Today, September 11th, 2016, is the 15th anniversary of the tragic attacks, commonly referred to as 9/11. In this blog, I want to first remember what happened that day. Then, I want to give a reflection of how it is to be born and grow up in a post-9/11 world.
On September 11, 2001, 19 people from the terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four planes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the US. Two of the planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, and another was flown into the Pentagon in Washington DC. The last one landed in a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks carried out lots of death and destruction. Over 3,000 people were killed in the attacks; close to 350 firefighters and 50 more police officers.
At 8:45 a.m. on a bright morning Tuesday, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the World Trade Center leaving a burning, gaping hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, killing all people on board. It instantly killed hundreds of people and it trapped hundreds above. People started evacuating the building, along with the people in its twin. 18 minutes later, a second Boeing 767-United Airlines Flight 175-appeared out of the sky and pointed its nose directly at the South tower. It slammed right into the building, slicing near the 60th floor, also killing everyone on board. The impact caused a massive explosion that shot burning debris and dust over surrounding buildings and the streets below.
As almost everyone in the US watched the events happening in New York, another American Airlines Flight 77 circled downtown Washington DC, and, at 9:45 a.m., flew though the Pentagon, the nerve center of the US military. Fuel from the plane started a huge fire that collapsed a portion of the building. 125 military people died, along with all 64 people on board the plane.
Less than 15 minutes after that, when everyone thought that the day couldn’t get worse, the South building collapsed. It could not hold all the floors above along with it’s huge burning hole in it’s side. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center collapsed. Only six people from the World Trade Centers survived, and about 10,000 were treated for badly injured wounds.
Meanwhile, a fourth plane was hijacked about 40 minutes into the flight. Takeoff had been delayed, so everyone knew about the events happening in New York and Washington DC. When the passengers found out that the plane would not be returning to an airport, a group of them planned to re-hijack the plane. 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.”
They killed the hijackers, but left the plane speeding towards the ground at about 500 miles per hour. The plane crashed in a rural field in western Pennsylvania. No one knows where the hijackers were heading to, but some people think that they were going to crash into the White House, the Capitol or the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
I overheard an interview on the news about a little girl who was five years old when 9/11 happened, but nobody told her. She had no idea these planes had destroyed a bunch of stuff. She said that three years later, she saw a magazine about it on her mom’s bookshelf, and she was surprised that no one had told her. She was angry that people had kept this secret from her.
I was born 4 years after 9/11 in New York City, so I had probably known about it for a while. But sometimes I imagine what it was like to live before anyone had even tried to run planes into buildings. You could get onto an airplane without having to wait in a 52,000,000 hour long line to get past security. You could get into most public buildings without having to go through a metal detector. Now, people are much more suspicious. People are much more discriminatory. People are much more scared.
Nowadays, if you turn on the radio, you’ll hear an interview about terrorists or something. People are afraid that there will be another attack, or that something bad will happen again. I’m not so afraid, but that is probably because I haven’t seen much to be afraid of. When I take my shoes off to get on an airplane, I feel annoyed. I know that the guards are doing it to try to help, to try to prevent something like 9/11 happening again, but there’s a feeling that it’s not necessary. But at the same time, I don’t want a bad thing to happen to anyone here.
I want to see a world where we can all get along. Man, woman. Black, white. I understand that humans can like some people more than others, but that doesn’t mean we have to fight with each other. We can all believe different things, and still get along, can’t we?
9/11 is an event that we can never forget. We can try to push the thought of it away, but it will always come back. It will always be with the people of the United States. It will always be a fear. But at the same time, it will always be a memory of all the people who ran toward the burning, collapsing skyscraper instead of away. The people who tried to help. It will be a sign showing us and everyone else that we can move on. That the US can remain strong, even in the midst of a tragic scene like 9/11. President Obama quotes, “Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.”
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
-Mr. Rogers, interview for 9/11