As we acknowledge the twenty-second anniversary of the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the echoes of that fateful day continue to resonate. Notably, a majority estimated to be in between 60% and 38%, as per a poll conducted in collaboration with USA Today and Suffolk University, asserted that the events had brought about a significant alteration in the lives of Americans.
On the somber morning of September 11th, two flights – United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 – began their journey from Boston destined for California. Fate had other tragic plans as these carriers were commandeered by hijackers and collided into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center. New York City, the symbol of freedom, was blanketed in a cloud of terror and destruction. Similarly, American Airlines Flight 77 wreaked havoc on the Pentagon, while valorous passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 engaged in a brave yet fatal standoff with hijackers before it spiraled into a deadly nosedive over Pennsylvania.
The dreadful aftermath of 9/11 resulted in a catastrophic loss of 2,977 innocent lives spread across the sites in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. The stark data includes 2,753 victims who met their end as the Twin Towers came beneath the deadly aerial assault, 184 lives lost at the Pentagon, and 40 brave souls on Flight 93 whose lives were abruptly extinguished on Pennsylvania soil. The heart-rending casualties also embraced the youngest passenger, a 2-year hopeful Christine Hanson on board United Airlines Flight 175, headed towards Disneyland, and the oldest one Robert Norton, 82, aboard American Airlines Flight 11. The terrorist plot led by the notorious militant Islamic extremist group, al-Qaeda, saw the demise of the 19 hijackers involved.
The hallowed location of the former World Trade Center towers now holds a poignant memorial to honor the 9/11 victims. Names of the victims are inscribed around the pools, organized in accordance with their position at the time of the attack and their connection with other victims. To quote the 9/11 Ground Zero Tour, “almost every name is surrounded by people they cared about in some way”. In a touching tradition, each morning, staff members adorn selected names with white roses to commemorate their birthdays.
The Fire Department of New York City also suffered an immense loss as 343 firefighters bravely gave their lives that day. This tragic figure accounted for nearly half the fatalities during the 100-year tenure of the department at that time. As years rolled by, by 2019, the firefighter casualty list grew to 200 due to Ground Zero-related illnesses, and the last reported figure, closer to 300. Data from the World Trade Center Health Program states that more than 71,000 individuals have been diagnosed with physical and mental health conditions stemming from the exposure to the dust, smoke, debris, and distress of the 9/11 attacks.
The grim task of identifying the victims saw limited success as about 40% of the victims remain unidentified. As reported by the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), this roughly translates to around 1,106 individuals. However, recent advances in DNA analysis enabled them to identify two victims this September – one, an insurance broker named Dorothy Morgan, and the other, a male, per the request of his family, remains anonymous. The arduous endeavor in seeking closure for the bereaved families through the identification process is described as the “largest and most complex forensic investigation in the history of the United States” by the OCME.