History of the September 11 Attacks | 9/11

Saturday will be 20 years since the attacks that took place on September 11th, also known as 9/11. We call it 9/11 because 9 represents the 9th month of September and it happened on the 11th day of September in the year 2001. If you are younger, many of you may have not been born yet, but you may have heard about 9/11 from your parents or others who were alive during that time. I was alive during that time and it’s a day I know I will never forget.

Each year that September 11th or 9/11 has come around, maybe you’ve wondered why your parents, teachers, the news and so many people talk about that day. On 9/11 an attack took place in the United States in New York City against the Twin Towers. As you may know, New York City has very tall buildings called skyscrapers. It’s one of the many things that make New York City a famous place. I’ve seen the skyscrapers there and been to the top of two of them and they are amazing! The Twin Towers were two identical-looking towers that for a time were the tallest buildings in the world at 1,776 feet with 110 floors each! 

On the morning of September 11, 2001, the attack was carried out by a terrorist group called Al Qaida who was angry at the United States and wanted to Americans harm. These terrorists had been planning the attack for a while and their plan was to hijack (which means takeover) two passenger jets and then fly them into the sides of the Twin Towers. Al Qaida is an Islamic extremist group, which means they have strong beliefs attached to their religion and often behave in violent ways to protect and spread their religion. They were led by a man named Osama Bin Laden, who had been planning the attacks from the country of Afghanistan.

During the morning of September 11th, many people were working at the Twin Towers, but no one expected the attacks when they happened. After the planes crashed into the buildings and started fires, firefighters and police rushed to the towers and climbed the stairs to help people get out. Fortunately, many people were able to get out of the towers thanks to the help of the many brave firefighters who risked their lives to save others. 

As you can imagine, the fires inside the towers made them very hot. Towers are made with steel beams and steel is very strong but when it gets too hot it melts. Tragically, this caused both towers to collapse, which means fall down. Many of the firefighters who had rushed into the building were still inside, along with people who were working in the buildings. It was a very sad day for the United States and for people all around the world who had family members and loved ones inside the buildings and on the passenger jets. The Twin Towers, also known as the World Trade Center, was a place where people from all over the world worked and visited.

During the morning, two other passenger jets were taken over and also crashed. Flight 77 went down into the Pentagon, a military building in Virginia. Flight 99 went down in the countryside of Pennsylvania. Many believe this passenger jet was headed to the White House or the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. but the brave passengers were able to stop the terrorists before it made it all the way.

Do you know where the President of the United States was on the morning of 9/11? He was in Florida visiting an elementary school. President George W. Bush was reading the classroom a story when he found out about the attacks. Immediately, he rushed off to meet with his advisors and help deal with the attacks. It was hard to know at the time how many planes there were and where they were attacking, so it was a distressing time for everyone trying to help. The President ended up speaking to the news and to the world from the elementary school before leaving.

The rest of the day of 9/11 and the days following were very sad and difficult for everyone affected by the attacks. There was also a great feeling of patriotism and an outpouring of love for the city of New York and those who had been affected. New York started cleaning up the fallen towers and people visited the sites to leave pictures and flowers and other objects that reminded them of the loved ones they had lost.

In response to the attacks, the United States military sent soldiers into Afghanistan to seek out the terrorists and groups allowing terrorists to live there. Many battles took place between the American troops and extremist groups such as the Taliban and Al Qaida. Eventually, more soldiers were sent into Afghanistan to fight these groups and money was spent to try and create a stable government to avoid more terrorist groups who might threaten the United States again. If you’ve heard of the War in Afghanistan this is that war and one of the reasons it took place. There was also a war in the nearby country of Iraq which is some ways was related to the attacks on 9/11. As you can tell, the aftershocks of September 11 lasted far into the future and even today if you consider the number of people affected. 

Back in New York City, it took 9 months to clean up the fallen Trade Towers. In their place, they built a memorial to honor those who had died. Two years ago my wife, daughter, and I had the chance to visit New York City and go to the site where the Twin Towers once stood. Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is a very emotional experience. The design of the memorial is two large pools low in the ground where the towers once stood with waterfalls pouring down into them. The names of those who were lost are inscribed around the pools. There are many green trees and it is a peaceful place but also a very sad place. The pools in the ground represent the holes left in the hearts and lives of those who lost loved ones on 9/11. Nearby is a 9/11 museum now worth visiting and not far from the former towers is a huge new tower called the One World Trade Center. Some people said we shouldn’t build a new skyscraper because it might just become the target of another attack. But most people wanted to build a new tower to show that even when they are attacked they will start over, rebuild, and not be intimidated by those who would do them harm. This is what the new One World Trade Center represents, the resolve and determination of a city and nation that will continue moving forward even when tragedy strikes.

At the site of the destroyed towers President George W. Bush spoke to a crowd of rescue workers and said: “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”

Take some time to think about what it means to continue on even when things in life are hard. 9/11 is a time to remember people who were lost in the attacks. Take some time to learn more about what happened on 9/11 and the people who were lost or affected. With the help of your parents, you can watch videos and look at pictures that may help give you a better understanding of what happened and of things like the memorials and the new Trade Tower. If you click on the link in the episode’s notes I’ll include some pictures of our visit to the memorial and New York.

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