9/11 is a tragic day that will forever live in infamy, just like Pearl Harbor
As the new century began, most people were filled with hope that it was a dawn to a new beginning. But little did they know that the future would not only give them good, but also bloodshed. On September 11, 2001, it was a normal work day at the World Trade Center, filled with about 3000 people who were dutifully doing their job. Suddenly they felt a rumble in the distance and thought it was an earthquake. But before they could figure out was going on, two planes hijacked by terrorists, which were filled with about 100 innocent people, crashed into either side of the building and caused it to collapse, demolishing the once 110-story twin towers and ending about 2,700 innocent lives.
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There is always a twisted reason in warped minds for these types of terror attacks. The Al-Qaeda organization, the terrorists behind the 9/11 attack, were led by an evil man named Osama Bin Laden. However, Bin Laden, unlike any other terrorist whose motive was to kill to spread religion, wanted to have revenge against America. He had wrongly made up his mind that during the Persian Gulf War (1990-91), the Americans decided to launch a war that collaterally killed Iraqi children and massacre fleeing Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait for the purposes of installing a hedonistic and cruel Kuwaiti dictatorship. He sought to avenge the Gulf War casualties, without realizing that the war was started by the unprovoked Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the wanton killings of thousands of innocent Kuwaiti civilians by Iraqi troops. He also demanded that American peacekeeping soldiers leave Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War or face the consequences. Bin Laden used religious texts to exhort his supporters to attack Americans until his stated grievances are reversed.
The idea for the 9/11 attacks came from his sidekick Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who first presented it to Osama bin Laden. They funded and sent some of their followers to take flying lessons in California, Arizona, Minnesota and Florida. They also trained in using weapons and learned to speak English, to blend in while living in American society. They divided themselves in terror cells of 4 to 5 individuals called “sleeper cells”. They bought plane tickets on four large commercial airplanes with long flights because they would be heavily fueled.
Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 of Bin Laden’s followers became hijackers and took control of four commercial airliners. The four flights that were hijacked mid-flight, along with hundreds of innocent passengers and flight crew-members on board, were:
In all four cases, the hijackers attacked the unsuspecting flight crew members and forcibly took control of the cockpits by using violence and weapons they had smuggled on board. Their targets were the most prominent and strategic buildings that underlined America’s financial strength and military muscle. The terrorists flew the first three planes into New York City’s World Trade Center’s North Tower and South Towers, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia (near Washington DC).
In the case of the fourth aircraft, as heroic passengers and crew fought back and attempted to subdue the hijackers, the hijackers intentionally crashed the aircraft into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is believed that their intended target was either the Capitol Building or the White House in Washington DC.
In New York, the World Trade Center’s North Tower, South Tower and a smaller building (“7 WTC”) collapsed after a few hours, due to fire-induced structural failure, killing or trapping thousands of innocent people who worked in offices in these buildings. The large amount of fuel in these airplanes accelerated the destruction of these historically remarkable buildings.
As a result of the attacks on these Twin Towers on 9/11, a total of 2,763 people died including 2,192 civilians, 343 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and 147 passengers and crew on the airplanes. The Pentagon’s west side sustained significant damage with 184 casualties, including the passengers, flight crew along with the military personnel and civilians inside the building. In the case of the fourth aircraft, all the 40 passengers and flight crew members died in the crash in the field, but the heroism of the passengers saved the lives of many hundreds of potential victims who worked in the intended targets (the Capitol Building or the White House).
To summarize, the 9/11 terror attacks killed 2,996 innocent people, injured over 6,000 victims, and resulted in at least $10 billion in infrastructure damage in America’s two most significant cities – Washington DC and New York. Such a large, coordinated series of terror attacks had never ever been carried out on American soil, since Pearl Harbor.
Television channels replayed the horrific visuals of the airplanes hitting the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the subsequent collapse of the burning towers. The only silver lining was that at least 12,000 people were able to escape from the burning Twin Towers during the next 102 minutes after the terror attack, unlike the 2763 people who perished at Ground Zero.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of shocked eyewitnesses and survivors in New York and Washington DC have described the horror of watching the airplanes smash into the buildings and the flames, heat, smoke, dust and debris that rained down on them. Panic stricken office employees ran down many hundreds of steps at the Twin Towers amid blinding smoke and heat, while being helped by brave firefighters before the buildings collapsed. Others who were trapped in the upper floors of the Twin towers plunged to their deaths from windows while attempting to escape the blazing inferno.
Many books, articles and interviews provide significant insight into the tragic history of 9/11 and contain vivid eyewitness accounts of survival from firefighters, economists, lawyers, hotel guests, hotel employees and business travelers. Firsthand accounts of survival, tragedy, and heroism drawn from hundreds of interviews underlined incredible stories of bravery, courage and overcoming unbelievable odds. Other books described the pain and trauma of the victims’ shell-shocked families, especially orphaned children, who were forced to journey through shock, pain, birth, and rebirth in the aftermath of a great tragedy. Even the 9/11 survivors and their families tried to cope with this unexpected tragedy, while being tossed into a storm of bureaucracy, politics, patriotism, mourning, consolation, health issues, suffering and parenthood.
The post 9/11 resilience of American society is showing positive results. The World Trade Center is being rebuilt at the same site in New York city. The damaged western section of the Pentagon was rebuilt and occupied within a year of the attacks. There is remarkable alertness about terrorism among the people who see heightened security at airports, important buildings, bridges, malls and other crowded places. But the personal losses of their loved ones and financial losses to the US economy may never be recouped.
As a result of the 9/11 terror attacks, many countries were shaken out of their complacence and governments across the world have passed legislation to combat terrorism. Many memorials and vigils were held across the world for the 9/11 victims. Many countries became allies of the United States and showed solidarity with the 9/11 victims.
The global community has joined the war on terror. Several top Al Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, have been neutralized. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein were overthrown by US and NATO troops. The world is becoming more alert to terrorism than ever before, and many countries are cooperating with each other to foil terror attacks before they are committed. Thousands of terrorists have been killed or arrested worldwide, in the nearly two decades after 9/11.
On the other hand, newer terrorist groups have emerged to take the place of Al Qaeda. Many countries, especially in the Middle East, have unfortunately slipped into chaos and civil war due to widespread sectarian terrorism. After 9/11, there have been thousands of terror attacks, big and small, on civilians and security personnel in nearly 100 countries across the globe. New bands of terrorists have brutally targeted innocent people at shopping malls, airports, streets, trains, buses, schools, colleges and places of worship in six continents. Other terror attacks have been thwarted by alert authorities with the help of people. As law enforcement and intelligence personnel grapple with this boom in cross-continental terrorist networks, the terrorist groups are radicalizing impressionable youth by using the internet and YouTube for recruitment and religious brainwashing. This has led to an increasingly voluble debate, be it in the media, politics and in society, about the root causes of terrorism and how to tackle this problem.
The twenty-first century has lessons to learn from the 9/11 tragedy and the subsequent triumph of humanity. If the world succumbs to this growing cancer of terrorism, then all the civilizational gains made by humanity over several millennia may be lost forever and we may end up in a veritable stone age. But if humanity pulls the world back from the brink and discovers the panacea to everlasting peace, then a catastrophe like 9/11 will never occur again in our lifetimes, which will make the world a safer place for our future generations.
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