Sept 11, 2001 – World Trade Center, Remembering 9/11
Remembering 9/11 – Attack of the World Trade Center
An early apology for dampening your day, but I am a strong advocate for the need for all people to remember the events of September 11, 2001. This was a historical moment in history, one that will be seared in our minds forever. As hard as it is to relive the experience, I think it is important that we remember the fragility of life and how in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, everyone had to stop their hurried life to reexamine why they do what they do. Questions about the meaning of life, why suffering exists, questions about God and afterlife all became a real issue in the eyes of those not only living in the United States but around the world.
See first the details of the event, followed by my own experience that morning.
Details of the Sept 11, 2001 Attack on WTC
Early in the morning on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. (Washington Dulles International Airport). At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 was crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, followed by United Airlines Flight 175 which hit the South Tower at 9:03 a.m. Another group of hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, United Airlines Flight 93, whose ultimate target was thought to be either the United States Capitol or White House, crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m, after the passengers on board engaged in a fight with the hijackers.
During the hijacking of the airplanes, the hijackers used weapons to stab and/or kill aircraft pilots, flight attendants and passengers. Reports from phone callers from the planes indicated that knives were used by the hijackers to stab attendants and in at least one case, a passenger, during two of the hijackings. Some passengers were able to make phone calls using the cabin airphone service and mobile phones, and provide details, including that several hijackers were aboard each plane, that mace or other form of noxious chemical spray, such as tear gas or pepper spray was used, and that some people aboard had been stabbed. The 9/11 Commission established that two of the hijackers had recently purchased Leatherman multi-function hand tools. A flight attendant on Flight 11, a passenger on Flight 175, and passengers on Flight 93 mentioned that the hijackers had bombs, but one of the passengers also mentioned he thought the bombs were fake. No traces of explosives were found at the crash sites, and the 9/11 Commission believed the bombs were probably fake.
On United Airlines Flight 93, black box recordings revealed that crew and passengers attempted to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings that morning. According to the transcript of Flight 93’s recorder, one of the hijackers gave the order to roll the plane once it became evident that they would lose control of the plane to the passengers.Soon afterward, the aircraft crashed into a field near Shanksville in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, at 10:03:11 a.m. local time. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, organiser of the attacks, mentioned in a 2002 interview with Yosri Fouda, an al Jazeera journalist, that Flight 93’s target was the United States Capitol, which was given the code name “the Faculty of Law”.
The World Trade Centers Collapse
Three buildings in the World Trade Center Complex collapsed due to structural failure on the day of the attack. The south tower fell at approximately 9:59 a.m., after burning for 56 minutes in a fire caused by the impact of United Airlines Flight 175. The north tower collapsed at 10:28 a.m., after burning for approximately 102 minutes. When the north tower collapsed, debris heavily damaged the nearby 7 World Trade Center (7 WTC) building. Its structural integrity was further compromised by fires, and the building collapsed later in the day at 5:20 p.m.
Widespread Confusion, a Traffic Controller’s Nightmare
The attacks created widespread confusion among news organizations and air traffic controllers across the United States. All international civilian air traffic was banned from landing on US soil for three days. Aircraft already in flight were either turned back or redirected to airports in Canada or Mexico. News sources aired unconfirmed and often contradictory reports throughout the day. One of the most prevalent of these reported that a car bomb had been detonated at the U.S. State Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Soon after reporting for the first time on the Pentagon crash, CNN and other media also briefly reported that a fire had broken out on the Washington Mall. Another report went out on the AP wire, claiming that a Delta Air Lines airliner—Flight 1989—had been hijacked. This report, too, turned out to be in error; the plane was briefly thought to represent a hijack risk, but it responded to controllers and landed safely in Cleveland, Ohio. [Source: Wikipedia]
Casualties of Sept 11, 2001 – The Statistics
There were a total of 2,993 deaths, including the 19 hijackers: 246 on the four planes, 2,603 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. An additional 24 people remain listed as missing. All of the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2007, the New York City medical examiner’s office added Felicia Dunn-Jones to the official death toll from the September 11 attacks. Dunn-Jones died five months after 9/11 from a lung condition which was linked to exposure to dust during the collapse of the World Trade Center.
NIST estimated that about 17,400 civilians were in the World Trade Center complex at the time of the attacks, while turnstile counts from the Port Authority suggest that 14,154 people were typically in the Twin Towers by 8:45 a.m. The vast majority of people below the impact zone safely evacuated the buildings, along with 18 people who were in the impact zone in the south tower. 1,366 people died who were at or above the floors of impact in the North Tower. According to the Commission Report, hundreds were killed instantly by the impact, while the rest were trapped and died after the tower collapsed. As many as 600 people were killed instantly or were trapped at or above the floors of impact in the South Tower.
At least 200 people jumped to their deaths from the burning towers, landing on the streets and rooftops of adjacent buildings hundreds of feet below. Some of the occupants of each tower above its point of impact made their way upward toward the roof in hope of helicopter rescue, but the roof access doors were locked. No plan existed for helicopter rescues, and on September 11, the thick smoke and intense heat would have prevented helicopters from conducting rescues.
A total of 411 emergency workers who responded to the scene died as they attempted to rescue people and fight fires. The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) lost 341 firefighters and 2 FDNY paramedics.The New York City Police Department lost 23 officers. The Port Authority Police Department lost 37 officers, and 8 additional EMTs and paramedics from private EMS units were killed.
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P., an investment bank on the 101st–105th floors of One World Trade Center, lost 658 employees, considerably more than any other employer. Marsh Inc., located immediately below Cantor Fitzgerald on floors 93–101 (the location of Flight 11’s impact), lost 355 employees, and 175 employees of Aon Corporation were killed. After New York, New Jersey was the hardest hit state, with the city of Hoboken sustaining the most deaths.
Weeks after the attack, the estimated death toll was over 6,000. The city was only able to identify remains for about 1,600 of the victims at the World Trade Center. The medical examiner’s office also collected “about 10,000 unidentified bone and tissue fragments that cannot be matched to the list of the dead”. [Source: Wikipedia]
The Morning of Sept 11, 2001 – Shocked & Confused
I woke up to the sound of someone talking on the radio. The sun was already beating down through the bedroom window, another beautiful day I thought. Half alert, I was wondering why my roommate had the radio on. I had planned to sleep in a bit. Then I heard over the air-waves, someone speaking of a plane crashing into a building. For a second I thought I must have misheard. Planes being run into buildings? That’s crazy. I need more sleep. Then I heard it again, a plane has hit the world trade center. I am not dreaming. Something is going on. I jumped out of bed. My roommate and I ran out to flip on the TV and there it was. The country was in utter chaos. Everyone was confused. It was surreal, you don’t ever hear such words like planes, buildings, terrorists uttered in the same sentence. Our eyes were glued to the TV, looking at the burning tower, the people screaming, the people crying. It was as if the world stopped. Are the people out? What about those on the top floors? What in the world happened? Why is no one making it clear what happened?! By now everyone was on the phone calling their own families. Then it happened, the tower collapsed. We gazed in horror as New York was engulfed in smoke. The dust smoke crawled and expanded in and between all the buildings as if it had the intent to bury all in it’s path.
The thought of the lives of 3,000 some people, gone in an instant, was something impossible to even fathom or comprehend. What about their families? How many people left that morning as if it was just another day in their lives to only have their lives transformed in a blink of an eye? I don’t know about you, but in that moment my view of life itself became very focused. What is the meaning of life? What really matters in life? What happens after life? Why is this happening? What is evil? Why is there suffering? Emotionally this day would shake the foundations of many who witnessed what we would later call 9/11.
To be honest, it is only the next year as I attended a gathering memorializing the event, when it really hit me what kind of horrible event I had just lived through. I just hope that all those questions people had then, will not be forgotten and those who dared to ask such tough questions, chose to find answers. If they did not, I think that is a tragedy in itself. Don’t let such an event not change you for the better.
- What is your memory of the Sept 11, 2001?
- Did your life change at all due to the incident?
- Did you ever grapple with questions like the meaning of life, suffering, afterlife or any other “life questions”?
Update Sept 13, 2011 – 9 11 Quotes & Statistic Infographic
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