Remember 9/11, the horrors and the heroes

Photo courtesy of Layne Pyle

By Layne Pyle | Guest Contributor

Blue skies, sunshine and the crisp 65-degree weather were all that New York could think about at 8 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001: the perfect day. The city that never sleeps was buzzing; no one was expecting the horrors that lay in wait.

“This just in: you are looking at, obviously, a very disturbing live shot there,” CNN reporter Carol Lin said at the scene. “That is the World Trade Center. We have unconfirmed reports this morning that a plane has crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”

Lin struggled to keep a monotone voice as the livestream displayed the top of the north tower in a blaze of fire and smoke. Unfortunately, this terrifying image was only the first of many catastrophes that portrayed the evils of humanity that day.

An American Airlines Boeing 767 hijacked by al-Qaida — the Islamic extremist group — crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. A loud thud erupted into the air and shook the ground as an explosion of smoke caused the vibrant blues of the sky to turn into a cynical black. Office papers were sucked out of the building and littered the air like confetti, while emergency vehicles’ sirens began wailing toward the World Trade Center. As first responders heroically sped toward the hellish scene, civilians began sprinting away from the heinous acts of terror.

Emergency personnel were called in from all over the city to contain what had just happened and lead rescues. They surrounded the perimeter of the north tower as firefighters and police officers began to march up the stairs, in contrast to the civilians who were trying to come down. The tower’s oxygen levels were rapidly being replaced with toxic smoke. The workers inside gasped for clean air and began to break windows so that they could breathe again. As the fire and smoke began eating away at the north tower, it caused desperate people to make desperate choices.

“Oh my goodness.”

“Oh God.”

“Oh my goodness there is another one. Oh my goodness there is another one.”

“This seems to be on purpose.”

“Is that a plane?”

“Now it’s obvious, I think,” Fox 4 News commentators reported.

At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center. By 10:30 a.m., the north tower fell. The deafening silence of uncertainty hung over the United States.

2,996 people were murdered and more than 6,000 people were injured during the attack. Later that night, with tender hearts, Americans listened to former President George W. Bush address the nation.

“Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America,” Bush said. “These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

While in grief, American pride exploded on that infamous day. Americans realized that petty disagreements were first-world problems and ultimately would not solve anything. America set aside its political differences in the face of an unimaginable tragedy.

“Americans came together last week as they had not come together since World War II,” CBS journalist Bob Schieffer said on the following Sunday. “Congress passed a $40 billion emergency appropriation by an unprecedented unanimous vote, and when Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott and his Democratic counterpart Tom Daschle approached the microphones, Lott had his arm around and his hand on the shoulder of his old political foe.”

Today, setting political differences aside for the sake of our country seems to be impossible. America has never been so divided. American patriotism has become vilified, and a lot of Americans have forgotten the blessing that America is. Millions of Americans have forgotten the luxuries that we have in the United States. Millions of Americans have forgotten that our unalienable rights are not guaranteed in every country on this planet. Millions of Americans have forgotten that freedom is not free; it is earned on the battlefield at the cost of a soldier’s precious blood. On 9/11 alone, 413 first responders gave their lives in order to restore peace to their city. The question is then raised: Will it take another monstrous tragedy for America to come together?