The nation vowed 19 years ago when terrorists struck in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that we would not forget. Today's 9-11 remembrances will be reminders of the day the United States suffered the deadliest attack against our people in the nation's history.
Facts from that day alone are enough to remind Americans what was lost:
• Death toll - 2,819
• Employees killed in World Trade Center Tower One - 1,402. The toll in Tower Two - 614
• Number of firefighters, policemen and related personnel killed in New York - 403
• Number of families who never received any remains of victims - 1,717
• Number who lost a spouse or partner in the attacks - 1,609
• Babies born after father was lost in the attack - 63
• Citizens who knew someone killed or hurt on Sept. 11, 2001 - 20 percent
If the numbers alone are not enough to convince Americans even in coronavirus times that terrorism is very real and remains a threat, the voices from Sept 11, 2001, are a chilling reminder.
Transcripts from emergency calls and radio transmissions released by the Port Authority of New York from 2,000 pages of transcripts provide insight behind the scenes in the moments after the attack.
• From 1 World Trade Center, the assistant manager of the Windows on the World restaurant made four calls pleading for help as 100 people remained trapped with her near the top of the 110-story tower. "We're trying to get up to you, dear," a police officer offered reassuringly.
• At least two wives, unaware they were to be widows, tried in vain to learn their husband's whereabouts. Neither Port Authority Officer Donald McIntyre nor his boss, Executive Director Neil Levin, ever made it home.
• There were references to howling sirens in the background and static buzz on the phone lines, and callers repeatedly spoke over each other after the plane crashed into the first tower at 8:46 a.m.
• "Yo, I've got dozens of bodies, people just jumping from the top of the building onto … in front of One World Trade," says a male caller. "People. Bodies are just coming from out of the sky. … up top of the building."
"Bodies?" replied a female operator.
• For some, there was the relief of breathing in the temporarily fresh air. "I'm alive, Dennis," said one anonymous male. "I'm outside the building and I'm healthy."
• Others were less fortunate. People were stranded throughout the buildings, with calls for help pouring in from the 78th floor, the 88th, the 103rd, the 107th. One male caller from the 92nd floor of the second tower asked a Port Authority police officer, "Should we stay or should we not?"
"I would wait 'til further notice," the officer replied.
No one in the top floors of the tower survived after the second plane hit near the 80th floor shortly after 9 a.m.
Can 9-11 happen again? The history of international terrorism tells us the answer is "yes." The real question is when and where. Stopping it from happening is as crucial as difficult, and demands vigilance even when we are a nation far more focused on politics and a pandemic.
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