Hahn wrestles with new realities on home front

Anthony Maggio

Since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Gophers wrestler Damion Hahn has come to a realization. The United States of America is much like Minnesota’s wrestling squad.

“Minnesota is a top program, but we don’t take anything for granted,” Hahn said. “I don’t want to say you have to protect yourself, but you have to be aware of everything. Now after September 11, our nation is on the alert. They’re ready for anything now.”

Hahn, a native of Lakewood, N.J., considers himself lucky. He has many friends and family members who live and work in New York City, but knew of only one victim, the mother of Harold Floyd, his gym teacher at Lakewood High School.

“I feel real fortunate because I’m always (in New York),” Hahn said. “It could’ve happened at any time. I just feel real fortunate that not that many of my close family or friends were there and involved,” he said.

Hahn’s aunt, who works just blocks away from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, was in her office when the first plane hit.

Her entire building was then evacuated.

Perhaps most fortunate for Hahn was the story of two of his friends.

Hahn knew the two through his girlfriend at the time. Both friends worked in the World Trade Center. When the first plane hit, Hahn’s girlfriend called to see if the two were all right.

The two happened to be running late that morning, and were stuck on the ferry from New Jersey at the time.

Hahn, like most on Minnesota’s campus, first saw the tragedy on television.

He first worried for the safety of friends and family, but one by one word came that his family members in and around the New York area were safe.

Hahn didn’t make it home after the attacks until Christmas, and noticed a new sense of community.

“In my neighborhood I saw people with their American flags outside and that’s great,” Hahn said. “But it’s kind of sad that something like this has to happen for everyone to do this.”

Still, Hahn couldn’t believe the attacks had actually occurred. It wasn’t until August, when he saw the New York skyline for the first time since Sept. 11, that Hahn had a reality check.

Hahn was at a wrestling camp with former Gophers wrestler Brandon Eggum in Jersey City, which is across the Hudson River from New York City.

The two decided one night to drive to the river to check out the skyline.

“It was at night, about 11,” Hahn said. “At night, New York is one of the most beautiful cities – with the skyscrapers and the lights.”

“We stood on the river and you see all the boats going across lit up and you see all the buildings and all the lights, but it was kind of empty. There was one part where the towers were just not there. It seemed empty. I finally thought, ‘Wow, it happened.'”

In reflection, Hahn sees his country as he sees his wrestling team. Both are supposed to be on top – the elite. But Hahn realizes nothing is safe, not in wrestling and certainly not in the world.

“Just don’t take things for granted,” Hahn said. “As beautiful as New York City is, when you live so close you take it for granted. Now that part of it isn’t there, there’s no way you can get it back. You can’t replace it.”