May We Never Forget Them


Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Twenty-two years ago, on September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked two commercial  airplanes, deliberately crashing them into New York City's two tallest buildings, the Twin Towers. The collisions caused fires to erupt that would soon result in the catastrophic failure in the building structures and the collapse of the buildings upon themselves. 

Another set of hijackers on a third plane crashed it into a national symbol of American security - the Pentagon. 

On a fourth plane, hijackers set a course toward Washington D.C., in what is believed to have been a planned attack on the U.S. Capitol. A band of hero passengers aboard United Flight 93 fought back, thwarting the terrorists' plan. Due to the passenger uprising, the plane instead crashed on an open field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All aboard were killed. The passengers almost certainly saved the lives of many more at the cost of their own. 

A total of 2,977 people perished due to these attacks. There were 2,753 lost at the World Trade Center in New York, 184 at the Pentagon, and 40 on United 93. Many who died were first responders - 343 were firefighters.

The world was forever changed. For those who remain, the events of 9/11 are burned into our collective memory. Even the those born after 9/11 share the scar. They live in an atmosphere of unrelenting preoccupation with security measures at airports, government buildings, and large public gatherings like concerts and sporting events.  

On the anniversary of 9/11, Westwood Minute offers a small window into the experience and thoughts from people close to that pivotal moment of history, in their own words.

Photo from The U.S. National Archives via Flickr. Standing atop rubble with retired New York City firefighter Bob Beckwith and other members of fire and police departments on Friday, Sept. 14, 2001, President George W. Bush rallies rescue workers during an impromptu speech at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center in New York City.

Interview with Nkechi Okoro of New York Who Heard the First Plane Hit

I was actually at my desk with one of my colleagues, Charlie, and we heard the first plane hit, but we thought like a train had derailed or something. . . .

And then my desk actually overlooks out the window and we saw all this like burnt pieces of paper. Looked like a really bad ticker tape parade. . . .

And that's when another one of our colleagues came up from outside. He'd actually just gotten off the PATH [train] and was like, "A plane's just hit the World Trade Center. It's on fire!" . . . .

Immediately, I ran to my phone because I have a friend of mine who works in the AMEX building right behind.  So I was trying to get help. I was trying to get hold of her to make sure she was okay, and not on her way to work or anything. 

And that's when the second plane hit. And we really heard that one. 'Cause I guess everyone's attention was up, and they had it up on CNN by then, and everyone's like watching the monitors. We were all freaking out, and I started to cry.  

And I called my brother, and I was like, "I can't find Ashlyn. Please keep calling her!" and, "I don't know what's going on!",  and "Planes are hitting the World Trade!".

. . . 

All of a sudden, we just hear this rumbling.  And there's just like this big, old, black cloud, because all of the offices here are see-through. . . . No one had any clue what was going on. And all of a sudden, everyone's like, "On the floor! Get down on the floor!" . . . . We all crawled down on the floor. 

And everyone's like, "What's going on? What's going on?" And then the next thing you know, like everyone on the floor is just like running. Running from all the stairs, all the doors. . . . 

I had no clue where we're going. . . .

Excerpt of "Interview with Nkechi Okoro, New York, New York, November 16, 2001" from Library of Congress American Folklife Center September 11, 2001 Documentary Project. 

Photo from The U.S. National Archives via Flickr.

 FBI Agent Who Was an On-scene Commander at the Pentagon

What strikes me, I think, the most and what's most vivid in my mind is when we had that aircraft coming in. And we were told there's another aircraft coming in towards D.C.

At the time they gave us was it's eight minutes out. So you could hear a pin drop in that command post.

A lot of emotions. You could hear a lot of sobbing.

It was just agents who you see every day that you see for the first time really just quite emotional and taking and putting your arm around them, telling them to stay at their seats, telling them to, uh, task at hand.

Meanwhile we see the towers crumbling.

And it was quite an emotional scene. It really was.

And that final aircraft coming out. I was looking at our aviation coordinator, our airport liaison officer. He was on the phone with FAA.

And he's looking at me and he's going, 'We don't have it.'

So him and I are just staring at each other, just counting down.

The eight-minute mark comes up. Nothing happens. And we just don't know where this aircraft is.

It was, that's pretty vivid in my memory, as to, again, you could hear a pin drop in a command post that would be normally just chaotic noise.

And then we learned that it had went down somewhere; we weren't sure where at the time."

"Special Agent J.P. Recalls 9/11" from FBI repository of the reaction to 9/11  For the full audio, click here.

Members of the Public Pay Tribute

Click here to view.

Source: Library of Congress Web Archives,

Photo from The U.S. National Archives via Flickr. President George W. Bush gathers information about the terrorist attack from the classroom he was visiting at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. Dan Bartlett, Deputy Assistant to the President points to news footage of the World Trade Center. 

From President George W. Bush

“These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of America's resolve."

From President Barack Obama

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” 

You may also be interested in:

September 11th Remembrance Ceremony - Mon Sep 11 8:30 am

Westwood Marks the 21st Anniversary of 9/11

Remembering 9/11

9/11: Then and Now

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