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Coaches react to World Trade tragedy

For USF softball coach Ken Eriksen, Tuesday morning began like any other.

Eriksen went about his daily tasks, feeding his children and preparing his oldest daughter, five-year-old Tatiana, for school. Alongside his youngest daughter Natasha, Eriksen was watching television when the telephone rang.

?We were watching Barney, getting the kids ready for school,? he said. ?Then (assistant coach) Stacy (Nichols) gave me a call and said there was an accident at the Twin Towers.?

Initially, Eriksen said he thought it ?was just a little plane or something,? but as Eriksen and Nichols began watching the coverage of the tragedies in New York and Washington, D.C. unfold, the seriousness of the situation became crystal clear.

?We both knew what had happened at that point,? he said. ?It was unbelievable.?

USF baseball coach Eddie Cardieri was on his way to breakfast when the song playing on his radio was interrupted by breaking news.

?I was on my way (to McDonald’s) when the radio station I was listening to was intercepted,? Cardieri said. ?And they said a plane had hit the World Trade Center.?

And like Eriksen, Cardieri wasn?t aware of the magnitude of what happened in the largest city in America and the capital of the United States.

?I didn?t know if it was a Cessna, or a rookie pilot, or what,? he said.

But as Cardieri headed toward Red McEwen Field for individual hitting workouts with his team, details of the disaster began pouring in.

?When I got to the field, the players were asking me if I had seen what happened,? Cardieri said. ?So I went into the office and (some of the coaches and players) watched it together.?

What became evident to both coaches as the afternoon progressed was the severity of the facts: Four commercial planes had been hijacked, two of which collided with the World Trade Center.

A third plane destroyed a portion of the Pentagon while the other aircraft crash landed in a remote section of the Pennsylvania countryside.

?This was a personal attack,? Eriksen said.

?Not just an attack on New Yorkers; not just an attack on Americans.?

In the following hours, the attack became even more personal for Eriksen. The Stony Brook, N.Y., native said he has ties to someone in the vicinity of the destruction in lower Manhattan.

?I have one friend, in particular, from high school who works in the financial area,? Eriksen said. ?I?ve been trying to get a hold of him all day.?

According to Eriksen, he and Scott Barasch have been friends for the past 25 years. Eriksen had been trying to reach Barasch by phone, but hadn?t had any success confirming the whereabouts of his friend.

?I?m just hoping he?s all right,? Eriksen said. ?I am in total shock.?

Cardieri, who was born in Brooklyn, had three cousins in New York City at the time of the attack. Cardieri said that one cousin who works on Wall Street was safe and another who is employed at Chase Manhattan was also unharmed. But according to Cardieri, the third cousin, who is a New York City policeman, is still unaccounted for.

?He usually works at night, but right now we don?t know,? he said. ?We?re all concerned about our family and there have been some anxious moments today.?

Men?s soccer coach John Hackworth also was personally affected by the catastrophe. Patrick O?Keefe, who worked in one of the upper levels of the World Trade Center at Morgan Stanley, played soccer at Wake Forest while Hackworth was an assistant coach for the Demon Deacons from 1995-97. Hackworth, who recently resumed contact with O?Keefe, said he wasn?t aware of his former player?s location.

With all athletic activities on campus canceled Tuesday, Hackworth said it is important to begin the healing process following the chilling terrorist attacks.

?What?s most important to me is that we get the guys together and make sure everyone is OK,? Hackworth said. ?(And) just be around each other because that kind of support is what everyone needs right now.?

Contact Brandon Wright at