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Commemorating September 11th
"Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing, have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.” These words made by former president George W. Bush do not even begin to describe the tragedy that occurred that morning, and will go down as one of the most horrific acts in American history.
On the Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was making a special appearance at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. With the president out of the picture, 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 at 8:45 a.m. The impact made a burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story building instantly killing hundreds and trapping even more in the higher floors. As the evacuations of both towers began, televisions everywhere broadcasted live images of what appeared to be a freak accident. Then, 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767 of United Airlines, (Flight 175) appeared out of nowhere, and collided into the south tower near the 60th floor. The collision caused an explosion while burning debris fell over surrounding buildings and the streets of Manhattan. The most violent terrorist act in American history had begun.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from several Middle-Eastern countries. Financed by the leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, Osama bin Laden, they claimed to have been reacting towards America's support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its military presence in the Middle East. At the time, immigrating to the United States was a fairly easy task, and airport security measures are considered laughable compared to the strict security seen in modern day airports. Some of the terrorists even lived in the United States and had taken flying lessons at local American flight schools. Others had just walked right into into the country and acted as the "muscle" in the attack. The 19 terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Within minutes after takeoff, the terrorists took control of the four planes with brute force. The terrorists had turned ordinary airplanes into missiles and had strong intentions to use them.
At 9:45 a.m. while the rest of the country was distracted with the events in New York, American Airlines Flight 77 flew over Washington, D.C., and crashed into the west side of the Pentagon. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a fire that led to the structural collapse of a huge amount of the giant concrete building. In total, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, including the 64 people on the plane.
Less than 15 minutes after the terrorists hit the pentagon, the earlier attacks got even worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center imploded and collapsed in a gigantic haze of dust and smoke. The building could not withstand the heat generated by the burning jet fuel and the structure simply gave out. At 10:30 a.m., the other Trade Center tower collapsed as well. Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center, including: 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were attempting to evacuate the buildings and save all of the workers. Only six people survived the collapse of the towers and nearly 10,000 others were severely injured.
Meanwhile, a fourth plane (United Flight 93) was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed, passengers on board were able to find out about the events in New York and Washington with cell phone and airborne calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, the passengers and flight attendants planned a takeover. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett Jr. called his wife on the phone and said "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 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 and crew members fought the four hijackers and are rumored to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over during the struggle and headed towards the ground at 500 miles per hour, and crashed in a field in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. All 45 people aboard were instantly killed. Its target is unknown, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or any of the nuclear power plants along the eastern coast.
At 7 p.m., President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country for security reasons, went home to the White House. At 9 p.m., he made a televised speech out of the Oval Office, saying, "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." To the idea of a future military action he stated, "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
During this tragic day, an unimaginable amount of lives were lost. A total of 2,977 people were killed throughout the 4 attacks, excluding the 19 hijackers. By the numbers, all 246 passengers and crew members of all 4 planes were killed with no survivors, 2,606 from the World Trade center attacks, and 125 from the Pentagon explosion. Until then, Pearl Harbor was considered the most damaging attack on American soil, but according to the numbers of lives lost between the two terrorist attacks, 2.403 lives were lost during Pearl Harbor and the 2,977 people were killed during the attack on September 11th, 2001. By far, this is the bloodiest attack by a foreign nation on America.
On October 7th, the American operation to destroy the Taliban’s power in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network based there aka “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Within two months, the U.S. military had removed the Taliban from power, but the war wasn’t over yet. Osama bin Laden, the organizer of the September 11th attacks, was still on the loose. For almost ten years, militaries from around the globe searched every part of the Middle East looking for bin Laden. At the time, bin Laden was rumored to have been hiding in a cave, or some type of hole in the ground in the middle of nowhere. This all changed on May 2, 2011, when he was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. Navy Seals Team Six. He turned out to be hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Afghanistan. Obama’s plan also included a final withdrawal for all of the military from Afghanistan in 2014.
These unbelievable savages thought that an attack of this magnitude would cripple Americans and bring them to their knees, but they could not be further from the truth. As a nation, Americans joined together, and their courage and nationalism soared to new heights. America now stands as a proud and triumphant nation, and the lives of the brave souls that were lost on this day will not go down in vain. Although the people behind the September 11th attacks were tracked down and killed, the war on terror is not over yet. But to stop an attack this brutal from ever happening again, United States airports have ramped up security measures and made it nearly impossible to immigrate to this country. Hopefully these new security measures will stop anything like this from ever happening again.