Two years of change after 9/11

By on September 18, 2003

As we all know too well, last Thursday was the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It goes without saying that no one in America will ever forget where they were and what they were doing on that horrific day.

We will never forget how we first learned that two commercial aircrafts had crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, and one in rural Pennsylvania. It’s important to reflect on that day now, two years later.

I was a junior in high school at the time. My friends and I were making our way through another seemingly boring morning of classes, but that all changed for me around 10:15a.m., at the beginning of my third-period English class.

My middle-aged teacher entered the room with a grim face and reported to the class that there had been “some sort of” terrorist attack at the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

That afternoon in physics class we watched television coverage of the attacks. The severity of the situation really sunk in at that point for two reasons.

First, my teacher just started crying in front of the class and repeating, “We’re at war!” More importantly, it was the first time that I had seen footage of the attacks and the World Trade Center towers collapsing to the ground.

To this day, it is still chilling to watch replays of the attacks, particularly the second plane approaching and crashing into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Despite this, I personally consider it important to revisit the events of that late summer day on each anniversary. Of course, everyone has their own way of remembering.

Not many people in this country could have ever imagined that such a horrific scene could take place here in America.

The pictures were simply incomprehensible – people jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center, New Yorkers running for their lives from a gargantuan cloud of smoke and debris, aerial shots of lower Manhattan completely engulfed in smoke, and debris-laden citizens stumbling down vast wastelands of streets, trying to catch their breath.

We saw many other things that day that had never been seen before. Every airplane flight due to land in the United States was either grounded or diverted to Canada.

President Bush was shuttled from Florida to Louisiana to Nebraska and finally back to Washington under the close watch of the Secret Service.

The Capitol building and White House, in addition to landmarks and airports across the nation, were completely evacuated.

The biggest emotion felt by so many on 9/11 was the anxiety of not knowing. Since the attacks all occurred before 11a.m., many people still had to go through an entire day with questions swirling in their heads.

Is the World Trade Center really gone? What does the Pentagon look like? Do I know anyone who might have been affected? Are more attacks on the way? Who is behind this? How many have died?

Obviously, a lot has changed since September 11, 2001. Almost immediately, Congress passed the controversial USA Patriot Act to provide the government a means of monitoring potential terrorists within the United States.

Congress created the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, merging more than twenty federal agencies under one roof.

Most notably, President Bush launched the worldwide War on Terrorism.

The first campaign resulted in the demise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a governing body which had supported the Al Qaida terror network under the direction of Osama bin Laden. The most recent chapter is currently rooting terrorists out of Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s Reign of Terror came to an end.

In addition, numerous high-level al-Qaida operatives have been captured by American forces.

Some people already appear to have forgotten the impact that 9/11 had on America and the world. If you start incorrectly thinking that the Patriot Act somehow takes away civil liberties, remember 9/11. If you are already growing impatient with the War on Terrorism, remember 9/11. If you think that America should adopt an isolationist policy, remember 9/11.

Things have vastly changed. No good comes from leaving the terrorists alone and simply hoping that they will never strike again. That didn’t work the first time around.

At the very least, everyone should take a few moments to reflect on their feelings two years later. As you enjoy college life, think of the thousands of children whose mothers and fathers never returned home from work on September 11th, 2001.

Think of those who were killed while trying to save someone else’s loved ones. Think of those who lost spouses, children, brothers and sisters. Think of the countless lives changed forever two years ago on that unprecedented Day of Terror.


About A. J. Atchue