An Unforgettable Tragedy of 2001

Remembering a Day That We Shall Never Forget

~Joshua Grimes, News Editor~

September 11th, 2001. A day when everything changed dramatically, because New York City; Arlington, Virginia; and Shanksville, Pennsylvania were under attack out of thin air. The day began as a normal Tuesday. Everyone was doing their morning routine. President Bush was in Florida on his way visiting a Sarasota school getting prepared to visit a classroom. The morning NBC News top headline was about Michael Jordan getting ready to return to the NBA. Then, about an hour and forty-five minutes later at 8:46 a.m., the unthinkable took place. American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Twin Tower of the World Trade Center. According to history.com and a WFLA article produced last year, President Bush was on his way to a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary when he heard about the first attack. This was about seven months into his presidency. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric from NBC’s Today were in the middle of an interview and had to cut the guest that was with them off because of the first attack and go to commercial break. The reason for the break was because the control room did not have the feed available. They called it “an accident” because information was coming in real time and not enough was known to the media. 

At 9:03am, about 20 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. By this time, according to the same article, President Bush was in the second grade classroom reading to the students when his chief of staff, Andrew Card, gave the president a briefing saying, “A second plane has hit the second tower. America is under attack.” The article further said that President Bush was in complete shock. When President Bush did hold a news conference about a week later, he explained his reaction and according to history.com, the president said, “[I] was just sitting in the midst of a classroom with little kids, listening to a children’s story and I realize I’m the Commander in Chief and the country has just become under attack.” 

History.com explained that Bush continued to listen for about 8 or 9 minutes, complemented the kids, and posed for a picture. This was all before he went into an empty classroom, watched the latest news coverage, spoke with both Vice President Dick Cheney and New York Governor George Pataki, and did an on-the-spot news conference from the school. In the conference, President Bush began with, “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a difficult moment for America. I, unfortunately, will be going back to Washington after my remarks.” He added how the Secretary of Education and the Lieutenant Governor were going to be the ones to speak about education and thanked the school for their hospitality. 

The following words came from President Bush’s remarks, according to the WFLA article. “Today, we have had a national tragedy. Two airplanes have crashed into the World Trade Center in an apparent terrorist attack on our country. I have spoken to the Vice President, to the Governor of New York, and to the director of the FBI, and I’ve ordered the full resources of the national government to help the victims and their families and to find those folks who committed this act. Terrorism against our nation will not stand and now, if you’ll join me in a moment of silence.” That moment of silence as well as the reading of names of those that died will be the highlight of the ceremonies that take place in New York City for years to come. 

Over on the Today Show side of things, they were interviewing a witness of the first attack when the witness said on camera “another one just hit” in such a frantic voice. Lauer, Couric, and Al Roker were in complete shock while watching it happen on camera. 

About thirty minutes later at 9:37 a.m., an hour after the first attack, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, near the nation’s capital. This positioned it close to the people’s house, or the White House. This resulted in evacuations from the White House. Later on, less than thirty minutes from the third attack, the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. Four minutes later, at 10:04 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Penn. The final act occurred at 10:28 a.m., when the North Tower collapsed. The result of everything that had occurred before noon was nonstop confusion. It seems that everyone remembers where they were when the attack happened. 

Now, 19 years later, in the midst of a pandemic, the ways we used to honor this unforgettable tragedy had to change dramatically. Over in New York, according to another WFLA article, the names they typically would say was recorded in advance; they were trying to discourage a huge set up that would bring crowds, they originally went away with the tribute in light but reversed that decision, and the ceremony itself was shorter. One thing that did stay the same was the ringing of the bell and moment of silence when the first plane initially hit the World Trade Center at 8:46am. This year, in Virginia, Christopher Newport had senior and volunteer EMT- firefighter Pete Miller ring the bell. They also held a moment of silence at that same time, 8:46 a.m., to remember the victims of the tragedy. Across the nation, there were some forms of remembrance in some capacity, especially in Shakesville, Arlington, and New York. 

As September 11th comes around each year, this country will continue to Never Forget the victims, the heroes, and the people that lost their lives on that day as a result of this unforgettable tragedy.

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