Esiason touched by tragedy

9-11-01, 3:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

The shock and grief shook Boomer Esiason even though he knew it was a replay of the second plane knifing into the other tower of the World Trade Center.

"It's all gone. It's all gone. There's nothing left. Nothing," said Esiason, the former Bengals quarterback, as he watched the TV monitor at the airport in Denver.

But Esiason knew he was luckier than most touched by Tuesday morning's simultaneous strikes on New York and Washington D.C. The office of the Boomer Esiason Foundation on the 101st floor of the Trade Center's first tower was empty Tuesday.

Former Bengals center Dave Rimington, who runs Esiason's foundation, was in Omaha Tuesday. Tammi Amaker, Esiason's assistant, was on her way into the building as people fled past her and she followed.

Another secretary usually working in the building chose Tuesday to work in the foundation's Long Island office.

But Esiason fears he may have lost "a dear friend," on the floor above who was a member of the foundation's board of directors.

"They can't find him," Esiason said. "I know hundreds of those people on the floor above. That's the company that gave us the office. Think of all the families. Think of all the people involved. It's just unbelievable."

The NFL shut down its New York offices Tuesday and Wednesday, but the league hasn't made a decision yet on the status of this weekend's games. The Bengals have made arrangements to bus to Nashville, Tenn., for Sunday's game against the Titans in case air travel is in question.

Bengals President Mike Brown spent Tuesday in his office horrified by the death and destruction on the television. He said the only thing he's heard from the NFL is the league will make a decision on playing this weekend's games in the next 24 to 48 hours.

"We'll prepare like there

is a game," Brown said. "Unless there is some information out there that I'm not aware of, I think the best response is that we should carry on in a normal fashion. It's a tragedy. The totality boggles the mind."

Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau played for the Lions that November weekend in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle took the most criticism of his career for allowing the games to go on.

LeBeau, whose team lost in Minnesota, 34-31, that weekend in front of a crowd of 28,763, passes no judgment then or now.

"We had heavy hearts just like we do now," LeBeau said.

Esiason, who is in the office six to seven days a month, was in Denver to work the Monday night game on CBS Radio.

"I knew something was up because I woke up at the crack of dawn and I had 19 messages," Esiason said. "I knew where Dave was, but we couldn't find Tami and we were going crazy trying to find her. She got to work a little late and when she got there, everybody was running out. So she just got back in her cab and went home."

Esiason called the office "the lifeblood," of his foundation that primarily fights cystic fibrosis. But rebuilding wasn't on his mind Tuesday. His mind was on the people still in the building.

"I've had so many calls about people willing to relocate us that it's ridiculous," Esiason said. "We're going to get back to where we were. But that's not important now."

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