Sept. 11, 2001: A day that changed the world forever

Stuart Ibberson, Aerotech News
September 11, 2001.

For those old enough to remember, it is a day that is etched in our memories much the way Dec. 7, 1941, is for those who remember the attack on Pearl Harbor.

For those not old enough to remember, it is a day that has shaped their lives in ways unimagined 20 years ago.

As Sept. 11, 2001, dawned people on the East Coast started going about their daily lives oblivious to what was to come.

The first inkling of the horror to come came at 8:46 a.m., EDT, when news came that a commercial aircraft – American Airlines Flight 11 – had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Those not in the immediate vicinity sat glued to television screens wondering what was going on. Flight 11 was a regularly scheduled flight from Boston to Los Angeles.

An aerial view of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York, circa 2015. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

The 9/11 Memorial in New York. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph)

A family member remembers a lost loved one during the 9/11 memorial service in 2018. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph)

A NYPD officer rings the bell at the 9/11 memorial in 2017. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

Then, at 9:02 a.m., EDT, we watched in growing horror as United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. This was the moment for many that this was not just an accident but a deliberate act of terror. Flight 175 was a regularly scheduled flight, also from Boston to Los Angeles.

As most New Yorkers fled the scene, heroic first responders rushed to the Twin Towers in an attempt to rescue those they could.

Thirty-five minutes later, American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. Flight 77 took off from Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., heading to Los Angeles.

The airspace over the United States was closed to all air traffic, and as flights were grounded and inbound aircraft diverted, it dawned on some that there was one aircraft that no one could contact.

At 10:30 a.m., EDT, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into the ground in Shanksville, Penn. Flight 93 had taken off from Newark Airport in New Jersey, and was heading to San Francisco. As the passengers on Flight 93 learned of the earlier attacks, they attempted to retake control of the aircraft from the hijackers. As a result, the aircraft crashed into a filed in Pennsylvania, and was the only hijacked aircraft not to reach its intended target.

Today, there are memorials at all three sites.
The National September 11 Memorial and Museum
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum commemorates both the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed 2,977 people, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six. The memorial is located at the World Trade Center site, the former location of the Twin Towers that were destroyed during the Sept. 11 attacks. It is operated by a non-profit institution whose mission is to raise funds for, program, and operate the memorial and museum at the World Trade Center site.

A memorial was planned in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and destruction of the World Trade Center for the victims and those involved in rescue and recovery operations.

The memorial consists of a field of trees interrupted by two large, recessed pools, the footprints of the Twin Towers. The deciduous trees (swamp white oaks)[11] are arranged in rows and form informal clusters, clearings and groves. The park is at street level, above the Memorial Museum. The names of the victims of the attacks (including those from the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) are inscribed on the parapets surrounding the waterfalls in an arrangement of “meaningful adjacencies”

The Survivor Tree. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

Foundation Hall at the 9/11 Memorial and Musuem. Installed here is the 36-foot high “Last Column” that is covered with mementos, memorial inscriptions, and missing posters affixed by ironworkers, rescue personnel and others. It was ceremonially removed from the site on May 30, 2002, marking the official end of the nine-month Ground Zero recovery effort. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

The In Memoriam entryway. The memorial exhibition honors the 2,977 individuals killed as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, at this site as well as at the Pentagon and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. It also honors the six individuals killed in the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26, 1993. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

A callery pear tree was recovered from the rubble at the World Trade Center site in October 2001 was later called the “Survivor Tree.” When the 8-foot-tall tree was recovered, it was badly burned and had one living branch. The tree had been planted during the 1970s near buildings four and five, in the vicinity of Church Street. Then-Memorial president Joe Daniels described it as “a key element of the memorial plaza’s landscape.”

In November 2001, the tree was moved by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to the Arthur Ross Nursery in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx for care. It was then replanted in the Bronx on Nov. 11, 2001. The tree was not expected to survive, but it showed signs of new growth the following spring. Although the memorial planning team intended to include the Survivor Tree, its permanent location was unknown at the time.

In December 2010, the tree, then 30 feet tall, was returned to the World Trade Center site in a ceremony attended by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, city officials, survivors and rescue and recovery workers.

The Survivor Tree has become a symbol of hope and rebirth.

FDNY engine 21. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

A piece of fuselage from Flight 11. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph by Jin Lee)

The Survivors’ staircase inside the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The Survivors’ Staircase was the last visible remaining original structure above ground level at the World Trade Center site. It was originally two outdoor flights of granite-clad stairs and an escalator that connected Vesey Street to the World Trade Center’s Austin J. Tobin Plaza. During the 9/11 attacks, the stairs served as an escape route for hundreds of evacuees from 5 World Trade Center, a nine-floor building adjacent to the 110-story towers. (9/11 Memorial & Museum photograph)

The heart of the mission of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum remains the annual commemoration ceremony. Family members of 9/11 victims gather on the Memorial plaza to read aloud the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Throughout the ceremony, six moments of silence are observed, acknowledging when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93.

The program begins at 8:30 a.m., and the first moment of silence will be observed at 8:46 a.m. We will encourage houses of worship to toll their bells at that time. The ceremony is exclusively for 9/11 family members. At sundown, the annual “Tribute in Light” will once again illuminate the sky in commemoration of the anniversary of the attacks.

Roses are placed on a bench at the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, Washington, D.C., Sept. 11, 2020. (DOD photograph by Lisa Ferdinando)

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Since 2008, the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial has been a solemn, quiet escape for mourners to pay their respects to those who died at the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001.

The memorial comprises hallowed grounds sheltered from the hubbub of surrounding Washington, D.C. Each of the victims is honored with a memorial unit — a cantilevered bench, a lighted pool of flowing water and a permanent tribute by name. Each memorial bench is made of stainless steel, inlaid with granite.

Described as elegant and simple, the Pentagon Memorial displays a timeline of the victims’ ages, spanning from the youngest victim, 3-year-old Dana Falkenberg, who was onboard Flight 77, to the eldest, John D. Yamnicky, 71, a Navy veteran, also on the flight that morning.

DOD photograph by Lisa Ferdinando
The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial is seen on the 19th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Sept. 11, 2020.

The memorial units are situated to distinguish those who were inside the Pentagon from those who were onboard Flight 77. At the 125 memorials honoring the victims inside the Pentagon, visitors see the victim’s name and the Pentagon in the same view. At the memorials honoring the 59 lives lost on the flight, visitors see the victim’s name and the direction of the plane’s approach in the same view.

The 184 memorial units are situated on the age line according to the year the victim was born. Shown by stainless steel strips that cross the memorial, the age lines begin at the zero line, which spans from the Pentagon Memorial Gateway to the memorial entrance. Etched into the granite zero line is the date and time of the attack: “September 11, 2001 9:37 a.m.”

The Tower of Voices looks like from the base looking up through the chimes. A wreath honoring the forty passengers and crew members and the community and partners is placed at the base. The Tower of Voices is set among a ring of trees, the 93-foot tall tower features 40 wind chimes, whose sound resonates throughout the memorial to honor each of the passengers and crew members. (National Park Service photograph)

Flight 93 National Memorial
The Flight 93 National Memorial commemorates the crash of United Airlines Flight 93, which was one of four aircraft hijacked in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The memorial is located in Stonycreek Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, about 2 miles north of Shanksville and 60 miles (97 km) southeast of Pittsburgh.

The national memorial was created to honor the passengers and crew of Flight 93, who stopped the terrorists from reaching their target by fighting the hijackers. A temporary memorial to the 40 victims was established soon after the crash. The first phase of the permanent memorial was completed, opened, and dedicated on Sept. 10, 2011. A concrete and glass visitor center opened on Sept. 10, 2015, situated on a hill overlooking the crash site and the white marble Wall of Names. An observation platform at the visitor center and the white marble wall are both aligned beneath the path of Flight 93.

Tower of Voices on September 10, 2020 (National Park Service photograph)

A glass panel at the end of the Flight Path Walkway provides a view of the Memorial Plaza at the crash site. Written on the panel is the quote “A common field one day, a field of honor forever. (National Park Service photograph)

Once through the second portal, the Flight Walkway continues onto the Flight Path Overlook, which affords views of the Memorial Plaza at the crash site. (National Park Service photograph)

The Learning Center is a multipurpose building. Out front is a bronze map of the portion of memorial that includes the Visitor Center Complex, Memorial Groves, Memorial Plaza at the crash site, and trails. (National Park Service photograph)

Two decades after Sept. 11, 2001, Flight 93 National Memorial will observe the 20th anniversary and honor the 40 passengers and crew members who were aboard Flight 93 that day.  With public health in mind, the 90-minute observance will be limited to family members and invited guests and livestreamed on the park’s Facebook page. Park grounds will reopen to the public following the conclusion of the ceremony.

The ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m., EDT, Sept. 11, 2021, at the Memorial Plaza. At 10:03 a.m., the moment Flight 93 crashed, the names of the passengers and crew members will be read with the ringing of the Bells of Remembrance.

“The families of Flight 93 look forward to gathering this year on the 20th anniversary of September 11th to honor our loved ones and their heroic actions. We are grateful to the National Park Service for their efforts to allow this to be done in a safe and respectful manner with technology in place to assure that the ceremony is accessible to all,” said Gordon Felt, brother to passenger Edward Porter Felt.

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