One of America’s Most Defining Moments – 9/11

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via Wikimedia Commons

The twin towers after being struck by the terrorists.

A day so fearsome and horrific, 20 years later, it is still being remembered as heavily and sorrowfully as when it actually happened. One day, three locations, 19 terrorists, and almost 3,000 people killed. So what happened on this sorrowful day? Who were the terrorists? Why did they attack the United States? And most importantly, what did 9/11 change?

It was a clear and sunny Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001, when the first American Airlines Boeing 767 collided into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:45 AM. The impact of the collision led to a wide hole around the 80th floor of the 110-floor tower, killing hundreds and trapping other hundreds on the spot. Eighteen minutes later, a second Boeing 767 appeared out of nowhere and promptly crashed into the south tower near the 60th floor, causing a deadly explosion of fire that showered raining debris over nearby buildings and the street down below. It wasn’t until a Boeing 757 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters at 9:45 AM did everyone truly understand that a terrorist attack was underway. A massive fire started when jet fuel from the terrorist jet spilled onto the Pentagon, and it caused a structural collapse of a part of the enormous building. Less than 15 minutes after this occurred, the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed with a mushroom of smoke and dust, and at 10:30 AM, so did the north tower. All while this was happening, another plane was hijacked, but since all the passengers on board knew what was happening, they attacked the hijackers and successfully stopped the terrorists; however, it cost them their lives. Everyone on that plane died when it flipped over and sped towards the ground at 500 miles per hour, finally making contact with a rural field in western Pennsylvania. With all that said, the final death toll came up to be 2,996 people, including the 19 terrorists.

So who was really behind this deadly and horrible act of terrorism? It turns out, several people. They were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who were under al Qaeda, a terrorist organization run by Osama bin Laden. They did this because they were angry at America for supporting Israel, America’s involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and America’s continued military presence in the Middle East. The terrorists had no difficulty smuggling knives and weapons of all sorts in the East Coast airports, and once on the planes, hijacked the controls and set off to destroy America.

The changes 9/11 brought revolutionized America; more specifically, American unity and security. The Department of Homeland Security was created in response to this incident, and today, it is responsible for preventing terror attacks, border security, immigrants and customs, and disaster relief and prevention. Bin Laden, the mastermind behind all of this, didn’t get off scot-free either. A $25 million bounty was placed on his head by President George Bush, dead or alive. He evaded confrontation until May 2011, when he was shot and killed on the president’s orders. But during the hunt for bin Laden, many changes were already occurring in security and unity. Americans and even people from other countries mourned together, and the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund began, totaling over $7.4 billion for the final sum. 9/11 also officially became known as ‘Patriot Day’, and a memorial was created for the victims. Airport security also became much tighter, with more police officers, security guards, and K-9 dogs than ever before. That is why the process of airport security takes so long: no one wants a repeat of the terrible day that was 9/11.

September 11 will always be not only a symbol of tragedy and devastation for Americans but also one of unity and hope. For younger generations who may not remember or have even been alive during 9/11, it is more important than ever to know what happened on that day to better prepare for the future and learn from past mistakes. Involving terrorists, hijacked airplanes, and billions of dollars lost in structural damage, 9/11 should be ingrained in America’s hearts forever, reminding them that there is always hope in devastation.