We have all had some pretty huge moments in our lifetimes, where time seemed to stand still. For most of us one of the biggest ‘Where were you moments’ happened 20 years ago tomorrow when terrorists hijacked four planes in the US, two of which flew into the World Trade Centres, resulting in nearly 3,000 people losing their lives. This included nearly 350 firefighters sent to try to save those trapped in the Towers. On 11th Sept 1991 at 13.46 (BST) Flight 11, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre; 16 minutes later, at exactly 14.03, United Airlines 175 crashed into the South Tower.
As we all watched in horror, another American Airlines Flight, 77, circled over Washington, before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon at 14.45. It took less than 15 minutes after the terrorists attacked one of the US military's most secure sites for the south tower of the World Trade Centre to collapse in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. At 15.30, the north building of the twin towers collapsed. Only six people in the World Trade Centre towers at the time of their collapse survived.
President George W. Bush, who at the time of the attacks was at a school in Florida, was ashen faced when he was told, and once finished was rushed aboard Airforce One due to security concerns. At 9 p.m. he delivered the now infamous speech that ‘Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve’. In reference to how hard the US would respond he said that the military ‘will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbour them’.
So, Operation Enduring Freedom began, the American-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there. Within two months, U.S. forces had effectively removed the Taliban from operational power, but the war never ended. It took nearly 10 years to find bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks. He was finally tracked down and killed by U.S. forces at a hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In June 2011 the then-President Barack Obama announced the beginning of large-scale troop withdrawals from Afghanistan; it took until August 2021 for all U.S. forces to withdraw.
Today, in remembrance of the atrocities, at the site where the Twin Towers once rose into the sky, there is now a permanent memorial to the victims of 9/11. Reflecting Absence, designed by Michael Arad, has the names of all 2,983 victims engraved on the 152 bronze panels surrounding the pools, arranged by where individuals were on the day of the attacks, so co-workers and people on the same flight are memorialized together.
Pull your loved ones a little closer this evening. Have a great weekend.