--Original article found here. I just added to, but wanted my facts straight, as this is a very important subject for not only our history as a nation, but also to the victims of this attack and all those affected by the tragedy. I take no credit for the original article or its content. Besides what appears in the original article, all writing and opinions are my own. Thank you.--
On this day fifteen years ago a tragedy struck our nation. In the early morning hours of September 11, 2001 there were four attacks that lead to the tragic loss of so many lives. Lives of good men, innocent children, and loving women. The lives of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, wives, husbands, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends and co-workers. Lives that were cut far too short, far too soon. It's been fifteen years and we as a nation are still recuperating. After something like this tragedy happens, it begs the question-How do we recover? The answer is never simple, if there is even an answer at all. I'm not sure there is. I still haven't found it, and neither has any other person that I know of. All that seems to happen when it's brought up are more questions. People say that they have "moved on" from it, but have they really? Isn't it always somewhere in the back of their mind, closed up tightly in a box, waiting for its chance to spring back into your mind? Every year when September 11th rolls around, there are all those feelings again. Feelings of fear, anger, turmoil, sadness, and the ones that are there that there isn't even a name for, because no one can explain them. People tend to remember the events of a tragic day. Recalling everything that happened, who they saw, where they were, and sometimes even what they were wearing. Just small things that stay in your head. I remember. I still can't believe it was fifteen years ago; seems like yesterday and a lifetime all at once.
On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Often referred to as 9/11, the attacks resulted in extensive death and destruction, triggering major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defining the presidency of George W. Bush. Over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.
On September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767– United Airlines Flight 175–appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center and sliced into the south tower near the 60th floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the country in the months before September 11 and acted as the “muscle” in the operation. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.
As millions watched the events unfolding in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C., and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building. All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.
Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the U.S. military, the horror in New York took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 others were treated for injuries, many severe.
Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane–United Flight 93–was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr., told his wife over the phone that “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger–Todd Beamer–was heard saying “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll” over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”
The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.
At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 9 p.m., he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring, “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.” In a reference to the eventual U.S. military response he declared, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
September 11, 2001:
Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge -- huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.
A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. 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. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining. Today, our nation saw evil -- the very worst of human nature -- and we responded with the best of America. With the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks. The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington which had to be evacuated today are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow. Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.
The search is underway for those who were behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.
Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23:
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me"
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Thank you. Good night. And God Bless America.
Thank you. Good night. And God Bless America.
-George W. Bush, following the attacks on our country
Operation Enduring Freedom, the American-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, began on October 7. Within two months, U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban from operational power, but the war continued, as U.S. and coalition forces attempted to defeat a Taliban insurgency campaign based in neighboring Pakistan. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, remained at large until May 2, 2011, when he was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011, President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, with a final withdrawal of U.S. forces tentatively scheduled for 2014.
I remember what I was doing that day. I was eleven years old, living in Tennessee, and I was at school. I had left my classroom to run an errand for my teacher, taking some papers to Mr. Lee's classroom. I decided to take the outside route because it was a fairly pretty day, and honestly it was nice being out of the classroom for a minute. I was walking down the sidewalk outside of the building, and picked a couple "buttercup" flowers to give Mr. Lee. (He was my favorite teacher of all time). I heard an announcement over the intercom, but honestly I didn't pay it any mind. I just finished picking the flowers and kept heading towards Mr. Lee's to drop off the papers. When I got into the other building, I realized there was no one in the hallways, which was weird. And it was quiet...very quiet. I thought that was strange, but honestly didn't put a whole lot of thought into it. I figured everyone was just in class or hiding in the bathrooms. (Kids did that a lot to skip class). I knocked on Mr. Lee's door and waited...and waited...and waited. I finally knocked again and hollered at him- "Mr. Lee, it's me Kat, I have the papers you needed." (He's the only one that ever called me Kat that I found acceptable.) I heard some stirring in the room and finally Mr. Lee opened the door, yanked me inside, and started checking my face like I was hurt or something. He was very calm, but looked worried. I had never seen him like that. He went sky-diving, and white water rafting, he survived two heart attacks, and three crazy ex wives. Worry was just something that he didn't do. He asked me how I got out of class. I was confused, but answered him. He chuckled a little when I handed him the "buttercups" and told me to have a seat that I was staying there. He explained to me that the school was on lock down, and that no one was to leave their classrooms, let alone be outside of the school.
I'm not even sure how I got into that part of the building his classroom was in. They must have still been locking everything up. The TV was on, and it was on the news. Of course, we all seen what was happening. Some kids cried, some slept, hugged each other. I just sat there, stock still, not even registering what was going on around me. I just stared at the TV for what seemed like forever. Eventually, Mr. Lee asked me if I was ok and had to nudge me back into reality. I didn't even know how to react. So I just sat there. The School Board called everyone's parents and those who didn't get picked up, got loaded onto buses. When I got home I took a shower, and sat and watched the news. Momma asked me if I wanted to talk about it, but I didn't. I just watched, not knowing what to do. I went to bed late that night, since they had cancelled school the next day, and I cried. I'm still not even sure exactly why I cried. Whether it was sadness, helplessness, or just randomness. I was eleven years old, not exactly a good age to try and put things into perspective. So I didn't try. I just adjusted like everyone else around me. I am thankful to those people that I call heroes though. There are too many of them for me to name, but they all know who they are.