Some events are so powerful that every detail becomes permanently etched into the minds of people who experienced them. Their stories are re-told to every generation, because they must never be forgotten. One of the most cataclysmic and unforgettable moments in American history began on the quiet morning of September 11, 2001.
People across the United States woke up that day and heard the terrifying news that four commercial airliners had been hijacked. American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 were all under terrorist control. We waited to hear the hijacker’s demands, but it wasn’t long before the devastating truth behind their mission was revealed.
At 8:48am, American Airlines Flight 11 was flown directly into the north tower of the World Trade Center. Less than twenty minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 struck the south tower. The ferocity of these impacts produced tremendous explosions that were heard throughout New York. Glass shattered. Metal was twisted and charred. Lives were lost.
Both towers of the World Trade Center were badly damaged, but no one expected what happened next. Less than two hours after being hit, the first tower collapsed. Not long after, the second tower also gave out and fell to the ground. It was almost impossible to believe this was actually happening. The world watched in stunned silence.
By 9:43am, the terrorists had struck again. This time their target was the Pentagon. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building, demolishing one of its five sides. We watched on, terrified by what we’d already seen, and what might happen next.
The White House was evacuated. Flights across the country were cancelled. People stopped whatever they were doing to witness these events unfold. We soon learned, to our horror, that a final plane remained under the terrorist’s control.
United Airlines Flight 93
Passengers on the first three planes had no idea what to expect. People are usually told to cooperate in a hostage scenario. No one knew the hijackers were carrying out such a grisly plan. The people on board United Airlines Flight 93 slowly came to realize that they were being held by the same group that destroyed three planes that morning. It was time to make a decision. They chose to stand up and fight.
Some of the passengers were able to call loved ones and explain that their flight had been hijacked. They said tearful goodbyes, and exchanged final messages of love. When the time came, they banded together and struck back at the terrorists.
Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. There were no survivors. No one was certain what the final target was, but there was much speculation that it could have been Camp David, or even the White House. One thing is certain; the bold actions of the passengers prevented further destruction and loss of life. They will forever be mourned and honored as heroes.
People near the attack sites sprang into action immediately. Firefighters rushed into burning buildings to put out the flames and bring survivors to safety. Rescue workers sorted through the debris for days looking for any signs of life. Millions of people stood in line for hours to donate blood for the victims who were injured that morning.
Although the terrorists succeeded in pulling off the largest attack on American soil, ultimately they failed. Their goal was to strike a lasting fear into the hearts of Americans, and disrupt our lives completely. In the wake these attacks, the country banded together to help each other grieve, and to become even stronger.
On October 25, 2001 the House of Representatives unanimously approved a Resolution to designate September 11 as Patriot Day. President George W. Bush signed the Resolution on December 18, 2001. The law calls for government agencies to fly their flags at half-mast, and asks the people of America to observe a moment of silence for the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the brutal attacks.
September 11th is a day that will never be forgotten. We will always remember the tragedies we witnessed, the horrifying loss of innocent lives and the way this experience united an entire country. We are Americans. We do not give up, we do not roll over and we do not forget.