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October 30th, 2020

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Struggling not to forget

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published Sept. 16, 2019

Struggling not to forget
Another September 11th has come and gone.

September 11, 2001 was 18 years ago. Today's public school children weren't even born yet. Most young people who are in their 20's today don't have much if any memory of it. The memories of many of the rest of us have dimmed with the passing years.

For the families and friends of those who perished, that day will never be forgotten just as the Holocaust will never be forgotten for Jewish people around the world. But it isn't enough that those who were personally touched by evil should remember such horrific events, all decent human beings must remember too.

Maybe the tendency of the human mind is to wash over or suppress horrible events over time, but we, as a collective people must never let that happen. Just as the world must keep remembering the Jewish holocaust, "9/11" needs to be remembered for the evil attack that it was on all civilized human beings. Here then is exactly what happened that day.

On September 11, 2001, 19 terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people in total were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For those of us old enough to recall waking up that Tuesday morning to this unbelievable news and switching on the television we will never forget the images we saw. The sequence of events went this way:

On September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m. Eastern Standard Time an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors.

Soon evacuation efforts of the tower and its twin were begun and television cameras broadcast live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. But then 18 minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767 United Airlines Flight 175 appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center and sliced into the south tower near the 60th floor. The impact caused a huge explosion showering burning debris over surrounding buildings and onto the streets below. At that point we all knew America was under attack.

We watched as people jumped out of windows to certain death below. Broadcasters described the soft splatter sound as the bodies hit the pavement. We saw people in abject panic running through the streets of New York covered with ash, fear in their faces. Just as we were attempting to process all of this American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington, D.C., before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 a.m.

Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. In all, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.

Then less than 15 minutes after the terrorists struck the Pentagon, things in New York took a disastrous turn when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke, followed at 10:30 a.m. with the collapse of the north building of the twin towers.

Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost 10,000 others were treated for injuries, many severe. Among the dead were 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.

But that wasn't the end of it. A fourth California-bound plane -- United Flight 93 -- was hijacked about 40 minutes after leaving New Jersey. Passengers on board heard what happened in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground because of a delay in taking off from Newark.

Realizing what was in store for them, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned a heroic preemptive strike against their terrorist hijackers. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone that "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."

Another passenger, Todd Beamer, was heard saying "Are you guys ready? Let's roll", over an open line.

What exactly happened next is not known for sure except that the passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have stormed the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane flipped and hit the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania at 10:10 a.m.

All 44 people aboard were killed. The Islamists' intended target is uncertain, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, or the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Hate-filled Islamic terrorists intended to kill as many Americans as they could that day. Muslim extremists want the complete annihilation of Western Civilization. Period. They still do. Remember that. We must never forget the horror of that day.

And we must remember to teach it to our children.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's been a JWR contributor since 1999.

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