9/11 survivor, family have strong connection to Super Bowl

Robert Saleh is on Seattle Seahawks coaching staff, brother David Saleh was in World Trade Center on 9/11

Author: Roger Weber, Local 4 Reporter, @RogerWLocal4, rogerw@wdiv.com
Published On: Jan 29 2014 06:13:34 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 29 2014 06:18:35 PM EST
saleh family - dearborn - super bowl
DEARBORN, Mich. -

The Super Bowl this Sunday has a special meaning for David Saleh of Dearborn, not just because his brother is on the coaching staff for one of the teams.

The game will be played less than 10 miles from New York City. That is where David was working on Sept,. 11, 2001 for Morgan Stanley in one of the World Trade Center buildings.

He remembers what he saw.

"We were on the 61st floor and looking out the window I just saw a fireball coming across," Saleh said.

David and his colleagues were told to stay put, but he headed down the stairs. As he reached the landing of the 24th floor, the second plane hit his building.

"It was like a movie, everything was shaking, lights were flicking on and off," Saleh said.

David's brother Robert vividly remembers the anxiety the family felt that day.

"From 9 in the morning when the event happened until later that afternoon, we didn't hear from him. It was almost assumed that it was over," Robert Saleh said.

Robert had just taken a job in the banking industry, and his brother's escape from the 9/11 tragedy prompted him to think about his own future. He was a star on the Fordson High School state championship team and he later played football at Northern Michigan.  Robert Saleh kept wondering if he had what it takes to be a coach.

"The burden of that thought kept weighing heavily on me and kept getting bigger and bigger until finally it overwhelmed me," Saleh said.

After watching the 2002 Super Bowl, Robert called his brother David to tell him about the crying need he had to get back to football. With the full support of his family, Robert Saleh took a low-paying job in the Michigan State University football program. More jobs followed and they led to his current post as an assistant defensive coach with the Seattle Seahawks. He calls it a blessing.

Eight of Robert's family members will be at the Super Bowl game on Sunday, including his wife, Sanaa.

"I can't wait. I can't express how I feel, my heart is racing, my sweaty palms," Sanaa Saleh said.

The Saleh family is now preparing for the big game Sunday. It will be high point for coach Robert Saleh and a reminder for his brother, David, of a terrifying experience in 2001.

David hopes his brother gets a Super Bowl ring.

He'd like to try it on.