The September 11,2001 Anniversary is a "Mixed Feeling Day"
The deep feelings and controversies surrounding September 11, 2001, sometimes drown out the voices of the people who lived and died throughout that tragic day.
All of those Septembers ago, I sat on the edge of my easy chair in my living room, staring in disbelief at the television set. I felt like I was watching a video game or a science fiction movie as United Airlines Flight 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. The textbook I had been reading to prepare to teach my history class that afternoon fell with a thump on the floor. As the day progressed, I felt a deep sadness at the evil and hatred in the hearts of some people, and joy at the goodness and resilience of the human spirit.
The Facts and Figures of September 11, 2001
Textbooks newer than the one I was reading on the day it happened, record the bare, black and white facts of September 11, 2001. On September 11, 2001, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists high jacked four commercial passenger jet airplanes. They crashed two of the airplanes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and both buildings collapsed within two hours.
The terrorists flew a third plane into the Pentagon in Arlington Virginia, outside of Washington D.C., and the fourth crashed into a field in Shanksville, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after its passengers and flight crew tried to regain control of it when the terrorists had repositioned it toward Washington, D.C.
None of the 246 people on the planes survived and 2,606 people died in the world Trade Center Towers and on the ground, and 125 people perished at the Pentagon. The death toll from the attacks was 2,996, including the 19 hijackers. The majority of casualties were civilians, except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.
People from All Over the World Died on September 11, 2001
People from over 70 countries including Britain, Canada, Korea, and Japan perished along with Americans. About sixty Muslims died on September 11, 2001, including an assistant bank vice president and cook, a commodities trader and a waiter, an insurance executive, a security guard and an IT technician.
Just Two September 11, 2001 Heroes: Father Mychal Judge
Father Mychal Judge’s feelings about God and people shone through when he anointed a man who was dying of AIDs. The man asked him, “Do you think God hates me?” Father Judge just picked him up, kissed him, and silently rocked him in his arms.
When Father Judge, a chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, heard that jet airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center, he rushed to the site, administering the last rites to some people lying on the streets. He went into the lobby of the North Tower of the World Trade Center and helped organize an emergency command post, where he continued to minister to the rescuers, the injured, and the dead.
The South Tower of the World Trade Center Building collapsed at 9:59 a.m., sending debris flying through the North Tower lobby. Many people in the lobby were killed, including Father Judge. The New York City coroner listed Father Mychal Judge as victim #0001 of September 11, 2001.
Just Two September 11, 2001 Heroes: Bernard Curtis Brown II
Bernard Curtis Brown II of Washington, D.C., 11-years-old, was one of three gifted middle school students that had earned a National Geographic sponsored trip to the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary off the California coast for themselves and their teachers. Bernard was one of the 65 people aboard American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon. His father, Bernard Sr., a Navy chief petty officer, worked at the Pentagon, but had taken the day off to play golf.
The New York Times reported that Bernard Curtis Brown II, who loved spelling, drawing, Air Jordan sneakers and life, had just bought a pair of Air Jordan sneakers. He was wearing them on September 11, 2001.
September 11, 2001, the Day the World Came to Gander, Newfoundland
On September 11, 2001, the United States of America shut down its airspace and dozens of flights were quickly directed to 15 Canadian airports, most of them in Atlantic Canada. More than three dozen jets landed at the international airport at Gander, Newfoundland, a town of about 9,500 people. The jets carried about 6,600 frightened, bewildered, tired and hungry people. Hundreds of people in the Gander area took in stranded travelers. Gander authorities used schools, churches, and private residences to shelter and feed the visitors from all over the world.
The visitors from all over the world stayed for a week, until airspace was opened and travelers could rebook new flights, and friendships that were to last far longer than a week were forged every year people honor the anniversary of September 11, 2001.
In his bestselling book, The Day The World Came To Town, Miami, Florida author Jim Defede wrote “It’s a sad anniversary, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a completely sad anniversary when you keep in mind all the wonderful things that happened because of 9/11 and surrounding 9/11. It's a mixed-feeling day."
A Deep Sadness and a Sustainable Hope
The images of September 11, 2001, stab at my senses like needles, and they are always there although I was not physically present. The people and events of September 11, 2001, speak to everyone, whether their memories of that day are first or second hand. History isn’t the dead past. It lives and breathes and walks alongside us every day, just as the images and people that found themselves in the middle of September 11, 2001 resonate in my historic and personal memory every day.
I feel a deep sadness because the controversies springing from the aftermath of September 11, 2001, so often drown out the voices of the people who lived and died through September 11, 2001. I believe that the real message of September 11, 2001 for us all is that even in times of disaster, people can and must trust each other for comfort, help, and hope.
.As Jim Defede said, September 11 is “a mixed feeling day.”
Colon, Ernie, Jacobson, Sid, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation, Hill and Wang, 2006
Defede, Jim, The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander Newfoundland, Harper Paperbacks, 2003
Ford, Michael, Father Mychal Judge: An Authentic American Hero. Paulist Press , 2002
Flynn, Kevin, Dwyer, Jim, 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers, Times Books, 2006.
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Acts Upon the United States, Claitor’s Law Books and Publishing Division, 2004
Spiegelman, Art, In the Shadow of No Towers, Pantheon, 2004
The New York Times, Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected “Portraits of Grief,” from the New York times, 2002
Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Vintage, 2007