9/11: The day that made America bend, but not break
By: Robert Foreman

On September 11, 2001, the world as we all knew it changed forever when terrorists launched the single worst terrorist attack in human history on American soil. The shock waves from the 9/11 attacks continue to reverberate 18 years later. How could they not?  Nearly 3,000 people were killed and over 6,000 were injured that day. First responders were among the hardest hit with 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers being killed, which made it the single deadliest incident for both professions.

Sadly, many of the firefighters and law enforcement personnel who survived the attacks have either lost their lives to 9/11-related health issues or they are continuing to fight the physical and psychological issues stemming from that day. This is what made it all the more frustrating watching these brave men and women fight Congress to receive the financial help they needed to battle their health issues. However, Congress finally got around to doing the right thing by first responders when they recently voted to fund the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2092.

For those of us who were old enough to be fully-aware of what was happening on September 11th it is seared into our minds forever. I distinctly remember going outside and seeing the shell-shocked looks on people’s faces that clearly reflected my own shock. How could this be happening in America? We ultimately learned that it was 19 al-Qaeda terrorists who had pulled off the four coordinated attacks by using our own passenger planes against us. However, the entire experience just seemed incomprehensible. These were the kinds of attacks that happened in other parts of the world, but not here. Yet, it was happening here and we were watching it unfold on live television.

The four airplanes that were used by the hijackers belonged to both United Airlines and American Airlines. American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were deliberately flown into the Twin Towers in New York while American Airlines Flight 77 was flown directly into the Pentagon in Virginia. The remaining plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was hijacked and being flown toward Washington. It is suspected that the hijackers intended to fly the plane into the White House. However, the plane crash landed in Pennsylvania after some of the passengers fought back against the terrorists. Who knows how many more lives could have been lost that day if not for the actions of those brave souls.

While watching passenger planes being flown into the Twin Towers was horrific enough for Americans to see, little did any of us know that we would watch our fellow citizens choosing to jump to their deaths to escape the burning buildings. The horror only intensified as we watched the two 110-story towers collapse one after the other, which impacted the other buildings in the World Trade Center complex. Watching people on the streets, civilians and first responders alike, attempting to outrun collapsing buildings, as debris rained down upon them and a massive cloud of toxic dust followed, was bone-chilling.

Yet this all played out while the Pentagon, the symbol of America’s military strength, was partially in flames from the plane that crashed into it. The entire day seemed like a nightmare that would not end and that was just for those of us who were at a safe distance. Imagine what thoughts were going through the minds of those people on the airplanes as they flew toward their intended targets. Or what were the last moments like for those civilians and first responders who were trapped inside the burning Twin Towers as the buildings began collapsing on top of them? None of us can ever truly know. But the reality is that no one deserves to die the way the victims of 9/11 did.

It is hard to imagine that all of the death and misery that occurred on 9/11 was orchestrated by one man: al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden. Following 9/11, the U.S. began the ‘War on Terror’ and invaded Afghanistan due to the Taliban providing safe haven for al-Queda and bin Laden to plan the attacks. However, bin Laden managed to elude capture for nearly a decade. Yet, his reign of terror ended when the U.S. located him in Pakistan and he was killed by Seal Team Six in 2011. I remember the night that the news broke that he had been killed. It seemed as if the entire country had a moment to exhale and celebrate the fact the boogeyman was dead and rotting in Hell.

Yet, bin Laden’s death could not undo the damage that he had wrought. Those who had lost their lives on 9/11 were not going to return from the dead. The people suffering from medical conditions as a result of 9/11 were not going to suddenly be healed by his death. But what his death did give many people was some sense of closure. At least we knew that he would never be able to take another innocent life. I remember when bin Laden died some people that I knew were trying to say that celebrating his death was in poor taste. My response was, and still is, a mass murderer got the inglorious death that he deserved and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Ultimately, the terrorists hoped that the 9/11 attacks would weaken the U.S. and have us trembling in fear. True, in the days following the attacks it felt, at times, that as a country our backs were against the ropes. But it didn’t remain that way for long. What the terrorists failed to realize is that regardless of our race, creed, religion or political ideologies, Americans are tough and resilient. We mourned our dead, picked ourselves back up and we fought back. We also went about rebuilding after the physical and emotional devastation that 9/11 caused. So, as we mark another anniversary of the day that made America bend we should remember that we did not break. As Americans we can, and do, rise to face any challenge thrown our way and we don’t back down. Ever. Never Forget!