A Moment of Silence

Kristin Otto

“That day was a catalyst for change in everything that America was,” said Sgt. Paul Gray, as he reflected on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, nearly 10 years ago.

At the Texas-BYU football game this Saturday, there will be a moment of silence to honor the memory of the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks, as well as those who have served overseas during the last 10 years of war. During that silence, Gray, currently a student at Texas, will also reflect on how those events forever changed his life.

A native Houstonian, Gray joined the United States Army in 2003 at the age of 22. He was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division stationed in Iraq, and served as a sergeant in the infantry.

He belongs to a seven-generation, father-son military legacy. After serving in the military, Gray’s dad received a history degree from Texas.

“I wanted to be part of the history of my generation,” he said. “I was just young and adventurous; after 9/11, the whole country was whipped into some kind of frenzy … I wanted to get some action and have an adventure.”

Gray returned to Texas following an honorable medical discharge, and he was later awarded the Purple Heart. After getting his “fill of women and whiskey”, he enrolled in the University of Texas in 2009.

As a result of the injuries he sustained in Iraq, Paul could no longer play his beloved “Southern Trio” of basketball, baseball and football. Consequently, he turned to support his school’s team, the Texas Longhorns.

An enthusiastic football fan, he regularly attends UT football games and tailgates with the Student Veteran’s Association — a group of student service members from all different branches who have already been on active duty.

“College football is America’s pastime, and the military is deeply tied into college football. Football helps us get a big sense of identity.”

This American identity will unite Longhorn and Cougar fans in that moment of silence to commemorate the crises of September 11, 2001.

“As the [stadium’s] name indicates, it helps people remember, and even if it’s just for 5 minutes — 100,000 people focusing on 10 years of war,” Gray said. “I think that helps everyone acknowledge a decade of war and move on … get the season started and focus on the future.”

However, Paul stresses that unlike war, football is not a “life and death emotional involvement.”

“People want to be part of something bigger than themselves, whether it be a football team or the army,” he said. “[But] football is just a game.”

Gray said he hopes football can serve as a catalyst in returning to normalcy.

“[My goal is] ideally that our society could get back to that sense of normalcy … the ‘good ol’ days.’”

He hopes that the Texas-BYU game will remind him of that “good ol’ day” in 2005 when, while driving in an armored patrol truck in Iraq, he got word that the Longhorns had won the National Championship.

““[The] American army has had its ups and downs in the past decade, so has the UT football team.”

During the moment of silence on Saturday night, Gray will pay respect to those whose lives have been affected in the aftermath of 9/11. He will also look to a brighter future for America, as well as Longhorn football.