Some events are so powerful that every detail becomes permanently etched into the minds of people who were there. A few are significant enough to impact the entire world. People will often share stories about how these moments affected their lives. These stories are passed on to every generation, because they must never be forgotten.
One of the most unforgettable and agonizing moments in American history began on September 11, 2001.
It started like any other morning. People woke up and prepared for a fresh new day. And then, without warning, everything changed. We heard the shocking news that a commercial airliner had crashed into one of New York’s Twin Towers.
The whole world stopped. We watched in horror as footage of the devastating crash was broadcast on every channel. We wondered what could have gone wrong. It wasn’t long before we learned the truth. Four planes had been hijacked. And things were about to get much worse.
It took a while to comprehend. How was this possible? A full sized jet was flown directly into the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Less than 20 minutes later, it happened again. As the first building burned, a second plane collided with the South Tower.
Ferocious explosions rocked the New York horizon. Broken glass and twisted metal rained down on the streets below. No one knew how many lives were cut short, or how many were still in danger. Emergency crews jumped into action. Heroic firefighters, police officers and rescue workers did everything they could to save the shocked victims of this unprecedented attack.
As workers desperately tried to reach victims who were hurt, trapped or just too scared to move, the unthinkable became reality. At 9:59am, the South Tower collapsed. Rescue workers in the North Tower did not get the news. FDNY Supervisors issued an immediate evacuation order, but due to problem with their radios, the firefighters never heard this message. At 10:28am, the North Tower fell.
While the Twin Towers burned, the terrorists struck again. This time their target was the Pentagon. American Airlines Flight 77 hit the building, demolishing one of its five sides. We watched in silence, bewildered by what we’d seen and terrified by what might happen next. At least one plane remained under terrorist control.
Flights across the country were cancelled. The White House was evacuated. Americans did everything possible to get home to their families. It would have been easy to feel a sense of helplessness and lose hope. But then, a selfless act by a small group of people reminded us what we’re made of.
United Airlines Flight 93
Passengers on the first three planes had no way of knowing the terrorist’s real plan. Until then, we’d always been told that the safest way to get through a hijacking was to sit quietly and do what you were told. By the time hijackers took control of Flight 93, everyone onboard knew the fate of American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 77.
The passengers realized they were being held by members of the same group that crashed three other planes. It was time to make a decision. They chose to stand up and fight. People made tearful calls to loved ones. They said goodbye to parents, husbands, wives and children. Then they worked together to strike back.
No one knows exactly what happened next, but the brave people on Flight 93 fought valiantly against the terrorists. In the end, their plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. There were no survivors, but this noble effort saved lives. We don’t know for sure what the actual target was, perhaps the U.S. Capitol or The White House, but one thing is certain. The men and women of Flight 93 stopped the terrorists from reaching their destination. They will forever be honored as heroes.
People near the attack sites sprang into immediate action. Firefighters rushed into burning buildings to battle flames and bring survivors to safety. Rescue workers spent days going through the rubble looking for signs of life. Millions of people waited in line for hours to donate blood.
One of the most important things Americans did was to show the terrorists that they failed. Their ultimate goal was to strike fear into the heart of America, and permanently disrupt our lives. But in the wake of these attacks, the country grew stronger. We banded together to help each other, grieve and stand up for our way of life. Flags were flown everywhere. People watched out for one other. And we vowed to move forward.
On October 25, 2001 the House of Representatives unanimously approved a Resolution to designate September 11 as Patriot Day. President George W. Bush signed the Resolution on December 18, 2001. The law decrees that government agencies will fly their flags at half-mast on September 11, and asks all Americans to observe a moment of silence for the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the brutal attacks.
The events of September 11 will never be forgotten. We will always remember the tragedy, the senseless loss of innocent lives and the way this experience united an entire nation. We will stand a little taller, because we are standing together. We are Americans. We will not give up. We will not roll over. And we will not forget.
At PeopleFinders, we share in the moment of silence for those who died or lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. Stay strong, and thank you for reading the PeopleFinders people search blog.