It is hard to believe that there was a time when America was a united country. Nineteen years ago, Democrats and Republicans, people of all races and backgrounds, came together in defiance against a common enemy that wanted us all dead no matter what we looked like or where we came from. They wanted us dead simply because we were Americans. From the tragedy of September 11th, 2001, we emerged as a more unified country.
But what happened to our nation since then? We are now more divided than we are united.
9/11 was a horrifying day, but that day showed the best of America as well. The heroes who ran up the towers to save others; Republicans and Democrats singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the US Capitol building; the soldiers who would eventually make the terrorists pay for their evil; the athletes who stood for the flag and proudly celebrated the country.
That’s what I choose to remember.
God bless the memory of those who perished that day. May their legacy stay with us as we seek to become more united as a nation under God.
Now, here is a look back at the events of September 11, 2001.
A Day Unlike Any Other
September 11th, 2001, began like any other working day in New York and Washington, DC.
The congestion of rush hour traffic, workers stopping on their way to work to get their morning coffee and bagels, and parents hugging their children as they sent them off to school.
Nothing was out of the ordinary.
No one knew that, on that day, the world was about to change forever.
At 8:46 a.m. a plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.
The first strike left many people confused. Was it an accident? Was it pilot error?
The crash was broadcasted in real-time across the country.
The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Fox and Friends all cut to live video feed of the Twin Towers.
At first, the morning hosts speculated that the plane strike might have been caused by mechanical problems or pilot error.
As the anchors speculated, a second plane was recorded hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center less than 20 minutes after the first impact.
There was no longer any doubt. This wasn’t an accident.
America was under attack.
As news teams scrambled to find answers, another plane hit the Pentagon in Washington DC. At 9:37 a.m. the world’s largest office building was attacked in the exact same manner as the towers in New York.
It was then reported that another hijacked plane was heading towards Washington DC, its destination unknown.
Capitol Hill and the White House, the two most likely targets, were immediately evacuated, and the nation’s capital braced for the worst.
Miraculously, Washington was spared by the heroic actions of passengers on United Flight 93. After hearing about the crashes in New York and DC, passengers rushed the cockpit, causing the plane to crash in a remote field in Pennsylvania. All onboard lost their lives, sacrificing themselves to save countless others.
Back in New York, the unthinkable happened: one after another, both towers collapsed.
The collapsing towers emitted a giant plume of toxic debris that spread throughout lower Manhattan.
The scene was horrifying, unlike anything anyone had ever seen outside of a movie.
But this wasn’t a movie. This was real life.
President Bush’s Finest Moment
Meanwhile, in Sarasota, Florida, President George W. Bush sat in an elementary school classroom reading a story to a group of children. His chief of staff, Andy Card, whispered that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center, and America was under attack.
Bush kept calm so as not to disturb the children, managing to keep his composure in spite of the tragedy.
President Bush briefly addressed the situation with a short statement and was then flown to a military base in Louisiana.
Knowing that the American people needed to hear from their president, Bush gave another brief statement that was not aired until an hour later. During that time, the Secret Service flew Bush to a bunker in Nebraska.
Bush told the American people that “Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward. And freedom will be defended…Make no mistake. The United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts…The resolve of our great nation is being tested. Make no mistake. We will show the world that we can pass this test.”
Tragedies can sometimes bring out the worst in people, but they also reveal the true heroes among us.
September 11th defined what it means to be a hero.
Many gave their lives that day by running into the burning buildings and helping people on the ground move to a safe location.
In total, 343 firefighters from the New York City Fire Department gave their lives so that others could escape.
The firefighters that were killed came from 75 different firehouses.
Sixty police officers from the NYPD and PAPD were killed during the attacks, as well as eight members of the emergency services.
Since that day, 2,000 more have perished from health complications resulting from the toxic plume released when the buildings collapsed and the subsequent clean-up efforts that followed in the days after the attack.
A new memorial has been dedicated to those that have died in the years following the attacks. The memorial is located just steps from the 9/11 Memorial in the footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood.
Last year, President Trump signed into law an extension of the Victims Compensation Fund through the year 2099 to help support victims of the attacks or their families.
The Day Concludes
Refusing to adhere to objections from those in his national security team, President Bush returned to Washington that night and spoke to the nation from the Oval Office at 8:30 p.m.
He told a worldwide audience that “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.”
He concluded by quoting from the Bible: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
America Was Changed Forever
In the days and years that followed, it was apparent that the terrorist attacks on September 11th changed America and the world.
Al Qaeda took responsibility for the attacks. Nineteen members of the terrorist organization hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings.
Osama Bin Laden became the world’s most wanted man, and America would become involved in a military conflict in Afghanistan—a war we are still fighting today.
The attack would make America grapple with questions over how much privacy must we exchange for security and whether or not it is permissible to torture a suspect in order to acquire information.
Going through airport TSA checkpoints has become a routine part of air travel.
Law enforcement agencies and the military have been forced to change how they operate to deal with an unconventional enemy with no sense of human decency.
It is difficult to contemplate that a whole generation of Americans today was not even born when the attacks happened. Current college freshmen were either not born or were infants in 2001, and will only learn about 9/11 as a historical event.
It is up to those of us who were living that day to educate this generation of young people—as well as those still to be born—about what happened that day.
We must make sure that those who perished on September 11th did not die in vain. Freedom must be fought for and protected. As President Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
We must never forget the first responders who gave their lives that day and the men and women who have fought and bled for our country in the wars that followed.
Here at FreedomWire, we are dedicated to keeping their memories alive.
We only ask that you do the same.
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