The twentieth anniversary of 9/11

By: Nicholas Ratcliff 

Multimedia Journalist

On Sept. 11, 2001, the United States was attacked on their own soil for the first time since World War II. Across the nation, Americans turned on their TVs and watched in horror as the events of the day unfolded leaving everybody wondering… what happens next?  

The Twin Towers after they were struck by planes on September 11, 2001.
Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.

What started as a normal Tuesday quickly changed into nationwide shock when the North Tower of the World Trade Center was struck by a plane at 8:46 a.m. That specific plane had crashed into floors 93 through 99 instantly killing hundreds of innocent people.

Word of the crash quickly spread to all of the major news networks as Americans turned on their TVs to watch what they thought was a horrible accident. Around that same time, first responders began mobilizing to the scene of the crash as U.S. citizens cheered them on from home.  

As Americans watched their first responders report to duty, the reality of the horrible situation became dreadfully clear when the South Tower of the World Trade Center was struck by another plane. America was under attack, and we didn’t know by who.  

Dr. Marcie Reynolds, the assistant professor of political science at Tarleton State University described the moment she found out.   

“At the time, I was teaching AP U.S. Government at Carter-Riverside High School in Fort Worth. I had first period off and went to the office to check my box. In the office, the TV was on. A plane had already crashed into one of the Twin Towers and as I watched another plane flew into the second Twin Tower,” Reynolds said. “The images seemed surreal–this could not be happening to us. I returned to my classroom and turned on the TV (no digital AV back then). As one class period followed the next, we sat and watched the news reports. Each class silently came in, sat and watched the news and then moved to their next class.” 

As the hour progressed, more people began to tune in to watch the events unfold. Offices, schools and entire communities fell silent and watched, eyes glued to the screen. At 9:37 a.m., the third plane struck the Pentagon, killing everyone on the plane and 125 military and civilian personnel working inside.   

Soon after the Pentagon was attacked, at 9:59 a.m., the South Tower began to collapse. Eyewitness testimonies describe feeling the ground shake as if an earthquake had struck. Over 800 civilians and first responders were still trapped inside the tower when it fell.  

Just four minutes later, at 10:03 a.m., the fourth and final plane crashed into a field near the town of Shanksville, in Somerset County. The news quickly began to report that the passengers and crew members of flight 93 had stormed the cockpit and sacrificed themselves by crashing the plane into a field. Phone calls and voicemails left by the passengers of the flight tell us that the terrorists were trying to crash into the Whitehouse. Thanks to these everyday citizens’ sacrifices, the terrorist failed to complete their mission just 20 minutes before the plane would have arrived in D.C.  

25 minutes later, the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed after burning for 102 minutes.  

Reynolds went on to explain that, “Hardly anyone could speak even if they wanted to–there were simply no words to convey the shock of what we were seeing. About a third of my students left early or had parents withdraw them from school. There was a general apprehension about where the terrorists would strike next. Shock, horror and fear were soon replaced by wanting to do justice for all those lives cut short.”  

By the end of the day, 2,997 innocent people had lost their lives due to the actions of the 19 terrorists who tried to strike fear into the hearts of Americans all over the U.S.  Thankfully, they didn’t succeed. On that day, everyone came together and turned their fear into compassion for each other.  

In the wake of the attack, Americans managed to donate over 1.1 billion dollars to relief and recovery efforts, with New Yorkers donating 52 percent of that total.

Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Since that day, America has successfully defeated the Taliban and erected a memorial site to commemorate the sacrifices that made that day. As a country, America made a promise that those lives would not be sacrificed in vain and so far they haven’t.  

Tarleton will be hosting a commemorative event to honor the lives lost 20 years ago. This event will begin with the ringing of the Stephenville Fire Departments’ bell at 10 a.m. and will be followed by a ceremony hosted by Tarleton President Dr. James Hurly. The ceremony will take place next to Alumni Island on the Tarleton campus in Stephenville. Stephenville Police Chief Dan Harris will also be giving a speech celebrating the brave sacrifice that our first responders made that day.  

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