It has been a decade since the unprecedented terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Despite the time that has passed, our memories of that day remain fresh and raw. More than 3,000 lives were lost in the attacks at New York City and the Pentagon as terrorist hijackers flew two planes into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. More than 400 firefighters, police officers, and other first responders lost their lives responding to the tragedies in New York and Washington. Thanks to the brave actions of the passengers of United Flight 93, countless more lives were saved. All 45 people aboard that flight were killed as a brave few attacked the hijackers, forcing the plane down in a field in rural Pennsylvania. Had the hijackers completed their mission with an attack from Flight 93 on any strategic location in Washington, the total death toll would have been higher.
Less than a month later, the US military mobilized to Afghanistan to rout out the Taliban regime which had provided safe harbor to the terrorist mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden. Within a few years of entering Afghanistan, the US military also began mobilizing to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.
Approximately three-quarters of APUS’ student body have served as active military personnel and have been directly involved in these missions. Some of them made the ultimate sacrifice in these two theaters of action. To date, more than 6,000 American military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan since those wars began. Each of us owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the first responders who risked their lives to assist those trapped in the rubble in New York City and at the Pentagon, to our men and women in uniform, and to the many people who work diligently to identify and avert future attacks. I encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on the lives lost on that fateful September day and to commemorate and honor those who have continued to risk their lives to protect our nation and its citizens.
Two months to the day after the attacks, President Bush said, “’Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.’” These words are as accurate today as they were ten years ago. Even as we near completion of an official memorial to victims in New York, celebrate the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein, and the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this year at the hands of US special forces, we will always remember that day, the tragedy it brought to our entire nation, and those who have given their lives since to ensure that the freedoms on which this nation was established remain intact for future generations.
In honor of this weekend, Story Corps preserves some of the voices of those affected by 9/11.