9/11: Reflecting on that Fateful Day

“Hon, you gotta come pick me up. There’s like a bomb threat
or something and all the flights just changed to cancelled.” “What do you mean all the flights? Like, all for the next-how long?” “I mean ALL flights.” Slightly irritated that I would be
inconvenienced and late for work, I turned my car around at the next exit. What
did he mean “all flights”? It’s a freakin’ airport. Flights are what they do! I
arrived at Sea-Tac International Airport to what can only be described as a mass
exodus. There were people everywhere. The entrance to the airport had been
temporarily blocked off, so I quickly joined the train of cars, shuttles and
taxis seeking to receive some of what seemed like an endless stream of would-be
travelers. Thanks to the technological wonder of cell phones, I was somehow
able to locate my husband in a hotel parking lot about a mile from the airport.
After loading his golf clubs, brief case and roller board into the car, he
briefly filled me in on all he knew. “They’ve shut down the whole airport.
There’s been some sort of attack and they don’t know where the next one is
coming from.”

As we drove through the still constant stream of people, my
husband and I both phoned into work and then quickly turned on the radio hoping
for some type of understanding. We spent the remaining minutes it took to get
to our respective offices trying to piece together the madness that was occurring
within our country’s borders. We heard coverage of the speech delivered by
President George W. Bush at 9:30 a.m. stating “the country has suffered an apparent terrorist attack.”

I remember the sense of shock being overwhelming. Surely an
attack could not have been waged against innocent civilians. Not in this country.
When I arrived at work, the seemingly surreal situation that I was trying to
piece together suddenly became an all-too horrific reality. The entire HR
department stood in a semi-circle around one small television screen. They were
all silent and solemn watching the repeating footage of the planes hitting each
of the twin towers. There was then footage of the Pentagon and then reporting
of an airplane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. What was happening? The
panic that each of us felt in our hearts was reflected in each of the ash-painted
faces that flickered on the television screen.

As I stood there in horror, I and the rest of America
learned of the acts of terror that would leave a permanent scar on this great
nation. Below is the chronology of the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attack as
reported by CNN…

8:45 a.m.: A large plane, possibly a hijacked airliner,
crashes into one of the World Trade Center towers, tearing a gaping hole in the
building and setting it afire.

9:03 a.m.: A second plane, apparently a passenger jet,
crashes into the second World Trade Center tower and explodes. Both buildings
are burning.

9:40 a.m.: The FAA halts all flight operations at U.S.
airports, the first time in U.S. history that air traffic nationwide has been
halted.

9:43 a.m.: An aircraft crashes into the Pentagon, sending
up a huge plume of smoke. Evacuation begins immediately.
10:05 a.m.: The south tower of the World Trade Center
collapses, plummeting into the streets below. A massive cloud of dust and
debris forms and slowly drifts away from the building.

10:10 a.m.: A portion of the Pentagon collapses.

10:10 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 93 crashes in Somerset
County, Pennsylvania, southeast of Pittsburgh.

10:28 a.m.: The World Trade Center’s north tower
collapses from the top down as if it were being peeled apart, releasing a
tremendous cloud of debris and smoke.

Very true to the American spirit, many heroes emerged that
day. Writer for the Associated Press, Tamara Lush stated in her article posted
yesterday, “on Sept. 11, 2001, most of the men and women who saved the lives of
others on that day were ordinary citizens thrust into the role of a soldier —
of a hero — without direction or orders”. There were reportedly 60 World Trade
Center companies who lost people in the attacks of 9/11. From Tower One alone,
a reported 1,402 people lost their lives. From Tower Two, 614 were killed and a
reported 658 people employees of Cantor Fitzgerald were also killed as a result
of the attacks. Many more could have been lost if not for the valiant efforts
on behalf of the brave men and women of New York City. For a full listing of the
grizzly statistics associated with these attacks, visit www.nymag.com.

In addition to the civilians who did what they could to
respond to the attacks with efforts to rescue fellow men, women and children,
hundreds of New York City Firefighters and emergency personnel confirmed their heroic
legacy with the actions they took on that fateful day. I recommend visiting www.nyc.gov/fdny to learn how the City of New York is paying tribute to the “343 FDNY members killed on Sept. 11, 2001,
as well as the 57 who have died in the past decade due to World Trade
Center-related illnesses.” (www.nyc.gov). There were also 23 New York Police Officers and 37 Port Authority Officers who lost their lives while responding to the call for help on 9/11. Visit www.nyc.gov/nypd to learn about how the City of New York is honoring its finest ten years later.

In what is arguably one of the most heroic stories of my
lifetime, civilian passengers of flight 93 used every effort to stop the
hijackers of their airplane from completing their mission of terror. Todd
Beamer used the term “let’s roll” before he, along with the remaining 39 crew
and passengers of Flight 93 fought back against their hijackers. CNN Senior White
House Correspondent John King reported at 5:30 p.m. on 09/11/ that U.S.
officials say the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania could have been headed for
one of three possible targets: Camp David, the White House or the U.S. Capitol
building.(www.cnn.com). Had it not been for
these brave men and women aboard that flight, countless more lives could have
been lost as a result of this hijacking. For this reason, and in honor of their
bravery, it is my hope that the statement “let’s roll” will forever ring in the
ears of every American. To learn more about this story, I recommend
visiting www.history.com/topics/flight-93.

Ever a symbol of strength, despite being attacked at 9:43 a.m. and subsequently
suffering a partial collapse at10:10 a.m., the Pentagon remained focused on its
constant objective to maintain freedom and to ensure the security of this country.
At 1:44 p.m.: the Pentagon reported its response on
9/11 that five warships and two aircraft carriers would “leave the U.S. Naval
Station in Norfolk, Virginia, to protect the East Coast from further attack and
to reduce the number of ships in port. The two carriers, the USS George
Washington and the USS John F. Kennedy, are headed for the New York coast. The
other ships headed to sea are frigates and guided missile destroyers capable of
shooting down aircraft. (www.cnn.com).

Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld after having personally helped to carry the wounded from the burning building of the Pentagon, turned around and held a press conference from the Pentagon that same day. During this press conference he noted the building was operational and followed up with the statement “it will be in business tomorrow.” (www.cnn.com).

Following the 9/11 attacks of the World Trade Center, then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani stated in a press conference “tomorrow New York is going to be here… And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before.”

As he addressed the nation and the world, President George Bush said about the 9/11 attacks that “thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil.” He then reminded the world of the American spirit by
stating “these acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” (www.cnn.com).

It was these acts and statements that resonated with the hearts of so many Americans. The heart of every patriot beats to the cadence of the strength that built this great nation. A strength that has continued despite attacks such as the ones suffered on 9/11. As I put it to a group of friends “anyone
can get sucker punched. It’s how you recover that matters.” Looking back on our history, the United States has had its share of black eyes. Yet we still move forward as a superpower, its citizens exercising our rights in agreeing to disagree over political matters while always remaining faithful to the quest of
freedom, liberty and justice for all.

Personal Note: I have not kept the events that happened on that fateful day from my children. Of course we have shared this scar in our history at a level that is appropriate for their development, but to tell the true story of this great nation, we would be denying the bravery and spirit of its citizens if we were to leave out its blemishes. In sharing our nation’s story with my children, I am both amazed and encouraged in how our history has created in them an identity of bravery, courage and a sense of a shared heart. I feel that this, in large part, has to the do with the fact that the story of our nation has a theme of resilience and heart that children can identify with. In sharing the sadness and tragedy of the very real evil that caused the attacks on 9/11, I told my children that these evildoers tore a hole in our nation and broke our nation’s heart. To this, my five-year-old child said “but they can never take the love from our heart.”

Works Cited

Lush, T., Associated Press, Heroes soothed and inspired a
wounded nation. Sept 10, 2011.

Websites

www.articles.cn.com.
Path: 2001-09-11/us/chronology/attack

www.articles.cnn.com
“A Nation Remembers 9/11 victims,
heroes,” Sept 11, 2008. Path: 2008-09-11/us/911/pentagon

www.nymag.com. Path:news/articles/wtc/1year/numbers.

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