... "Today our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, business men and women, military and Federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
"The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our Nation into chaos and retreat, but they have failed. Our country is strong.
"A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining..."
- President George W. Bush
Fifteen years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, America witnessed the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
Four planes were commandered by 19 Islamic extremists affiliated with Afghanistan-based al Qaeda. It was the third component of a three-day terror spree designed to strengthen the organization's bid to gain power in the Mideast while striking a blow against what it believed to be a major obstacle to that goal, the United States.
Two planes - American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, both out of Logan International Airport in Boston - were crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center less than an hour after takeoff.
An estimated 16,400 to 18,000 people were in the complex when the planes struck at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m. respectively.
The crash, the subsequent fires and collapse of the office towers killed 2,753 people including more than 400 first responders who died trying to rescue those wounded or trapped by fire or debris.
Just 102 minutes elapsed between the first crash and the buildings' collapse.
Meanwhile, just minutes and miles away in Washington D.C., American Airlines Flight 77 out of Dulles International Airport, was crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., killing all 59 aboard and another 125 on the ground.
On hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 out of Newark, crew and passengers got word of the attacks. They attempted to retake the plane, which then crashed at 10:03 a.m. into a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended target, rumored to have been the White House. All aboard, 40 people, died.
The total death toll- individuals ranging from age 2 to 85 - was 2,977.
All told, though, the numbers are much, much higher as today, the world continues to fight a battle first brought home to many Americans on the day that has come to be called, simply, 9/11.
To date, 6,852 armed services personnel have died in Afghanistan and Iraq in the continuing quest for peace even as those who mean us harm continue to target mostly non-combatants, like those who died 15 years ago, to further their aims.
As we remember the fallen, let us all also honor the American spirit shown by those on Flight 93; shown by the safety personnel who entered the twin towers as others fled to safety; shown by the American men and women who have since enlisted and deployed to where terrorism lives; shown by those who sought to save others, even as a gunman stalked a nightclub in Orlando.
It is through their efforts that no one will keep our light from shining.
No one. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
- Island Reporter editorial