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September 11, 2001 started out as a day like any other day for most people in America. People got up, got dressed, got their children ready for school, ate breakfast, and went on their way out the door to school, work, play, just like any normal day. Everything changed at 8:46am when American airlines flight 11 crashed into the North tower of the World Trade Center. Occupants of the South Tower of the building were instructed to remain where they were to avoid mass chaos. 17 minutes later, American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South tower of the building. By 9:21 am, the Port Authority closed down all of the bridges and tunnels to New York and the FAA had banned all take-offs of flights going through New York City, essentially cutting New York off from the rest of the country.
I remember listening to the radio on my way to work that morning. I remember hearing excitable voices and people talking over each other at first. Barely awake, and listening to a station that faded in and out in the rural area that I was in, I was finally able to come to an understanding that there had been a bombing at the World Trade Center in New York. It was only a few moments later that they said that in fact it was a plane that had somehow gotten off course that crashed into the North Tower of the building. It seemed that no sooner had this updated report been given, they were announcing that a second plane had just hit the South Tower of the building. While the grief stricken reporters were attempting to regain their composure, a third plane was reported to have struck the Pentagon.
I remember becoming overwhelmed with tears of grief for what had just happened to New York, but that was suddenly consumed by fear that this was it. This was the beginning of a full scale attack on our country, and there soon would be nothing left. The only thing that I could think of was turning my car around and getting back to my children as quickly as possible. If this was going to be the end of life, there was no other place I wanted to be. Before I could execute my gut instinct, however, I realized that my children were in a safe place with people that cared about them, and they were just as safe where they were as they would have been with me. My second gut instinct then took over. As a nurse, if this were to turn into a full scale event across the country, I would be needed to help care for the sick and injured. I went to work, and called my kids shortly after I arrived.
I find myself at this time with a unique experience of my fiancé, Rick, being a ground zero witness. Rick, was a long time resident of New York City before the attacks of 9-11. Fourteen years after the event, his eyes still well up with tears when he describes the humanity that he witnessed that day. Just as I described in my opening paragraph, he states that it was just a regular day. It was comfortably warm with beautiful clear skies. He was working at a restaurant called Giovanni’s, about 7 blocks away from The World Trade Center. He was going about his day as usual, doing prep work to make chicken alfredo, when he and several of his co-workers witnessed a sound that still resonates just as clearly today as it did then. While it was a normal occurrence to hear planes flying overhead throughout every day, what they heard at about 8:45 that morning was odd enough to make everyone stop in their tracks. He says that they heard the whirring sound of a plane losing altitude rapidly, and then briefly the sound of the plane accelerating briefly before a tremendous rumble shuddered through the area. When they came out of the kitchen, all of the patrons were gone and he and his coworkers followed directly out the front door. There was a small mass of people filtering downtown, and suddenly people in front of the mass started running toward what they would find to be ground zero. He started running with the mob of people unaware that he had even started running. When they got within a couple blocks of The World Trade Center they could see the cloud of smoke billowing at the top. With his heart racing, he ran even faster. The small mob arrived with others at the scene before first responders and began helping battered and terrified people away from the scene.
He states that when he first arrived there was a deafening silence, very untypical of New York at any time of day, but this soon turned to a never ending scream of injured people and people calling out for loved ones. Everything was quickly covered in ash and rubble and it looked like it was snowing. First responders arrived quickly and he and his group were barricaded back for safety just before the Tower fell causing a whole new cloud of ash to fall upon the city. One struggle that he states he remembers to this day is the vast chaos at the scene amongst first responders. No one was prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. No one knew where to begin. People were being immediately transported to hospitals regardless of their injuries, instead of being triaged and then transporting the worst cases first. People were dying on the ground that could have potentially been saved. He also recalls the screams of people jumping out of the building and bodies hitting the ground.
Well into the disaster, The New York City Fire Department took command and efforts to save and evacuate became much more efficient. He recalls that it was a day when everyone became equal, CEO’s were working side-by-side with garbage men to help in any way they could. There was a comradery beyond compare, if even for just one day.
2.996 people were killed that day including, 265 people on the 4 planes-19 of those terrorists, 125 people at the Pentagon. 71 Law Enforcement officers, and 343 Fire Fighters. Of those killed 1 member of the fire department, and 3 members of the police department were very close family friends of Rick.
According to Rick, the entire culture of New York City had an obvious mistrust for anyone of Iraqi descent following 9-11 and it still remains that way today. We have seen the strict regulations of airport security in the news since that day, more stern border controls, and the advent of The Department of Homeland Security, but those are all government imposed responses to 9-11. The true thought of the people of New York City is that of mistrust, insecurity, and lack of faith in the government to protect us on American soil. There is some feeling of self-preservation that has kicked in since then, making people who were not apt to buy guns for protection before, do so. Or making people generally more guarded and suspicious than before.
I feel the same to some degree. If the government, with all its powers to anticipate attacks and monitor and prevent them, can’t foresee an attack or prevent an attack like this one, then it is up to the individual to protect themselves. The recent attack in San Bernardino strikes this chord with me. While the scale of deaths and injuries pales in comparison to the attacks on 9-11, it still had the underlying commonality of terroristic responsibility. Supposed ISIS terrorists gained citizenship into this country after giving false addresses. I can’t change my address on my driver’s license without 3 forms of identifying mail to state that in fact, this is my correct address, but we allow people to enter the country without any kind of verification. The laws for individuals entering the country should be stricter than the laws imposed upon its own citizens. ISIS has made it fairly clear that it would infiltrate people into our country posing as refugees. Why would we even consider allowing Syrian “refugees” to enter the country.
I believe that it all boils down to preservation. We need to preserve the safety and security of Americans. We should not put them at risk by allowing outsiders free access to do as they will. With the heightened security measures brought about by 9-11, one would think that we had this under control already. The system has to be treated as you would treat your children. Once a security measure is placed, it must be enforced regardless of the situation, otherwise is will blow up in your face. Just as we tell our children that they shouldn’t do something, you can’t just take it at face value, you have to check up on them regularly to make sure they are complying with the rules. We should act this way as a country. Even if someone is successfully allowed immigration to the country, they should be surveilled at times to ensure they are who they say they are and there is no threat to the others citizens of this country.
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