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Flying to eternity
A special moment in Husky time
by Richard Linde, 3 May 2002

A moment is but a scant period of time—seconds, minutes, say. Some  moments we covet dearly, never letting go.

What is your favorite moment in your timeline of Husky happenings? A sequence of plays, a particular pass play, a long run for a touchdown?

There have been a number of events in my timeline from which I could pick a favorite. There’s the drive that occurred at Stanford two years ago when Tui led the Huskies back from what looked like certain defeat, completing three straight passes in a matter of seconds. Or the time the Huskies let the Cougars score so Don Heinrich could set a passing record. How about Willie Hurst’s burst and whirl against Arizona not too long ago? Juxtaposed in time and years apart, there is the touchdown run by Hugh McElhenny against Minnesota and Rich Alexis’ long run against Purdue in the Rose Bowl. There have been so many.

One moment in Husky history occurred last football season that is special to me because I shared it with some fans that never lived to see another Husky game.

We were so naïve back then. Days later we lost our innocence. As a Husky fan I never will be the same.

Let me set the stage. In early September we flew to Seattle for Picture Day and the Michigan game. The next week we flew to Miami to join dawgman’s cruise.

At the start of the season, some questions needed answering. The Huskies were starting a new quarterback, Cody Pickett, and most of the offensive line had graduated.

The weather was perfect for the Michigan game, the opening game of the season. A sunny sky, the temperature near 70 degrees. There wasn’t an empty seat in the stadium.

Now for the moment.

With ten minutes to go in a defensive struggle and ahead 12-6, the Wolverines are pounding away at the dawgs, about to take a two-score lead—a field goal or touchdown sealing the Huskies’ fate. Resigned to the loss, I leave my seat to take some pictures of the stadium from its west side.

The stadium's setting is the most unusual of any in America. Lake Washington is viewable from any seat in the house, with the Cascades behind. 

My breath is taken away as I walk into this panoramic setting from the west side of the stadium—it is surreal. In my peripheral view, thousands of purple-clad fans float high in the air, hovering near the sidelines. Looking straight down the field I can see the lake and a variety of boats docked for the game, about 5000 fans having come by water. 

I envy the fans seated in the north upper deck that have views of Mt. Rainier, the Cascade Mountain Range and the Seattle skyline.

I remember an aerial photo I had seen of Husky stadium. 

Aerial photo of Husky Stadium by Mary Levin.
From high above, the stadium looks like a gigantic seaplane with drawn-up purple wings—in my mind as I stand in the tunnel, the ever-present noise from the 75,000 passengers are its engines revving for launch.

Then Michigan lines up for a field goal, ready to take a 9-point lead. Seconds later the unexpected happens.  Omare Lowe blocks the kick, and Roc Alexander scoops up the ball and races 77 yards for a touchdown.

The seaplane’s afterburners kick in, emitting a thunderous roar that reverberates off its four wings. The deafening noise swallows the players and then the fans, immersing us as one in the game. Television cameras mounted near the stands shake in tune to stomping feet. The loud wailing siren is heard for miles around.  On campus, a few students—as I had in years long past—leave the Suzzallo library and rush to the stadium below. The crowd is in the game—a twelfth man on the field—and I know the dawgs will win. 

An intercepted pass run back for a touchdown seals the win a few plays later, and in my mind, as I bask in the thrill of victory, the elegant seaplane takes off and soars majestically above the surroundings for all to see. As it circles back, darkness replaces light, in a tunnel of time, molding the past into to the present. At the tunnel's end, the lushness of the University Golf Course is dressed in vivid green. Spalding Dots "splat" to the tune of Persimmon woods—the creaking floors of "Denny" and the smell of old books, each embracing my senses. I look down at the playground where I'd played soccer and football as a youngster—and the mountain! We, the fans—its passengers—are flying with the old lady and immortality. 

This story is dedicated to the memory of those 16 Husky fans that flew to Miami and then into eternity; and also to those men and women of our armed forces that defend our cherished freedom, partly so that we can enjoy these Husky moments.

And to the memory of Daniel Pearl (journalist, born October 10, 1963; died January 31, 2002).

Photo above: Husky fans at the Gordon Biersch Brewery,  Miami, Florida, September 15, 2001.

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