Almost a decade has passed and there is much to remember when it comes to the tragedy that struck New York, the United States, and the world at the hands of Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001. The catastrophe itself was a true horror for those killed. and wounded, as well as for the family of those attacked in New York City, on planes, in the air, and in the mighty Pentagon. These people should never be forgotten. The pain fades but creates scars and the scars never go away, but for those who survive, a lot of help is needed to move on. In light of the apparent death of Osama Bin Laden, there is closure on the actual crime that was committed against humanity that day, but from every great tragedy, stories of extraordinary heroism, courage, hope, and humanity emerge. September 11 was no exception. A decade later, I want to remember the good that came out of the aftermath of this tragedy, the help, solidarity and compassion that New Yorkers and the rest of the United States shared in the face of such a tremendous man-made catastrophe.
Most people know the heartbreaking details of what happened on September 11. On a cool, crisp fall morning, a handful of terrorists hijacked several commercial airliners. One crashed on its way to Washington DC, killing everyone on board, including some brave passengers who tried to retrieve the plane from the terrorists. The plane sank to the ground, thus saving hundreds or perhaps thousands more lives than if the plane had reached its destination. Two more planes flew into the World Trade Center, toppling and destroying the marvelous man-made towers forever. Many of those inside, simply going through a seemingly normal day at work, died in their attempt to escape destruction or in their efforts to save people from catastrophe. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon, killing many more people working to protect the lives and interests of Americans.
When all was said and done, 2,819 people died in that tragedy. More than 400 firefighters, police officers, paramedics and public officials died saving many people and trying to save many more. We have been at war with terrorism ever since. This was a relentless attack on the lives of innocent civilians, affecting far more than those killed or injured in the attack itself. It also affected many more than New Yorkers. More than 100 different nationalities lost citizens in the attack. The Twin Towers were more than a few extremely tall buildings. The World Trade Center complex was a beacon that illuminated hope in the city from 1973 until that fateful day in 2001. Designs were completed in 1964 for the 7-building project with the Twin Towers as the heart of the completed complex. Construction began on August 5, 1966. The completed towers were 1,368 and 1,362 feet tall respectively, 110 stories tall, once and the tallest buildings in existence. They housed approximately 50,000 employees and received 20,000 visitors per day. People came to see the greatness of New York. The towers were part of the financial center of the country and the world. For many across the planet, they were a symbol of freedom. Many people from many nations went there to build a better existence for themselves, as well as for their families and their communities.
That is America in a nutshell, opportunity and hope, where anyone can come and enjoy freedom. We are a nation built by immigrants and New York is the epicenter of the melting pot. This was no more apparent than when large numbers of people from so many nations died along with thousands of New Yorkers in those buildings, and when intrepid New York public workers, firefighters, and police officers entered that building facing death or injury. They went to save anyone they could, not just New Yorkers. People from all over the country came to New York in the days that followed, making extensive attempts in every way possible to offer their help, as well as in the search for survivors and victims. America has always come together in times of crisis, even if we fight when there is no crisis. Yet that’s the beauty of America. We argue and fight to find the best way for everyone, so that each of us can enjoy our own freedoms without hurting others, and if necessary, when the time comes, we will even help each other. America often gets a bad rap, as do New Yorkers. We are often labeled as burly, loud, grumpy, etc., but September 11 perhaps more than any other tragedy exposed the true heart and character of Americans and New Yorkers. The love, sympathy, and unity that emerged from that tragedy proved who we are.
New Yorkers, despite their many differences, attitudes, and famous lack of patience, have always managed to get by for each other and for the world. Believe it or not, New Yorkers are a great family of dedicated citizens who help each other in times of pain and need. We always have. Although New Yorkers are accustomed to social, political, and economic upheaval, crime, overcrowding, dilapidated neighborhoods, intolerable housing, outrageous rents, and high taxes, they accept the turmoil associated with everyday life as a way to normal and inevitable life. However, it still doesn’t stop them from aggravating these problems and complaining about them as well. There are also some bad apples in the Big Apple, but there are also chronic bad apples and complainers everywhere.
But what about all the emergency workers who bravely sacrificed their lives in the face of enormous danger that day and what about the thousands of emergency workers and citizens of New York who faced the same danger that day and survived? Those terrorists not only violently brought down the Twin Towers and killed thousands of hardworking people who attacked the American Dream personified.
Keep in mind that when we look back on September 11, we must remember the response of New York and the United States to that attack. The courage, the unity, the balance that was shown and the love and human bonding that was formed. In place of the victims and the towers that fell that bloody day, a united city and nation rose up, united to seek justice against terrorism wherever it runs and hides. America’s commercial center, the epicenter of commerce, fashion, entertainment, banking, publishing, and shipping, was stormed, as was freedom and hope. However, as always, we persevere.
Leaders like Mayor Giuliani showed determination and poise. He led the city through the horrors we endure. Like it or not, it was an image of leadership during that crisis. He did not stagger, but remained calm and focused. It gave the city and the nation the stoic, determined face they needed to see at the time. What about the united police officers and emergency workers who lost friends and family, who stood together exhausted like the president, turned to them and promised justice? What about the millions of New Yorkers who donated time, energy and resources to help survivors overcome the crisis?
It wasn’t just New Yorkers who showed the unity that the country and the world felt after 9/11. In the Boston Red Sox’s home opener after the sporting world resumed, as all professional sports ceased for days and weeks after 9/11, thousands of Red Sox fans chanted “New York, New York “to honor the victims of September 11 and the citizens who survived. The fact that Boston fans, die-hard fans of a team with a heated 100-year rivalry with the New York Yankees, showed so much love and support for such a hated opponent says a lot about this nation, their true feelings for their fellow citizens. . and your understanding of the true priority.
Numerous nations around the world held a unified moment of silence to honor the victims. Many nations sent donations and assistance to aid in the recovery. In New York, as in the rest of the United States and most of the world, humanity exists, even today. We must always remember this.
We must also always remember September 11, 2001. We must remember the 400 emergency workers who gave their lives to save others to protect the symbol and ideal of hope, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We must remember the brave passengers of Flight 93 who gave their lives to prevent the hijackers from reaching their goal. The famous last words of a heroic victim, Todd Beamer, who died aboard that plane, were: “Are you ready? Let’s go.”
Those words must not have been uttered in vain. Let’s roll means move on, take action, and they have more contexts regarding 9/11 and its true meaning than taking a plane back. We must move on and move forward. We must learn from the heroism displayed by the victims, by New Yorkers and Americans during that tragedy and its aftermath. We must move forward in the name of hope and freedom. We must move forward in honor of those victims. We must remember the unity, support and love that New Yorkers and the nation shared. We must always remember and pay tribute to the remains and destruction of the symbol of the American Dream that were known as the Twin Towers. We must always remember and pay tribute to the victims trapped in that destruction and to those who have died since, protecting the very American Dream that the Twin Towers embodied. That is the irony of it all. By destroying the symbol of freedom and the American style, the terrorists completely failed. They brought us together in the name of those principles, strengthening our common bond. We must continue to build on that strength as we honor and remember those who died on September 11, 2001, and we must continue to prevail.
How about America, are you ready to roll? We are going to build on the American dream that the terrorists tried to destroy on 9/11. Let us continue to protect and honor freedom, and to lead the world with our actions and deeds, not with our words.