On the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it is important to look back and remember those who lost their lives in the horrific events, and those who bravely risked everything to help save the victims.
The attacks involved two planes, hijacked by al-Qaeda, crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another hitting the Pentagon in Washington DC, and a fourth crashing in Pennsylvania.
The devastating events killed almost 3,000 people, including victims of the plane crashes and those who went to their aid.
Amateur footage taken on the day shows the destruction and chaos caused by the aeroplanes which hit the World Trade Center:
The video, recorded by Caroline Dries, captured the panic which took place after the first plane hit the North Tower, and the terrifying moment the second plane struck.
Caroline, who was a student at the time, captured the iconic footage from her dorm room at New York University. She could be heard speaking on the phone to her mother, wondering aloud what had caused the smoke to billow from the tower, and questioning whether it was an explosion.
The student could later be heard saying ‘wait, wh- wh-, oh my god!’, as the second plane hit, and those in the room realised the enormity of the situation.
They recognised it was a jumbo jet that had hit the tower and, full of fear, decided to get out of the building.
Speaking to CNN in 2011, Caroline spoke about witnessing the event, explaining:
It was just kind of pandemonium with no one knowing what [was] happening.
It took kind of ten years for me to understand why this footage is special. People, I think, want to remember the details clearly and to hold onto it because they know how significant it was.
The second plane hit the South Tower around 18 minutes after the first had hit the North Tower. Hundreds of people struggled to get out from the upper floors of the towers, while many others were killed by the impact of the planes’ crashes.
The towers collapsed, leaving almost 10,000 injured. 2,763 people were killed there, including firefighters, paramedics and police officers.
Cameraman Mark LaGanga recorded some of the aftermath, showing the rescuers at work before the terrifying moment the buildings collapsed, sending a cloud of smoke and dust out into the city.
Take a look at some of the footage here:
As most of today’s teenagers and children only know the terrorist act as a horror before their lifetime, reflecting on September 11 is a vital part of honouring the people who were affected by the tragedy, and remembering how it changed the world.
With those killed or injured, the witnesses across the world, and those who rushed to the rescue, the 9/11 attacks affected millions of people in different ways.
Many courageous people entered the burning buildings to help those inside, ignoring instincts of self-preservation and risking everything in order to help save people who were, in reality, just strangers to them. Many never returned.
According to History, September 11, 2001 has been recorded as the deadliest day in history for New York City firefighters. Devastatingly, 343 were killed.
UNILAD spoke to Sabrina, who recalled the stroke of luck which kept her grandfather from the devastation of the World Trade Center.
Sabrina explained that her grandad worked as the chief of the Suffolk County Fire Academy, but by coincidence, he was not working on September 11.
Though he was not at the scene, the firefighter, like so many other people, was still massively affected by the disaster as he lost two of his best friends to the attack.
Two of my grandpa’s best friends died in 9/11. They happened to be working in the city that day and rushed to the scene.
We kept trying to get in touch with our family to make sure everything was okay, but the phone lines were jammed.
One of the chief’s friends, Ray Meisenheimer, worked with him at Suffolk County Fire Academy and was killed as he went to give aid to the people of New York.
Ray’s daughter Kaitlynn spoke to UNILAD about her dad and his involvement on the day.
My dad was a NYC fireman at Rescue 3 in the Bronx. FDNY rescue companies are the most elite and the best of the FDNY. His company trained in collapse so on that day they were going to assess the situation, and helped civilians while on their way up to the fire.
In addition to FDNY, my dad also worked at the Suffolk County Fire Academy where he was chief of program development.
In November 2001 he was planning to retire from the FDNY to work full time at the academy. We were in the process of moving, building my dad’s dream house.
We moved in December 2001, without him.
My dad was coming off shift when the call came in, he was wearing civilian clothes to go to his second job. Like so many others, he dropped what he was doing and jumped on the rig to do what he was born and trained to do; fight fires.
We received confirmation the evening of 9/11 rescue 3 was on the scene and were in fact in the south tower. Still, I didn’t know how this would affect my family.
I don’t remember how much time went by before receiving items from the rig that belonged to my dad, such as car keys, his wallet, his ring and cell phone, but it was then I found out my dad was not coming home to us, he was already home, in heaven.
My dad was a big guy with an even bigger heart and personality. He was born to be a fireman. He loved two things in life, his career and his girls – mom and two daughters.
To honour her father and all those who gave their lives to save others, Kaitlynn decided to take part in the ‘Tunnel to Towers’ 5k that is held in NYC.
The Tunnel to Towers run follows the footsteps of firefighter Stephen Siller, who had just finished his shift when he heard on his scanner that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Stephen gathered his gear and drove to the entrance of Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to fulfil his duty, Stephen carried 60lbs of gear on his back and ran through the tunnel to the towers, where he too gave his life to save others.
Running the course alongside her mum and some of their closest friends, Kaitlynn and her family created ‘We Run For Ray’, an organisation to raise money for The Stephen Siller Foundation and Building for America’s Bravest.
In two years they raised over $30,000, and Kaitlynn plans to return to New York to do this run again this year. Her crowdfunding page can be found here.
Ray’s daughter explained why she created the campaign and continues to take part in the fundraising:
I created Run for Ray as a way to honour and remember my dad.
The family and friends were the lucky ones that have known him personally, they help keep his memory alive. Never forgetting is more than just saying it once a year on an anniversary.
I couldn’t think of a better way to never forget than paying it forward in my dad’s name, to the brave men and women that continue to sacrifice life to protect our freedom.
There were some incredible acts of courage that took place on the day of September 11, 2001, with Ray and Stephen’s stories being just two of many.
The terrifying scenes seen in the footage are still harrowing to watch today, and there is no doubt the events will continue to have their effect on the world into the future.
With thousands of family members and friends affected by the loss of loved ones, as well as those who were injured in the events, it is important to remember the bravery and selflessness that took place on a day filled with such terror. When people actively put themselves in the middle of horrific scenes in order to help others.
Everyone who helped on that day did incredible work, and they will never be forgotten.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.