Tomorrow marks the 19th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks. The passage of time, however, has a way of mitigating our memories of horrific events. So the question “Have You Forgotten?” is as relevant and today as it was when the song was first recorded and released in 2003 by country music artist Daryl Worley.
2,996 people perished in the single deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, forever changing the world as we knew it. It resulted in seemingly endless wars in the Middle East, as well as the establishment of the Homeland Security Department and the Transportation Security Administration. Americans have wearied of these wars and protocols, yet the denial of safe haven to terrorist organizations and the measures implemented to safeguard the United States from further attacks of this magnitude have succeeded.
But what do we remember?
The Islamic extremist organization known as al Qaeda carried out the 9/11 suicide attacks using four hijacked planes. All four planes had been bound for California and were chosen by the nineteen terrorists involved for the amount of jet fuel needed for these transcontinental flights. The intent was to cause maximum damage and casualties upon impact with their intended targets.
The first plane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, plowing into the 80th floor of the building. Americans watched live news coverage of the disaster that at first glance appeared to be a horrible accident. Not until the second Boeing 767 flew into the 60th floor of the south tower at 9:03 a.m. did the realization hit that this was a planned coordinated attack. Not long afterward at 9:45 a.m. a third plane crashed into the west side of the Pentagon complex in Washington, D.C.
Only a delayed takeoff of United Flight 93 out of Newark, New Jersey allowed those onboard to learn of these three previous attacks. Demonstrating amazing courage and resolve the passengers and crew attempted to stop their highjackers from completing their suicide mission. Their intervention resulted in the plane crashing into a rural field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m. The intended target remains unknown. There were no survivors.
The collapse of the two towers killed 2,763 people including those who worked at the World Trade Center, first responders (343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers died trying to rescue those trapped inside the burning buildings), and the crew and passengers from American Airlines Flight 11 and United Flight 175 (both flights originated from Logan Airport in Boston). The attack on the Pentagon resulted in 189 deaths (125 military personnel along with the crew and passengers from American Airlines Flight 77, which originated from Washington Dulles International Airport). The crash of United Flight 93 added another 44 casualties to the day’s total. Countless others were severely injured and lingering health issues over time have led to additional deaths (those numbers are not reflected in the 2,996 total).
The attacks were conceived by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was captured March 1, 2003 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and remains in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He is set to stand trial in 2021. The authorization to carry out the attacks was given by al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden who was killed May 1, 2011 near Islamabad, Pakistan.
The photos at the top of this post are of the three memorials erected in memory of the 9/11 victims. On the first anniversary of 9/11 two columns of light were shot into the New York sky from the site of the collapsed twin towers. The official opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum took place in May 2014. The Pentagon memorial was dedicated September 11, 2008 and the Flight 93 National Memorial followed on September 10, 2011.
There will be official ceremonies at all three locations tomorrow attended by dignitaries, families of the deceased, and survivors of the deadly attacks. I wonder, however, how many Americans will pause to remember the horrors of this date in our history.
Have you forgotten?