9/11/2001 - The Day Americans Came Together
September 11th, (2001), or 9/11 as it is commonly called, is remembered as one of the most tragic days in modern American history. That was the day when the lives of 2, 977 innocent Americans were brutally cut short by a series of well-orchestrated terrorist attacks on US soil. Within less than two hours, life as we knew it, changed forever - not just for the people that lost a family member or friend, but for every single person across the globe. However, it is also the day when Americans came together as one nation, regardless of cast, creed or color, to stand up against unspeakable evil.
The day began like any other September morning in the United States. East coast residents were well into their daily routine, when the chain of events started to unfold. At around 8.46 am EST a commercial airplane was seen heading directly toward the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Before anyone had time to react, it crashed into the North Tower, creating an impact hole all the way from the 78th to the 84th floor.
Shortly after, at 9.03 am (EST), a second airliner came zooming in and crashed into the South Tower. If that wasn't horrifying enough, at 9.37 (EST) there came reports of a third airplane hitting the Pentagon, followed by a fourth, crash landing in an empty field outside Shanksville,Pennsylvania, killing all 44 passengers. By now it was obvious that the crashes were not a result of pilot errors or mechanical problems, but carefully planned terrorist attacks on US soil.
For those who were at the scene or witnessing the entire chain of events unfold on live television, it was like having a nightmare or watching a horror movie. At the end of it all, 2,977 innocent people including a total of 415 firefighters, paramedics and police officers, had lost their lives. New York City bore the brunt of the vicious attack. In addition to the deaths, a total of seven buildings were destroyed and 60,000 jobs, lost. With five subway lines and 12 subway stations affected or closed, over 65,000 commuters were dislocated for months. The impact of the losses rippled through to thousands of families, who even after thirteen years, are still trying to come to terms with this senseless act of violence.
As rescuers scrambled to find survivors in the 1.6 million tons of smoking debris that now filled the site of the World Trade Center, government experts tried to put together the puzzle pieces to deduce how the attacks had been orchestrated. Turns out that on the morning of that fateful day, 19 terrorists split into four groups, each with a proficient pilot, and hijacked four commercial flights - United Flight 93, from New Jersey, American Flight 77, from Washington DC, and United Flight 175 and American Flight 11, both from Boston.The flights were selected because they were heading across the country either to Los Angeles or San Francisco and therefore loaded with fuel, ensuring that the attacks would be deadly.
The two that made their way to New York as well as the one that flew to Virginia, successfully completed their suicidal missions. However, the terrorists aboard United Flight 93 that was believed to be making its way to the US Capitol building or White House in Washington DC, were not as lucky. The brave passengers aboard somehow managed to thwart their efforts and divert the flight to the empty Pennsylvania field. Unfortunately, none lived to tell the tale!
Soon after, the US and its allies declared a 'War on Terror'. While Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind this and other terrorist attacks around the world was finally located and assassinated by US special forces in 2011, the organization and its offshoots continue to wreak havoc in the lives of innocent people on a regular basis.
September 11, 2001, was truely a tragedy of epic proportions, one that will never be forgotten. However, it has also made us more resilient and determined to continue living without fear. The 1,776-feet tall new World Trade Center that stands proudly at the location of this tragedy reminds us that it is time to move forward, while the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, ensures that we always remember the innocent lives lost on that dreadful day.
So tomorrow, be sure to take a minute or two from your busy schedules to commemorate the thousands of men and women that died on September 11th, as well as those that have and continue to sacrifice themselves, in this ongoing 'War against Terror'.
Reading Comprehension (3 questions)
- What happened on September 11th?
- Where did the terrorists obtain the airplanes from? Why did they select the four flights?
Critical Thinking Challenge
Can you think of an example of how life has changed since September...