Seventeen years ago today, one of the greatest U.S. tragedies took place on our soil. In memory of this event, I would like to talk about the heroes who, despite the circumstances of that day, acted with bravery, risking their lives to save others. This is their story.
It’s 6:32 a.m. as the sun rises over New York City on September 11th, 2001. It’s a beautifully sunny late summer’s day as people go about their business in the hustle and bustle of city life. That is all about to change as at 8:46 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 which has been hijacked by terrorists, crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Suddenly the quiet streets are shaken as a thundering boom echoes across the city and the sky becomes filled with smoke and dust. Thousands of papers scatter into the air and begin gently falling to the streets below. At the time of the incident, the cause of the event is unknown. People in the street begin to argue whether or not this was the doing of terrorists. “Did they fly too low?” says one in the crowd. Another reply, “Planes could never accidentally fly that low, it has to be terrorists” Police, firefighters, and secret service members rush to the scene as fast as possible in an attempt to help in any way they can. Firefighters rush into the towers climbing as high as the 78th floor but there was only so much they could do, the plane had crashed on top of the 93rd floor and had severed access to all stairwells for the people above. Seventeen floors of people were completely trapped. Some others below found themselves in a similar situation as the force of the plane’s collision had shifted the building’s structure enough to jam many doors shut. It is now up to brave citizens and rescue teams to get them out.
By 8:45 a.m people on the top seventeen floors had realized their situation and had given up hope of rescue, realizing that they were destined to die painfully to flame or the tower’s collapse, one by one people began to jump from the tower to their immediate death. One of these jumpers would fall on to firefighter Daniel Suhr as he did his part to help people evacuate the premises. As time progressed, over 100 people would jump from the tower, taking their own lives.
At 8:55 a.m. people in the South Tower are told that everything was under control and they could safely return to their desks, but at 9:02 a.m. an announcement warns everyone to evacuate immediately. As confusion begins to spread in the streets below all doubts of a terrorist attack would be stifled. At 9:03 a.m. a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The 65 passengers on Flight 175 are obliterated in an instant and countless hundreds more’s lives are taken in the tower. The streets break into chaos as dust and debris scatter into the air. People take shelter from flaming rubble falling from the sky. Two gentlemen help an elderly man to cover as he stumbles in shock from the blast. Any doubt that this was an accident has been set aside, this was an intentional attack on our nation.
By 9:21 all of Manhatten is shut off from the outside world as all bridges and tunnels are closed. Despite this, firefighters and police officers continue to do their part to save as many lives as they can at ground zero. At 9:37 another plane flies into the Pentagon killing 189 people.
At 9:59 a.m. the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses. Only 18 people above the impact zone of the 77th floor would have a chance to escape. Due to limited communication in the tower, many firefighters would not get the order to leave the building and would be either trapped or killed in the rubble of the falling tower.
As the South Tower hits the ground it throws a wall of toxic dust and rubble that would choke and blind anyone who stood in its path. Firefighters and police officers began gagging and coughing up dust and dirt that had lodged deep inside their lungs. News crews and civilians nearby give water to these gasping officers, who some, after drinking the water, would begin walking back towards the towers, soon disappearing into the cloud of dust in an attempt to save move lives. At 10:07 a.m. passengers and crewmembers heroicly overcome the highjackers of Flight 93 and forcibly crashland their plane Somerset County, Pennsylvania in order to prevent more casualties. All forty people inside die.
At 10:28, the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses sending more toxic dust and debris across Manhattan. Due to lack of an escape route, no one above the collision floors survived. Despite the dust and dangers, heroic workers continue to do their part to rescue as many people as they can.
When it was all said and done 2,996 people lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center, flight 93, and the Pentagon. Out of these 2,996, 414 of them were firefighters, police officers, and other rescue workers who put themselves in danger in order to save others. It is safe to say that without these heroic men and women who ran to the aid of those trapped inside the towers many more lives would have been lost. And let us not forget to mention the brave men and women inside the towers who risked their own lives carrying out the disabled, injured, or elderly down dozens of flights of stairs in the face of imminent danger. Some, who we may never know about since, in their attempts to save others, they themselves never made it out of the towers alive.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, He told us the following about these kinds of people:
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
These men and women, who selflessly ran to help others in the face of danger on 9/11, didn’t come with weapons of war or tools designed to take life, but instead, armed with only their compassion and desire to help others, ran headfirst into unknown circumstances, willing to pay the ultimate price- the loss of their own life. The Bible teaches us, that, despite our fallen nature, mankind is made in the image of God. These men and women who risked all, reveal that image of God to us through their actions. Even today those who survived the events are still affected by their choice to save others. Many who were exposed to the toxic dust of 9/11 have developed or will develop cancer, heart, or lung problems that will likely result in death.
I was only six and a half years old when the events of 9/11 took place. At that point in time, there was no way I could understand the severity of the events that transpired, but now that I’ve grown up, the reality of this event is able to really sink in. Many husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and other family members were lost. It has been seventeen years since that day and around this time many of the children of the fallen rescue workers and civilians will be graduating from college, grad school, getting married or having children of their own. There is no doubt that the spouses and children of these heroes will miss the presence of their loved ones at these pivotal moments of their lives.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”
So let us remember our friends who laid down their lives so that others may live, those who decided that saving another person’s life was worth the risk of not being able to see their child’s first step, or to attend their son’s graduation, or to walk their daughter down the aisle at their wedding. The cost was high, Yes. Innumerable. But these men and women were willing to pay it. So, from the bottom of our hearts we say,
Too Young to Remember 9/11?
For those of you who are too young to remember what happened on 9/11, if you truly wish to better understand the horrors that unfolded that day there is a YouTube channel devoted to restoring and enhancing footage of 9/11 for historic record. It can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/user/WTCFOIAVideos
[NOTE: Due to the events, these videos contain: violence, death, language, and are disturbing. Watch at your own risk]