The date September 11, 2001 will forever live in the minds of Americans and forever be cemented in history. On that morning, 19 members of the radical Islamic terrorist coalition Al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and flew them to specially designated targets in the United States.
Within 20 minutes of each other, two of the airplanes slammed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, with both towers collapsing in quick succession shortly after. One hour later, another airplane hit the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The fourth aircraft, United Airlines Flight 93, with a planned target of either the White House or Camp David, crashed in a rural area near the town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its crew and passengers rallied against their hijackers and attempted to regain control of the aircraft.
By the end of the day, according to the 9/11 article on the History website, a total of 2,996 people were dead in the largest foreign attack on United States soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. 2,763 were killed in New York City, including 400 firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and port authority employees. At the Pentagon, the result was 249 killed, along with the 44 passengers and crew of Flight 93.
September 11, 2021 marked the 20th anniversary of the attack, which has become known simply as “9/11.” While most students currently attending Greensboro College were infants or young children on 9/11, there are faculty and staff still working at the college who were here on that day. They all tell different stories of where they were when they first heard and what their initial thoughts were. Even so, they all expressed feelings of shock, horror, fear, and uncertainty for the future.
Yet, the events of 9/11 also hit much closer to Greensboro than most know. As a stewardess aboard Flight 93, Sandy Waugh Bradshaw called the Gate City her home, having worked for United Airlines for 11 years. In a phone call with her husband, from the Flight 93 Friends website, Bradshaw explained that she had snuck into the plane’s galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water in preparation for the revolt, saying before hanging up, “Everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go.”
Recovered amongst the charred remains of the aircraft was Bradshaw’s flight handbook, severely burned by jet fuel. Today, that handbook has been preserved and is on display at the Greensboro History Museum.
According to the 9/11 Memorial website, for the anniversary, at the site the towers once stood, a commemoration was held where family members of the deceased read the names of those who were killed in the attack. It also included six minutes of silence at the times the planes struck the towers, Pentagon, and Pennsylvania. Along with this, there was a citywide commemoration at galleries and museums around New York City. At sundown, the memorial began its “Tribute of Light”, where two spotlights shone up into the sky at the spots where the towers stood.
The hope of these commemorations is to not only remember that terrible day. But to also rejuvenate a spirit of “9/12”, the day after the attack, where Americans came together in hope and compassion for what had happened in the aftermath. This is something that will hopefully be felt not only by New Yorkers, but throughout the nation. As President Bush said that night in a live broadcast, “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
By Ethan Wilson