Sept. 11 – 22 years onSep 07, 2023 03:00PM ● By Braden Nelsen
Smoke rising from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as the Statue of Liberty stands in the foreground. Courtesy Photo
NEW YORK—There are events that shape the course of modern history, and change the world thereafter: the World Wars, the Civil Rights Movement, the falling of the Berlin Wall, and others, shaped generations. For the modern era, there is no one single event that has quite had that effect as drastically as did the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
For many, that morning started like any other. People woke up, got ready for the day, went to work, went to school, and were just settling in. It was the start of a new school year, fall was right around the corner. Still, it was balmy: temperatures in Bountiful hovered in the low 70s, and things were looking up – after all, the Winter Olympics were on the way in just five short months.
Here, in the west, the news broke early. People watched in horror and confusion as black smoke billowed from one of the famous twin towers of the World Trade Center. It was reported that a plane had crashed into the tower not long before, and people wondered: was it a terrible accident? Was it on purpose? Who would do something like that on purpose?
At least the tower, and its neighbor were still standing. Then, for many, on live TV, the second plane smashed into the other tower. All at once, it was evident that this was no accident. The United States was under attack. News reports came in about another plane crashing into the Pentagon, the South Tower collapses, another plane crashes in Pennsylvania, and then, the North Tower collapses. As soon as it began, it was over.
The nation, even the world reeled in shock. In a matter of minutes, thousands of lives had been suddenly extinguished. It wasn’t until days later that the stories of heroism and tragic loss began to come to light. Police, firefighters, passengers onboard Flight-93, regular citizens everywhere who all did their best to save lives, and combat the terror unleashed that day.
In moments that have not been echoed before or since, nations around the world the United Kingdom, Russia, Ireland, South Korea, Germany, France, and many others held vigils, days of prayer, and more in honor of the victims of the attacks. The Star Spangled Banner played in foreign cities around the globe, showing solidarity with our nation.
The fallout from these attacks is difficult to quantify. For a moment, a surge of patriotism united the country, and measures were taken that changed the landscape of aviation, and national security that are still in place today. Many joined the Armed Forces, and many paid the ultimate price in the conflict that followed.
Islamophobia, connected to the perpetrators of the attacks, created a hostile, almost unlivable environment for thousands of Islamic and Muslim people living in the United States and abroad. Despite their innocence, many reported bullying, slander, and hate crimes being perpetrated against them, and their families for years afterward.
Decades have now passed since that day in 2001. Many college students in 2023 were born after the events that shook the world, and many have only learned about it from text books, news archives. Wars have been waged, thousands more lives have been lost, and the face of the world looks very different from 22 years ago.
There is, perhaps, no better tribute to the victims and heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, than the memorial built at Ground Zero. Two pools of water, with waterfalls running beneath, are set into the sites where the towers stood. No generals on horseback, no depictions of winged victory, just an absence. A void. A hole left in the hearts of so many who lost so much.