On Sept. 11, 2001, six-year-old Juliette Candela's father died.
John Candela was inside the World Trade Center the horrific New York morning when terrorists commandeered passenger jets and steered them into the upper floors of the twin towers in lower Manhattan. Mr. Candela was a trader for the Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm on the 101st through 105 floors of the north tower. He was among the 2,983 people killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, and on the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., that day.
Twenty years and one day later, on Sunday, 26-year-old Juliette Candela sang the most unique national anthem in sports history.
The Seahawks and Colts in Indianapolis, and every other NFL team playing in stadiums across the country that began at 1 p.m. Eastern Time Sunday, stood for Candela. She sang the anthem from the memorial site of the fallen World Trade Center in New York, standing next to her father's name engraved in stone at the memorial with a single American flag at his name.
Her singing was broadcast simultaneously on the video boards inside all the league's stadiums hosting early games Sunday.
It was one, nationwide NFL anthem, part of a 5-minute video tribute to the victims and memories of 9/11 that played in all stadiums.
Immediately before she began singing, the video tribute included a photograph of little Juliette Candela with her dad, beaming a gigantic smile nearly cheek to cheek with his daughter.
It put football into proper perspective, even for those in the game.
"I thought that it was well done, the collective anthem," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I thought that was a nice touch and it connected us all.
"It was an important statement to make, and everybody would back up the thought that we all wanted to stand for all of the great loss that took place.
"I thought it was particularly good," Carroll said, "and I'm glad they did it the way they did it."
In Indiana, on the visitors' sideline inside Lucas Oil Stadium, as they did before each of three preseason games, every Seahawk stood for Candela's anthem. Jon Rhattigan, West Point Class of 2021, stood in the back middle of his teammates, at the 50-yard line, at what the military would call modified parade rest. All players appeared to be on the field for the anthem.
Last season, during and after a summer of protests across the U.S. demanding social justice, about a dozen Seahawks chose to stay off the field, in the tunnel between the field and their locker room, during national anthems before games.
The last time the Seahawks played the Colts in the regular season before Sunday, on Oct. 1, 2017, in Seattle, eight Seahawks teammates joined defensive end Michael Bennett in sitting on the team bench at Lumen Field during the anthem.
Bennett, the son of a U.S. Navy man and now retired Super Bowl champion, began sitting for the anthem during the 2017 preseason and regular season. That was on the same weekend that summer a man drove a car into a group of people counter-protesting a racially motivated rally by whites in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a young woman and injuring more than two dozen others.
The players said they sat to draw attention to the societal and racial issues for which they were sitting. That intent got lost in the national controversy of the act itself during the anthem. That's also what happened when Colin Kaepernick began sitting then kneeling during anthems to amplify injustices to Blacks and other minorities during the 2016 preseason when he was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Throughout that 2017 season, Bennett, wide receiver Doug Baldwin and the Seahawks remained at the center of a national uproar over NFL players not standing for the anthem. In late September 2017 before a regular season game in Nashville, Tenn., the Titans followed the Seahawks' lead as both teams stayed off the field while a United States Marine Corps color guard presented the U.S. flag on it.
Since then, veteran left tackle and team leader Duane Brown plus other Seahawks players have stayed off the field during anthems.
Then and now, Carroll leaves the decision of what to do during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner before games up to each player.
The coach said he did not talk to the team about how to handle Sunday's special 9/11 anthem. He said did team captains Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Nick Bellore did not to his knowledge talk to teammates on what to do or not do in Indianapolis.
"We allow our guys the freedom to make the choice as they want to," Carroll said.
"In this case, that's what you are seeing."