The heartbreak of 9/11/2001 is a day this country will always remember. It is a watershed moment in our history that we as a nation experienced together. In my life, the death of President John F. Kennedy and the 9/11/01, terrorist attacks are historical events I will never forget.
When JFK died, on Nov. 22, 1963, I was 8 years old and in the third grade. Word spread from teacher to teacher who then told their classrooms we were being sent home early because the president had been killed. We were frightened because the teachers and our parents were frightened. That evening the high school football games and many other social events were cancelled out of respect for President Kennedy and his family. Churches opened their doors and held special services. The public was glued to its television sets, where every scrap of news was followed as the country mourned our president.
Sept. 11, 2001, was another watershed event.
It was 17 years ago and we were getting ready for work, when Fred told me an airliner had crashed into a skyscraper in New York City. At that time the Tribune was an afternoon edition, so we were able to scrap our front page and report the story the same day it happened. Our lead photographer, Mike Chen, had friends in NYC who supplied us with photographs of the planes on impact.
All of our editorial staff came into the office even if they weren’t scheduled to work. We spent the day seeking local ties to the tragedy. We sent photographers out to interview people on the street to get their thoughts and theories on those responsible.
According to a timeline published by britannica.com, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered 4,546 civilian planes grounded and their flights cancelled at 9:42 a.m. I have often wondered how much additional damage could have been done had the FAA been slower to shut down the airports. Even a small private aircraft could be used by a suicide bomber determined to sacrifice his or her life for a cause.
At 8:46 a.m., the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower at the World Trade Center. The 11-crew members and 81 passengers, including five hijackers, were all killed. At 9:03 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the WTC. American Airline Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
United Flight 93, believed to be headed for Washington, D.C., crashed at 10:03 a.m. in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, diverted by the passengers on board.
Many first responders, especially firefighters, were killed trying to rescue people who worked in the WTC.
The country has developed a deep appreciation of those who run towards danger instead of running away.
The whole country has changed since that dark day 17 years ago. Air travel has become more complicated with air marshals on random flights and full-body X-Rays and ultra-sound wands prior to boarding. Many, and especially older people, have vowed never to travel by air again.
While being stacked like cordwood in a metal tube is uncomfortable, it is still better than driving cross-country, stuck in a car for days on end.
Long days and pleasant nights, have a good weekend.
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