A warm, cloudless day in New York City began like any other. Americans traveled to work while children took the bus to school. Many Americans were waking up right as a sudden tragedy changed the world forever.
On Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 at 8:46 a.m., an American Airlines Boeing 767 flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
As fire poured out from the north tower, hundreds of people were killed instantly. Hundreds more were trapped thirty floors above the explosion. People began evacuating the north tower, struggling to grasp what they had just witnessed.
Television broadcasts began reporting on what at first appeared to be a freak accident. That all changed after a United Airlines Boeing 767 flew into the middle of the adjacent south tower only moments later.
It became clear that America was under attack. Al-Qaeda terrorists, led by Osama bin Laden, had hijacked four commercial air planes to use them as giant missiles.
Following the attack on the World Trade Centers, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. 125 military personnel and civilians were killed at the Pentagon. 64 passengers aboard the plane perished.
In New York City, the World Trade Centers, built to withstand 200 miles per hour winds and large fires, could not withstand the heat of the burning jet fuel. At 9:59 a.m., the south tower collapsed in on itself. The north tower collapsed nearly thirty minutes later.
Only six people who were inside the World Trade Centers during the collapse survived.
A fourth airliner, United Airlines Flight 93, was hijacked shortly before takeoff in Newark, New Jersey. Because takeoff had been delayed, passengers knew of the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. A group of passengers, knowing that their plane would be used as a missile like the others, devised a strategy to overtake the cockpit.
“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,” said passenger Thomas Burnett Jr. to his wife over the phone. Todd Beamer, another passenger, was heard on the call saying, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”
Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and told him that she had filled pitchers with boiling water to throw onto the hijackers.
Flight 93 passengers stormed the cockpit and fought off the hijackers at 10:07 p.m. The airplane flipped over and crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All 44 people aboard were killed. Though the intended target of Flight 93 is not known, experts say that the plane was likely targeting the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
2,977 innocent people were killed in the September 11th attacks.
When we remember September 11th, 2001, we are reminded of the 2,977 moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters that never got to see their families again. We are reminded of the brave passengers on Flight 93 who sacrificed themselves to save others. And we are reminded that our nation is able to stand together in times of darkness and come together as one United States.