100 percent, and especially kids. I was thinking, I have a daughter that's almost 2, and I wouldn't know what to do, you know? Just to see the kids' full-body casts and stuff, it makes you put stuff into perspective and appreciate health. It was good, it was good to come."
The Jets teammates began their visit in the hospital's Valerie Fund Children's Center. The first patient they were introduced to was a boy named Leo, who was wearing a Jets hoodie and hat. Leo informed DeVito and Schilens that he had a brain tumor and had to go through chemotherapy. He also told them that his mother (who was also inside the room) didn't like football but somehow was a Giants fan. Jokingly, DeVito said, "We're leaving."
"He had the huge tumor scar," Schilens said, "but he seemed upbeat and he was appreciative and stoked to meet us. So it was cool."
Leo was gracious around both players. He asked Schilens if he wouldn't mind taking a picture with him and said how much it meant that the duo stopped by to talk with him.
"Leo was definitely a diehard fan," DeVito said. "That's the great thing to see. To see these kids that are going through a tough time but still have that passion for our team. It's just a testament to the New York Jets and the type of organization that we have. We go out and reach the community and people really see that and recognize that. We have great fans. Even when they're going through the toughest times, they still are representing us and having our backs."
After engaging with a few more patients in the Valerie Fund Children's Center, DeVito and Schilens shifted to the Aresty Family Day wing of the hospital. One of the patients they saw there was playing a Madden NFL video game. Interestingly, the Jets were playing against Miami, one of their division opponents, in the game.
The next stop was to the Pediatric Inpatient Unit. While there, Nos. 70 and 85 chatted with a patient named Jonah. When the duo approached, Jonah was in the middle of playing the game Battleship with his father. Yet almost immediately when he saw the players, he jumped out of his seat with a smile on his face. Jonah informed them that his sister was a big Jets fan. Schilens asked him how he was doing in the game.
"A lot of the times when you walk in the rooms," DeVito said, "there are a lot of down faces, and then you get to talk to them, and spend time with them and kids will start to brighten up and the parents will start to brighten up."
Schilens added, "Maybe they're not having the best day, but they're just psyched to get an autograph and a picture. It means a lot to them."
For each of the patients and parents at Goryeb Children's Hospital on Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, 2012, will be a day they will never forget. "This is a day where a lot of people are remembering and still mourning and struggling with what happened," DeVito said. "It was a time for our nation to come together and realize how great we are. So to be able to get out in the community, and give back on a day like today, where so many people gave their lives for others, it really is a blessing."