Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 11, 2021

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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14 SEPT. 11, 2021 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA L eadership, levity and an absence of the fear of failure. Those are three values by which Dan Coan, Notre Dame starting quarterback Jack Coan's uncle, lives by. They derived from something that occurred 20 years ago on the morn- ing of Sept. 11, 2001. Coan was a member of the New York Police Department's Emergency Ser- vice Unit at the time. His day started around 4 a.m. He had already helped his team execute three search warrants in Brooklyn. "We were just finishing up the fourth and were on our way to Queens when the first plane struck," Coan told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "We turned around and headed straight toward Lower Manhattan." The first hijacked airplane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 were underway. Coan's life, his future children's lives, his family's lives and the lives of thousands of other Americans would soon be altered forever. 'IT WAS SURREAL' Coan traveled through the Brooklyn- Battery Tunnel in an unmarked police vehicle. When it emerged in Manhattan, another hijacked airplane crashed into the South Tower. Debris hit the ground from all over. Coan's car swerved to avoid it, constantly coming within a few feet of calamity. Many NYPD officers were already in- side the North Tower trying to help peo- ple evacuate. They called to Coan and company for extra equipment and man- power. The officers outside couldn't ap- proach the burning building because there were too many bodies falling from dozens of stories above. Coan and his coworkers finally found a path to approach the towers, but that's when the South Tower started to fall at 9:59 a.m. He will never forget that moment. "I specifically remember looking up, seeing the smoke starting to move and hearing the loudest freight train sound I've ever heard in my life," Coan said. "I just remember seeing the tower start to fall, and I was saying to myself, 'I can't believe this tower is about to fall on top of me.' "It was like a cartoon where your feet are going but it doesn't feel like you're moving anywhere. It was surreal. I take that with me every day." Coan was amazed at how much his brain processed in that scurry. He thought about his parents. He thought about his brothers, one of which was a sergeant in aviation for the NYPD. He was in a helicopter surveilling the situa- tion all day. He thought about his neph- ews. Namely his godson, Jack. Dan Coan wasn't a father yet in 2001. He was 29. Throwing the ball in the yard with Jack was enough for him to know he yearned to have kids of his own. "I always remember him being around and coming to all of my sporting events," Jack said. "Even when he had a day off, he'd hang out with me or have a sleepover at his house. Playing whiffle ball in the backyard. All things like that, those are some of the best memories I have." One of his best friends in the police department, detective Joe Vigiano, was a father himself as well. Vigiano's son was 8. He'd never see his dad alive again. Coan would have been working with Vigiano that day if not for a 90-day change in ESU vehicle assignments. Vigiano and two of Coan's other best friends and usual coworkers — Sergeant Michael Curtin and officer John D'Allara — perished in the collapse of the North Tower, which came crashing down 29 minutes after the South Tower. Three friends. Three legacies. Three values. Leadership, levity, no fear of failure. NEVER FORGET How Jack Coan's uncle, Dan Coan, carries on the legacy of fallen friends and coworkers who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 Jack Coan (left) has been able to take the values his Uncle Dan lives by and employ them every day dur- ing his life journey, including becoming Notre Dame's starting quarterback this season. PHOTO COURTESY DAN COAN

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