Much like the day that John F. Kennedy was shot, everyone has a story about where they were the moment the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people, including 227 civilians.
In honor of the anniversary, New Kent County Public Safety held a ceremonial wreath laying in front of the courthouse at 10 a.m. today. The event was open to the public.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda members (an Islamic terrorist group) hijacked four planes for planned suicide missions.
•7:59 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 11 left Boston's Logan Airport and was en route to Los Angeles, California. Sometime during the flight, five hijackers took over the plane.
•8:46 a.m. - The hijackers crashed the plane into the World Trade Center's North Tower, killing 11 crew members, 76 passengers, the five hijackers, hundreds of rescue workers, and nearly 1,600 people inside the building. Over 200 people tried to jump out of the burning building and were killed upon impact.
•8:14 a.m. - United Airlines Flight 175 also left Boston's Logan Airport and was en route to Los Angeles, California when the five hijackers took over the plane.
•9:03 a.m. - The hijackers crashed the plane into the World Trade Center's South Tower, killing nine crew members, 51 passengers, the five hijackers, hundreds of rescue workers, and 630 people inside the building.
Eighteen people escaped from the South Tower.
•8:20 a.m. - American Airlines Flight 77 left the Washington Dulles International Airport in Arlington, Virginia and was en route to Los Angeles, California when five hijackers took over the plane.
•9:37 a.m. - The hijackers crashed the plane into the western side of the Pentagon, the home of the Department of Defense, which killed 189 people -five hijackers, six crew members, 59 passengers, and 125 people in the building.
Ironically, the attack occurred on the building's 60th anniversary.
The fourth attack:
•8:42 a.m. - United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark International Airport in New Jersey and was headed to San Francisco, California. It is widely believed that the four hijackers planned to crash into the White House in Washington D.C.
Phone calls from the Flight 93 passengers revealed that the hijackers had used mace, tear gas, and/or pepper spray to overcome the crew, and that some people on board, possibly including the pilot, had been stabbed.
The Flight 93 black box recorded sounds of the crew and passengers trying to seize control of the plane after learning about the other hijackings and crashes.
•10:03 a.m. - The plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing seven crew members, 33 passengers, and the four hijackers, who may have intentionally crashed the plane after being overtaken by the passengers.
Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the total death toll was estimated at 6,000, though the city only identified 1,600 of the World Trade Center victims. Over 10,000 bone fragments have remained unidentified.
The U.S. responded to the attacks by launching an international military campaign, the Global War on Terrorism, which involved invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban.
Although he denied any involvement for years, Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, eventually claimed responsibility for the attacks in 2004. He cited U.S. support of Israel, U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and sanctions against Iraq as reasons behind the 9/11 attacks.
The United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group and Central Intelligence Agency shot and killed bin Laden on May 2, 2011 while he was inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Now that the dust and debris from the attacks has been cleared, several memorials dedicated to 9/11 victims have been built, including:
•The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (New York, NY - where the Twin Towers stood)
•The Pentagon Memorial (Arlington, VA)
•Flight 93 National Memorial (Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania - two miles from Shanksville, where the plane crashed)
•One World Trade Center (New York, NY - stands on the northwest corner of the World Trade Center's original location)
WHERE WERE YOU?
The Review recently asked our readers where they were when the towers fell and how it impacted their lives. Below are the accounts of West Point residents April Hayden and Phillip J. Higgins:
My daddy had passed away in my home under Hospice care on 9/11/00, so my two daughters, Tara and Destineé, and myself were reminiscing over my daddy's military career as he served as Master Sergeant with 82nd & 101st Airborne in World War II, and the Korean War, by looking pictures, and discussing Daddy's general life and how he touched so many hearts.
My daughter, Tara Richardson Fisher, was home for a visit from Ft. Lewis, Washington, where she was serving her 2nd tour as a Jump Master (just like my daddy had served). Tara also had double duty as a Communications Specialist with Special Forces.
Tara was the 2nd woman ever allowed in her unit to serve as a Sergeant 1st class in Ft Lewis, Washington.
While at my home in West Point, we were preparing to leave to go to the Northern Neck church cemetery as Tara yelled, "Mom did you see this?!" She thought it was a trailer for a movie for a brief second.
The horror before our very eyes, the destruction of the Twin Towers, was etched forever in our minds. All we could do is embrace one another with hugs. We were both in shock!
We both knew Tara would have to eventually report immediately to her Special Forces duty station and prepare for departure.
After she checked in with her unit, we set out to go to the Warsaw church. On the way we heard on the radio that another plane had crashed in Pennsylvania and then another into the Pentagon in D.C.
Despair is all I could think of as the Country's Tara's life had just been turned upside down from what was happening. Was more to come from this?
What about the safety of West Point Schools? I checked on my son, Rusty Richardson, and I was reassured.
So many questions were running through my mind. Is my husband alright? I hadn't heard from him at all and couldn't get ahold of him at the West Point Mill. What about my other family members, neighbors, and friends? When would Tara leave and where would she go?
I knew she would be shipped across the ocean to other end of the world and wouldn't be able to tell me where she was. I was thankful that I had Destineé still at home to keep busy.
Now even to this day as I celebrate my Daddy's life on September 11, I will always remain on alert.
Now, I have a faith that is greater in that no matter what happens in this life, I know there is a better life and bright future yet to come.
My husband, daughters, son, stepsons, and all my family have the same faith.
We will survive and we will flourish.
"Now to God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more that we can ask or imagine, according to the power that is working in us, To GOD be the glory, in the church of Jesus Christ, to all generations forever and ever. - Ephesians 3:20-21
Phillip J. Higgins:
I carpooled to the Pentagon, and took the Metro into Washington, just a few blocks from the office building.
I was preparing for my day when one of the female attorneys popped her head in my office door and said, "Would you please go turn the television on in the main conference room? A plane has crashed in New York city."
I told her I would turn the system on, and headed to the conference room. When I turned on the CBS channel, around 8:35 a.m. there was live coverage, and the first tower had already been hit.
One by one, attorneys and staff started coming into the conference room, watching the live news broadcast.
The commentators were all speculating whether or not the tower had been hit by accident, or if had been hit intentionally.
After watching for about 20-25 minutes, I decided I had better get to my duties for the day, and prepared to leave the conference room when I noticed the second plane on the television set come into view. Bewildered, I watched intently.
Most of the people in the room were talking to one another, sipping coffee, and not paying close attention to the screen. I could tell that the second plane was heading for the second tower, and I exclaimed loudly, "The other tower is about to be hit!" All eyes tuned to the television, and silence suddenly fell in the room, when we all witnessed the second tower being hit by a plane on live television.
Nobody spoke and everybody was immediately very concerned and frightened. We all stood there for another 30 minutes watching the two towers burning, and saw the news footage of President Bush being told by an aid in the grade school classroom about the attack.
While we were watching, we heard a bang outside. Everybody looked at each other, and wondered what had just happened.
There was a "news alert" on the television, and they were reporting from the Pentagon, stating that the Pentagon had just been hit by a plane. We could not believe our ears.
I left the conference room quickly with about three male attorneys, and we quickly made our way around to the side of our building that faced the direction of the Pentagon, just about 2.5 miles away.
We went out onto the balcony, and saw the thick, black smoke rising into the air. I immediately got tears in my eyes and started praying for protection, and for the lives of those who were attempting to rescue and help those who had been injured.
It was a surreal feeling, knowing that I had just been at the Pentagon roughly 75 minutes before on my way to work.
We went back inside to the conference room, which was at this time filled to capacity with people watching the news broadcast. Roughly an hour after the Pentagon was hit, we got word that Washington DC was being evacuated, and our office building was being closed.
I made my way out to the street, with throngs of people making their way to Union Station, because many of the Metro lines had also been closed due to the concerns of further attacks (the 14th street bridge, a main artery into the city, had also been closed). I had to wait for a re-routed Metro train for about an hour and a half, but finally got out of Washington and back to the Springfield Metro station in Northern VA.
I hired a cab with three other people trying to get back to Woodbridge, and was able to get home safely.
I remember watching the news the rest of the day, calling family, crying and praying over the phone, and feeling such a sadness for the victims and their families, and anger at the terrorists. I had a brand new pillar candle that I was saving to burn during the holiday season. I took the candle out and lit it each night for 60 days, as a memorial and to remember 9/11. Each night, as the candle burned, I prayed for the families of the victims, and for President Bush and our national leaders as they made decisions to respond regarding this horrific attack.
May we never forget the infamy of that terrible day. We need to continue to remain vigilant, so a day like 9/11 is not repeated in America.