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BILLS OWNER FINDS WAY TO GIVE BACK

Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson was very close to last week's tragic event. About two blocks away.

That was the distance between the hotel Wilson and his wife were staying and the Pentagon, which was struck by an airplane hijacked by terrorists.

"At 9 o'clock in the morning, my wife had been downstairs getting breakfast, and she came up and said a couple of planes have hit the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York," he said. "She flipped the television on and she said, 'Oh my gosh, one just hit the Pentagon.' We looked out the window and there was the fire and the smoke. It was hard to describe the feelings."

Wilson said he wanted to do something to honor those who have been part of the rescue mission in New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as those who serve the local community.

His response was to buy the remaining tickets for the Bills' Sept. 30 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers for the purpose of distributing them to the families of local firefighters, police officers and emergency medical technicians.

The cost of the tickets was more than $130,000.

"What these firemen, emergency workers and police do for us all year long, I hope we all appreciate it. I certainly do," Wilson said Thursday during a news conference at the Bills' practice facility. "The impact of what's happened in the last 10 to 12 days has certainly brought that home."

Wilson was joined at the press conference by Buffalo Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina, Buffalo Fire Department Commissioner Cornelius Keane, Marc Winters, president of the Chiefs of Police of Western New York, and Mike Walters, commissioner of Erie County Emergency Medical Services.

"This is really a grand gesture on the part of Mr. Wilson," Keane said. "And on behalf of the 900 Buffalo firefighters, who are really personally affected by the tragedy in New York City, our Buffalo Fire Department family is glad to join with the Buffalo Bills family in the game. It's just a small gesture on the part of Mr. Wilson that shows what an enormous impact he's had on our community and in our lives since the Buffalo Bills came here."

"I want to thank Mr. Wilson and the Buffalo Bills organization for this recognition of our work, but more importantly, our brothers and sisters in New York City," Diina said. "As we watched the horrific tragedy unfold and those buildings were still standing and people were fleeing, it was New York City's finest firefighters and New York City's finest police entering the building to protect their community."

Wilson indicated that the NFL plans to honor those who died trying to save lives during games this week. He also said the Bills will have a special memorial presentation prior to the Steelers game.
e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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