[September 11, 2021] There are many memories of September 11, 2001; this 20th anniversary of that terrible event. Today, I’m bringing you the words of Richard Pearson, Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association.
It is hard to believe that 9/11/2001 was 20 years ago. I, like many of you, remember where I was and what I was doing when the terrorist attack happened, as well as those agonizing days after. When I was thinking about the 9/11 attacks, it dawned on me that those under 30 have little or no memory of what happened or the aftermath. It is like the memories my parents had of Pearl Harbor; I was not around yet so I had to learn what happened. Still, learning what happened does not give the feelings of what happened. That too has to be explained even though it isn’t like having lived through it at the time. History is pretty boring if all you are learning is facts and not the emotions people felt about the people involved and the events.
The morning of 9/11/2001 started as a typical Tuesday. Tuesday is a slow mail day so I was looking forward to a day in the office catching up on paperwork. I got to the office about 6:45 am, made coffee and headed to my paper covered desk. The staff gets in about an hour later. We had a television in the break room which was tuned to a news station, at least in the morning. I headed to my desk and a few minutes later someone came in and told me the North Tower of the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. Once, on a foggy day, the Empire State Building had been hit by a B-25 bomber so this has happened before. When I saw the television, it was already obvious this was not an accident. It was a clear day. This had to be deliberate, I thought to myself. Minutes later, another airplane hit the South Tower. This is a terrorist attack I thought, recalling the 1992 attack on the World Trade Center by Middle Eastern terrorists. By this time, even news media had figured out that this was a terrorist attack.
At 9:37am, another airplane hit the Pentagon, killing 125 on the ground and 64 passengers in the airplane. The Pentagon was built to withstand attacks. Still, it was a mess.
I was glued to the television. At 10:28am, the North Tower collapsed. Later, it was discovered that of the people in the North Tower, only 6 survived. The South Tower collapsed at 9:59am, 56 minutes after impact.
A fourth airplane, Flight 93, bound for California, had been delayed on takeoff. The passengers had learned of the other attacks. After the airplane took off, it turned around. The passengers knew they weren’t going back to land, they had been hijacked. At least 4 of those passengers knew what was ahead. They quickly got organized and attacked the fortified cockpit door. At 10:03am, the airplane plunged into the ground at 500 miles an hour near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All aboard were killed but those brave souls fought back and undoubtedly saved hundreds of other lives on the ground. The target of Flight 93 is still not known but it was probably the Capitol Building, the White House or Camp David. I doubt it was Camp David because the President was not there; I am guessing the Capitol Building. The media was wondering where President George W. Bush was. In the early afternoon, I walked outside my office and heard the roar of jet engines. I looked up and there was Air Force One accompanied by F-16s directly overhead. It felt good to see those planes. I knew where the President was, he was in his Command Center directly overhead. I certainly did not tell the press.
By this time, almost all Americans were filled with rage, sadness and had a huge knot in their stomachs. By the end of the day, American flags were flying off the shelves. People flew them at their homes, on street corners and from their vehicles. In a few hours the Country had wielded together more than it had been since WWII.
The following days and months were spent cleaning up the bodies, the rubble and dealing with the cowardly attack on us all. I watched with sorrow for the victims and their families and admiration for those doing the difficult grisly work that had to be done. In the meantime, President George W. Bush was rebuilding the military which had been decimated by the Clinton Administration. I remember U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld explaining to the media that “You go to war with the military you have, not the military you want.” Rumsfeld went to work laying the groundwork for the modern U.S. Military as it is today. The U.S. Military has suppressed the terrorists in Afghanistan and kept it from being a training ground for terrorists but the military was pulled out by Joe Biden. General George Patton once said he didn’t like to pay for the same real estate twice but that is just what we are going to do. We will have to go back to Afghanistan unless we want to fight these terrorists in our front yard. Something to think about on this 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001.