Remembering 9/11: 20 Years Later


The twin towers prior to the terrorist attacks.

Annabelle Anchondo, Writer

The sounds of sirens rushing towards the Financial District of Manhattan. Screams and cries filling the air as panicked faces rushed out of the World Trade Center. Ashes and the haze of smoke blanketing the ground below. Watching as firefighters, police, EMTs, and brave civilians rushed inside to save other people’s lives whilst sacrificing their own.

This is a very horrific, but unfathomable reality for many Americans the morning of September 11th in 2001 when members of the Islamic terrorist group, Al-Qaeda, hijacked four American planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The effects of this senseless act of terrorism spread across the nation, putting a sense of uncertainty and fear into every American, even those who were not in New York that day. Every American life changed the morning of 9/11. Twenty years later, and Americans are still feeling the effects as they remember that very day.

“I was interviewing somebody for a position in the Bush Administration.” Congressman Jodey Arrington began. “I remember my assistant coming in and turning on the TV in my office and showing us where the first plane hit. We thought that maybe it was just an error. We didn’t realize it was a concerted terrorist effort to wreak havoc on our country and terrorize our nation.”

The second plane crashed into the South Tower, and soon after that, another plane hit the Pentagon. For people in New York and Washington D.C. at the time witnessing the event, it was an unforgettable moment.

Arrington continued, “It just seemed like all at the same time we were being told to evacuate the White House. Literally you could see the smoke coming up from the Pentagon where the plane crashed into one side of the building. It just felt like we were under siege.”

People from all across the nation watched the events of that day unfold as news stations and other channels broadcast the raw footage. Radio and televisions became the source of news coverage, and individuals everywhere sat in a state of shock.

“I didn’t understand what was going on. At that time, we didn’t know it was an act of terrorism. We were kind of like ‘okay that was an accident. A plane accidentally went into the tower,’” Melissa Alvarez recalled. “Then when the second one hit, then it was like what in the world is going on? Then it hit the Pentagon, so it was just surreal. It was scary, and we just didn’t know what was going to happen.”

When it finally became clear to the American people that it was in fact a terrorist attack, a new kind of fear settled over everyone, and anger began to emerge.

“I think America has always been the type that we are going to take care of ourselves, and if you’re going to poke the bear, we’re going to react,” Marlana Tanaro stated.

Days following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. took action against the terrorist group responsible by creating Homeland Security Department to better secure and protect the U.S. from threats of terrorism. American soldiers were also sent to Iraq and Afghanistan to hold the members of Al-Qaeda responsible. However, grief for the 3,000 American lives lost set in across the nation.

“The pain can never go away. 10 years, five years, whatever. Especially the people that were there, in New York, that saw it,” Rosie Hernandez said. “Firefighters, police, they were trying to help them. They sacrificed their lives to try and get them out knowing that they wouldn’t make it out but having the courage to do it.”

Individuals everywhere in the United States felt the great impact of the lives lost during the attacks. Even younger individuals, like Katie Clayton, who were not yet alive in 2001 felt the pain brought to Americans.

“Just watching, not even knowing who it is, changes your point of view on things. You just can’t take life for granted.” Katie said.

The tragic events of 9/11 not only brought grief, but also taught Americans lessons to be learned. Scott Royal, for example, shared a very important lesson.

“You better live today because you never know what tomorrow may bring.” Royal said.

Time is not guaranteed and no one is promised a tomorrow. The lives lost in the attacks showed so many individuals this and ultimately paved the way for Americans to rise up and stand together as a nation to create the 9/11 Memorial to remember those who passed.

Flags in memory of those lost. (

“So many people got up that morning and got on the plane hoping to just do their daily, go home, do something, and never made it back,” Alvarez said. “When they did that Memorial, I was sad, but proud as a nation we came together. These people’s lives meant something to us.”

For the families of those who passed, their lives changed forever. Never again would they get to kiss, hug, or simply tell their loved one ‘I love you’ again.

“It would never be the same as seeing them in person, but you would see their name on there,” Rosie pointed out.

Those names carry so much meaning. For some it symbolizes bravery and courageousness. Others are brought great sadness when viewing the names. And for many, it’s a mixture. However, every name engraved in the 9/11 Memorial wall symbolizes the ultimate sacrifice an American has to make.

“Their lives were not lost,” Coach Royal said. “They made us realize what exactly freedom is.”