A day of infamy that is emblazoned in American history and memory resulted from the series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda in four hijacked airplanes against the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks. Two airplanes targeted the World Trade Center in New York City. A third plane made a suicide crash into The Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks were coordinated and occurred in rapid succession, with the first hit occurring at 8:46 a.m. EDT when American Airlines Flight #11 flew into the World Trade Center North Tower. The crash left a gaping hole on the 80th floor, killing hundreds and trapping hundreds more on the higher floors. Seventeen minutes later, United Airlines Flight #175 collided into the World Trade Center South Tower. At 9:37 a.m. EDT, American Airlines Flight #77 crashed into the Pentagon, causing an inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the building. All of the people on board American Flight 77 were filled along with 125 people at the Pentagon.
Twenty-two minutes after the strike on the Pentagon, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. At 10:03 a.m. EDT, United Airlines Flight #93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Shortly thereafter, at 10:28 a.m. EDT, the North Tower of the World Trade Center crumbled. All four planes were bound for the west coast and were thus laden with jet fuel. The structural steel of the Towers, built to withstand winds and conventional fire, could not withstand the heat generated by the burning jet fuel. Only six people in the Towers at the time of their collapses survived.
United Flight #93 was hijacked 40 minutes after taking off from Newark, NJ. The plane had been delayed, as a result of which passengers learned of the attacks in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. A group of passengers and flight attendants, not believing the hijackers’ claim that the plane was returning to the airport, planned an insurrection. The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The craft then crashed in a rural field near Shanksville. All 44 people on board were killed. The intended target may have been the White House, the Capitol Building, or nuclear power plans on the east coast.
Also killed in the attacks were approximately 400 firefighters, paramedics, New York City police officers and Port Authority officers working to evacuate the buildings and save the victims trapped on the higher floors.
In the evening of September 11, President George W. Bush delivered a televised address, stating, “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
For those of us who lived through September 11, 2001, we remember what we did and where we were when we learned of the heinous attacks and the aftermath of the attacks. Shock, horror, disbelief, fear, sorrow, anger, pride and gratitude for the many acts of bravery and heroism were among the reactions I recall described on that day and the hard and terrible days after. Patriot Day on September 11 honors the memory of the people who died, those who were injured and the first responders who risked their own lives to save others. It is important to remember, not merely the memory of those who died in the service of others or innocently at the hands of thugs and miscreants, but the memory of what the events of September 11, 2001 did to our country. Let us never forget.