“Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” Reflections and Tribute to 9/11

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they caused in the world fade away.” – Sir Richard Pratchett

9-11-towers

In honor of those who lost their lives 18 years ago today, I share my memory of that brutal, horrific day and what happened next – and list the background of those who lost their lives, with the time line of what happened in 102 minutes on that fateful Tuesday morning in 2001 – the day that changed America, the world, and all of our lives forever (especially the families and friends of those who died). God bless us all to leave a lasting legacy in the way these people did (especially the ‘First Responders’ as we now live our lives as their “ripples” to continuously make our friendships, community, country and world as wonderful, productive and peaceful as they all would.

On September 11, 2001, I was speaking that morning in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to a citywide early-morning leadership breakfast, sponsored by the local chamber of commerce and the Health Care Hospital community. When I concluded my remarks, I was whisked to the airport to catch my flight to JFK airport in New York to catch my nonstop flight home to Salt Lake City. We boarded our Delta Airlines jet and taxied out only to be immediately turned around and hurriedly sent back to the gate. We were then firmly asked to get off quickly and to remain in the gate area.

When we re-entered the waiting room, television news was reporting the first plane crash into the World Trade Center. While we were standing there, the second plane hit the other tower, soon to be followed by the attack on the Pentagon. Delta’s ticket counter is next to the United Airlines counter, and soon the six United employees were in tears upon hearing the news of United Flight 93 being hijacked and crashing into Somerset, Pennsylvania, not far from Allentown.

I was taken back to my hotel, where I desperately tried to rebook a flight, rent a car, catch a bus, or take a train. However, the entire county’s mass transportation system was shut down until further notice. Stranded with the burning desire to be back home with my family, I phoned a national trucking company called England Trucking, headquartered in Salt Lake City. I talked to the dispatcher to see if he had a driver going west. He called me back and said I was in luck—that a driver would meet me in the lobby in twenty minutes.

911-clouds3-Day Scramble Back Home

Like clockwork, a truck cab pulled up outside. Disappointed, I asked him where the trailer was. After all, I thought that a childhood fantasy was about to come true: 

Eighteen-wheeler, roll on, roll on. This is Beaver Cleaver checking for Smokey Bear. I read you, Pork Sausage, come on.” So I asked him what was going on. He laughed, and we drove thirty minutes to Hershey, Pennsylvania, where we hooked up to a huge trailer loaded with 43,000 pounds of Hershey Chocolate Bars.

Suddenly I didn’t mind if we crashed or ran out of gas! Our route took us 76 south to I-70 west, and in the next 2½ days, we drove 2,640 miles across America the beautiful! I had never seen America this way, and with no airlines flying or trains running and with F-15 and F-16 fighter jets patrolling the skies, I would never experience anything like it ever again.

Our route took us past Somerset, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 had crashed over the mountain, and I wondered if I would have stepped up. Would I have given my life, said, “Let’s roll,” and put up a fight to save another building and thousands of lives from being destroyed? Do I have what it takes, and is my life in order to be a hero?

The long drive took us past Terre Haute, Indiana, where Timothy McVeigh had been in prison and executed for his terrorist Oklahoma City bombing. It was then that it hit me that McVeigh had attended a Christian church in his youth and was a war veteran. He had forgotten that America is not people or buildings but rather an ideal? Yet he had attacked that which allowed him his freedoms in the first place.

Bottom Line Lesson: Living in America does not make someone an American! The only thing we are entitled to if we are born in the United States and/or live here is an equal opportunity to get an education so we can get a job, pay taxes, invest in our communities and enjoy the benefits that come from discipline and hard work. On September 11, the terrorists did not attack our country, and try to capture land mass and over throw our government. They attacked what we believe in. In order to call ourselves true Americans, we must believe in the ideals and core values and God-given inalienable rights our Founding Fathers believed in that created our sacred Constitution, divinely inspired Declaration of Independence, and compassionate Bill of Rights, all of which define what our ‘Republic’ in the context of ‘Democracy’ is, and what a free enterprise mentality needs to always be. 

911-Rescue WorkersTrue Americans are tolerant, supportive, passionate, creative, innovative, incentive motivated capitalists who find and celebrate strength in diversity – who are willing to fight for equal opportunities for all – regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation or political choice – who do their part to insure our religious freedom to worship who, where, when and what we may – who stand for the flag and proudly recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ to our flag because of what it represents – not only as the symbol of hope, strength, stability, freedom and the guiding light the whole world looks for in good times and bad – but the flag represents the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in our military conflicts who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might pursue ‘life, liberty, happiness with a guarantee of justice for all.’

As we reflect on the negative tragedy of today – September 11 – may we also reflect on the positive lessons learned that it’s not what happens to us that defines who we are – it’s how we respond. Yes, there is evil in the world, lurking in the shadows, with bad men and women committed to destroy all that is good, clean, pure and positive – who want to kill us and take away our freedoms. And our response is to do whatever is required to support our military, keep it strong and make it stronger so if you are an adversary of the United States it sucks to be you!

However, we as civilian Americans must also do our part to strengthen our beloved country from the inside out, by strengthening our families and reflecting on American ideals and our unshakeable core values of Loyalty, Duty, Mutual Respect, Service Before Self, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage and Self Reliance. Our ‘Republic’ was established on the divinely inspired foundation of a government ‘by the people, for the people, for the common good of the entire nation – not a government by career politicians, for ‘special interests, just for the good of their constituents! 

Yes, in order to be a true American, I believe the lessons of 9/11 should include doing our part to honor our families and keep them together, broadening our friendships, strengthening our schools, engaging in gainful employment so we don’t live off free government handouts, serving our communities, voting according to our educational understanding of the issues, and committing to live a character driven life of significance based on the cautionary words of President Abraham Lincoln: 

“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”

Victims & Heroes:  

At the World Trade Center (WTC) site in Lower Manhattan, 2,753 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 were intentionally crashed into the north and south towers, or as a result of the crashes.

Of those who perished during the initial attacks and the subsequent collapses of the towers, 343 were New York City firefighters, 23 were New York City police officers and 37 were officers at the Port Authority.

The victims ranged in age from 2-year old toddlers to 85 year old grand parents. Approximately 80% of the victims were men.

At the Pentagon in Washington, 184 people were killed when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.

Near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 40 passengers and crewmembers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 died when the plane crashed into a field.

 

102 Minutes Of Increasing Terror

While an unforgettable moment for millions of people, as the years pass, the population of those too young to remember that fateful Tuesday morning grows. Therefore, similarly to other historic events, it becomes increasingly important to remember the circumstances of that day to preserve the memory of its thousands of victims and heroes.

5:45 a.m.: Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Abdul Aziz al-Omari board a flight at Portland International Jetport in Maine, later connecting to American Airlines Flight 11 at Boston Logan International Airport.

7:59 a.m.: American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members, departs 14 minutes late from Logan International Airport in Boston, bound for Los Angeles International Airport. Five hijackers are aboard.

8:14 a.m.: United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, carrying 56 passengers and 9 crew members, departs 14 minutes late from Logan International Airport in Boston, bound for Los Angeles International Airport. Five hijackers are aboard.

8:14: American Airlines Flight 11 is hijacked over central Massachusetts, turning first northwest, then south.

8:20: American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 with 58 passengers and 6 crew members, departs 10 minutes late from Washington Dulles International Airport, for Los Angeles International Airport. Five hijackers are aboard.

8:24: Atta broadcasts a message to air traffic control, “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you will be okay.” The captain of Flight 175, United Airlines pilot picks up Atta’s transmission from Flight 11 and informs the Federal Aviation Administration.

8:37: Boston’s air traffic control center alerts the Air Force’s Northeast Air Defense Sector to Atta’s message. Air National Guard jets are mobilized to follow Flight 11.

8:42: United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 with 37 passengers and 7 crew members, departs 42 minutes late from Newark International Airport, bound for San Francisco International Airport. Four hijackers are aboard.

8:45: Flight 175 is hijacked above northwest New Jersey, about 60 miles northwest of New York City, continuing southwest briefly before turning back to the northeast.

* 8:46: Flight 11 crashes into the north face of the North Tower (1 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 99. The aircraft enters the tower intact. Responders mobilize.

8:50: President George W. Bush is notified of the attack while visiting an elementary school in Florida.

8:52: A flight attendant on Flight 175 informs a United Airlines operator that the flight has been hijacked.

8:54: Flight 77 is hijacked above southern Ohio, turning to the southeast.

8:59: Port Authority Police Department Sergeant orders the twin towers to be evacuated.

* 9:03 a.m.: Flight 175 crashes into the south face of the South Tower (2 WTC) of the World Trade Center, between floors 77 and 85. Parts of the plane, including the starboard engine, leave the building from its east and north sides, falling to the ground six blocks away.

9:05: Bush is informed a second plane hit the south tower.

9:12: Passengers on Flight 77 call their loved ones to tell them the plane was hijacked.

9:28: Flight 93 is hijacked.

* 9:37: Flight 77 crashes into the western side of The Pentagon and starts a violent fire. 

9:42: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounds all flights.

9:45: The White House and Capitol are evacuated.

9:58: Flight 93 passenger Edward P. Felt uses his cell phone to dial 9-1-1 and inform emergency operators of the hijacking above northern Ohio, turning to the southeast

* 9:59: The South Tower of the World Trade Center collapses, 56 minutes after the impact of Flight 175.

* 10:03 a.m.: Passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 attack the hijackers on Flight 93, which crashes as a result of fighting in the cockpit 80 miles (129 km) southeast of Pittsburgh in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Later reports indicate that passengers had learned about the World Trade Center and Pentagon crashes and were resisting the hijackers led by super hero Todd Beamer, whose rallying cry, ‘Let’s Roll’ will forever be my rallying cry, joined by the United Air Lines flight crew who rose to the occasion to retake control of the flight deck, which caused the plane to go down. The 9/11 Commission believed that Flight 93’s target was either the U.S. Capitol building or the White House in Washington, D.C., which means the bravery of the passengers and crew literally saved countless lives had the hijackers been allowed to continue.

* 10:28: The North Tower of the World Trade Center collapses, 1 hour and 42 minutes after the impact of Flight 11. The Marriott Hotel, located at the base of the two towers, is also destroyed.

10:50: Five stories of part of the Pentagon collapse due to the fire.

11:02 a.m.: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani orders the evacuation of Lower Manhattan.

12:16 p.m.: United States airspace is closed.

12:30: A group of survivors is found in the lower section of the North Tower’s stairwell B.

5:20: The building at 7 World Trade Center – a 47-story building collapses.

 

September 11, 2019

Eighteen years later, first responders are still dealing with the mental and physical effects of clearing the wreckage at ground zero. According to ABC News, more than 200 people have died from illnesses related to the attacks.

They say, ‘We only live once.’ Wrong! We only die once. We live every day! In celebration of today, may we all make it a great day full of kindness, love, hard work and service before self! May God bless the surviving families and friends of those who lost their lives. And so these people and First Responders don’t die in vain, may God bless us all to do our part and live by the high moral and ethical standards, unshakeable core values and governing principles that our Founding Fathers established to make and keep America great!

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