Sixteen years ago, al-Qaeda brought its war with America right to our doorstep. Hijackers took over four airliners to execute this heinous crime. At 8:46 A.M., American Airlines Flight 11 hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. American Airlines Flight 175 would strike the South Tower at 9:03 A.M. Both airliners were Boeing 747s, fully fueled, crashed and burned for roughly an hour. The South Tower was the first to fall at 9:59 A.M. The North Tower followed soon afterwards at 10:28 A.M.
Elsewhere, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to retake control of the aircraft. The intended target was the White House. Three thousand Americans would lose their lives, as the nation came to grips with the fact that radical Islamic terrorism had brought the war home.
In the rubble of what was the World Trade Center, then-President George W. Bush addressed firefighters, rescue workers, and other first responders who were sifting through the wreckage, looking for survivors, and recovering bodies. On a bullhorn, President Bush standing with now-retired firefighter Bob Beckwith, was delivering remarks, thanking them for their work and speaking about how the nation was standing behind “the good people of New York City, and New Jersey, and Connecticut, as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens.”
Not everyone could hear him.
“George, we can’t hear you!” shouted former NYPD firefighter Rocco Chierichella and other in the audience.
“I can hear you,” replied President Bush. “The rest of the world hears you! And the people – and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." It delivered a shot in the arm for a nation shell-shocked, with a president who said exactly what we wanted to hear. Besides thanking our first responders and praying for the families of the victims, the message was clear: we will grieve, we will rebuild, we will take on terrorism, and we will not be cowered by radical zealots. We will come together as a nation—and we did. It showed we had a leader in the Oval Office, an executive who will do everything he can to keep us safe. The controversy of the 2000 election ceased to be mentioned. It was America united at home and abroad. It was something this nation needed at a time of catastrophic loss.
Sixteen years later, we still mourn the victims, and those first responders who have the ultimate sacrifice in trying to save lives. I just can’t believe it’s been 16 years. We will never forget.