Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons started somberly as Soldier Field marked the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Flags were at half-staff before kick-off in a league-wide tribute.
"People are going to see some special things that commemorate the day, and although somber, it's something we all need to recognize and we're doing our part," said Luca Serra, Soldier Field spokesman.
Police officers armed with semi-automatic weapons were a part of a visibly increased security presence. Football fans like Jetaun Aidoo said security lines into the stadium were worse than expected.
"We came to 3 games last year, but never this bad. It is what it is," Aidoo said.
"I hate that it happened, but that's life. I lit a candle today and did the best that I could do," said Bears fan Terryon Deberry.
Fans united during the tribute in recognition of those who lost their families, and to salute the American spirit. Also in attendance were 130 early-responders -- some from Illinois -- who worked at ground zero after that fateful day. A retired Chicago firefighter and first-responder Arthur Noonan was among those at the Soldier Field Sunday. "I've become more compassionate since going there and look at life differently. In the spur of a moment, things can stop," Noonan said.
Noonan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2004 after working in the World Trade Center debris, and says we must never forget.
"This is a real honor to be appreciateded like this in front of all these fans, in front of everybody. It's a real honor," said Sgt. Jason Treadway, U.S. Army National Guard.
Earlier, Bears season ticket holder Rick Patera paid his respects to the day by flying his special 9/11 flag.
"We've got to pay respect to those who have fallen for us. What they've done means a lot to us. It's great to be out here," Patera said.