Jets prepared for 9/11 game

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With terror alerts on high and the New York Jets set to play the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sunday on what will be the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, owner Woody Johnson said that precautions are being taken.

"I can tell you that for every game, we do everything that we know of to protect our fans and protect our stadium," Johnson said when asked about potential heightened security measures in light of the terror alerts on Thursday. "We are extremely rigorous. Our security people are (aware) of all security forces in the world as far as I know, so anything that comes up, we will know about it. We're very-well plugged in with New Jersey, New York and other areas. Our job is to create a safe environment, and we fully intend to do that."

Asked if there was going to be a national security presence, such as the military, at the game, Johnson replied: "I can't go into specific details, but I think you've been around me long enough to know that we're pretty thorough."

"Our security is already at a pretty high level," Johnson said. "Any recommendations that any of these security forces make, we'll go by that, but we're prepared."

Earlier this week, Jets coach Rex Ryan created a controversy by saying that he didn't want to see Cowboys jerseys in the stands. His comments were seized on as not being sensitive to recent violence among opposing fans.

Ryan later said that he just prefers to see fans of his team in the stands, and Johnson backed his coach on Friday.

"You know Rex. Rex didn't mean it that way," Johnson said. "He's enthusiastic and confident in his team. He has a high degree of affection for his team, and I think he was coming from that light. We have to provide safety. I don't care what jersey you're wearing, you're gonna be safe at our stadium. That's just a fact. We have a responsibility to protect you and make sure you have a good time as well. So no, he didn't mean it that way."

Johnson said it was "a huge honor" to represent New York and America in the game. He said he did not ask the league for the privilege to host it.

Johnson has served on the 9/11 memorial board for the past decade. He visited Ground Zero last Wednesday and had a chance to to go near the site where the National 9/11 Memorial will be unveiled on Sunday.

"It brings back a lot of memories," Johnson said. "You can (only) get close to the site, but you can just feel it through the people that are working there, and the site just gives off a feeling of what happened. A lot of our (players) were (very young) when it happened, but for those of us that were there, it'll be a very poignant moment.

"Just how the country became focused instantaneously on one thing, and that was what happened at that site on the day at that moment," Johnson continued. "Everybody of course remembers where they were. I remember just the fact that New York and the country became paralyzed momentarily. The bridges were stopped; my brother was over in New Jersey. He couldn't get back. He was on his bike. He persuaded a fisherman -- gave him a couple bucks -- to take him across the Hudson to get him back and then he rode up."

Johnson was working out at a New York City gym when the two planes hit the World Trade Center, causing both of its towers to collapse.

"I saw a little thing hit the building," Johnson said. "Like a lot of people, I though it was a little Cessna (small plane) or something. I saw it. Then all the women on all the machines were looking at this thing. I remember hearing this collective gasp.

"A guy (at the gym) goes 'Attention!' and we walked over to see what was going on. It wasn't until a few minutes later that people started realizing the potential enormity on TV. By the time I made it back to Fifth Avenue it was totally bizarre because people were walking the wrong way. Fifth Avenue was closed, bridges were closed, that fast. It's amazing how fast you can shut (New York City) down and the whole country down. Then everybody was glued to their TVs trying to figure out what is going on here?"

Johnson's second wife, Suzanne, who wasn't his wife at the time, was fortunate on 9/11. She was working for Sandler and O'Neill, an investment banking firm in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Normally, Suzanne would've been at work at the time. But she happened to be late because she was out with clients the night before. That morning, Suzzanne called her boss as she was coming in late.

"Get the hell out of here," her boss told Suzzane, according to Johnson.

Then the phone went dead.

Sadly, Suzzane's boss never made it out alive. He was one of "40-50 of her co-workers" that were lost on 9/11, Johnson said.

"Some of them made it out because they saw the side of the (North) building, they could see the other building (that was hit)," Johnson said.

"But everybody has a story," Johnson said. "There are thousands of stories. But we will be playing football on Sunday. I just think it's a great honor in light of that and the anniversary."

Johnson said the 9/11 memorial site will feature the one tree that survived when the buildings fell.

"It's something that when you see it, there's really no way to describe it," Johnson said. "When you see it, you're gonna feel it immediately."

Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.