(Editor's note: The following precise, historical account and perspective of 9-11 was penned by Cherokee Washington High School senior Dan Bieber. It is the text he will read during homeroom at 9:52 a.m. Friday at the special WHS program commemorating the September 11,2001 terrorist attacks on America. Some video of 9-11 also will be presented.)
On September 11, 2001, the United States was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the terrorist group named Al Qaeda, led by a man named Osama bin Laden. The group hijacked four commercial airliners, using weapons such as box cutters, small knives, and mace. The terrorists proceeded to fly the planes to four pre-planned targets, including the buildings of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United States Capital in Washington D.C.
At 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the World Trade Center's north tower, and 17 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the south tower. A total of 2,792 American citizens died in New York in a matter of hours.
But the attack was not over, as many had thought. At 9:37, American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, killing an estimated 253 Americans. Due to the heroics of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth group of attackers never reached their destination, and eventually crashed into the Pennsylvania landscape at 10:03, killings all 40 people on board.
September 11 is no longer just a date, it is a symbol. It is a memory, and a constant reminder that our freedom and safety is not something to be taken for granted.
All of us who are old enough remember where we were, and what we were doing when the first plane crashed into the World Trade center. I, along with about 15 other 4th grade students, was sitting in Mrs. Thompson's class, waiting to go to recess. Before we walked out the door, Mrs. Thompson told us that two planes had crashed into buildings in New York. She gave us the option of staying to watch the reports come in rather than going out to play. Of course, all but a few of the class, including me, went out for recess without a second thought. We had no idea the gravity of the situation, which is understandable, we were just kids. Many, though, were too young or too uninvolved to know what this kind of attack meant. Sadly enough, some never will. Some will never know on that day we learned there are people in this world that would love nothing more than to see our way of life, and our very freedom come crashing down. There are some who harbor unfathomable hatred and animosity towards us and the ideals we hold dear.
Even though this kind of event seemed impossible beforehand, it marks the second time in American history when an attack of such scale took place. On December 7, 1941, American soil was attacked by Japanese military forces on the island of Oahu, in the Pacific territory of Hawaii.
The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the sinking of four U.S. battleships, along with seven other major vessels. The loss of life from the attack was totaled at 2,402 American servicemen and civilians.
The attack on Pearl Harbor and the attacks on September 11 have subtle differences; Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor was a formal military engagement, while the attacks in 2001 were acts of terrorism and murder. In essence, however, they are the same. American lives were lost, and American values were threatened. In both events, our enemies attempted to make us believe we are weak, and that we are alone. Instead, we have shown the world how strong we can be, and how united we can become. In the months following September 11, Americans felt a sense of oneness and pride not seen in over a half-century. We no longer looked at ourselves as White-American, African-American, Democrat or Republican; we were all simply American.
Sadly, after only eight years, that feeling has faded into little more than a distant memory of what once was. Less than a decade after the attack that took the lives of over 3,000 innocent people, September 11, 2001 seems to have become ancient history. The truth is we shouldn't need a national crisis in order to show our true potential as a people and a nation. We should exhibit it every day, in everything we do. There is no doubt that the United States is the strongest and most powerful nation mankind has ever seen. As a country, we are able to withstand whatever the world throws at us with unmatched resolve.
But no matter how strong a foundation, a divided house cannot stand. The way to honor those who lost their lives on September 11th is by rising up together, and knowing what we really stand for when we say we are American.