America mourns as it marks 20th anniversary of 9/11

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Noah David '22

Delaney Mulqueen ’22 and Sophia Carrasquilla ’22, editors of The Crusader, read the front page section of a newspaper the day after 9/11 for a lesson in journalism class.

Joseph Zuloaga ’23, News Editor

On September 11, 2001, America was under attack. The country and the world watched in horror as Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners and perpetrated the deadliest terrorist attack in history. 

In a documentary titled 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room, Former President George W. Bush reminisced about that day “ … The first plane was an accident. The second plane was an attack. The third was a declaration of war.”

That fateful morning started out as a normal New York city Tuesday. English teacher Michael Vezzali-Pascual ’88 concurred, saying, “​​It was just an absolutely beautiful, sparkling gorgeous September morning.” 

Editors Grayson Salomon ’22 and Christian Ramirez Cortes ’22 read a newspaper commemorating the one year anniversary of 9/11 in 2002. (Noah David ’22)

Yet, in the skies above the East Coast, American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93 all en route to California, were swiftly hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and deviated from their original routes. 

 

At 8:46 am, America changed. Flight 11 and Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center. Later, Flight 77 crashed at the Pentagon. Flight 93 was presumably headed for the White House, however, due to the heroic actions of the passengers aboard the hijacked aircraft, the plane was diverted and crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

Vezzali-Pascual, who was teaching at Riordan on 9/11 recalls, “By the time I got to school that day, both planes had already hit the WTC … we all knew it was a terrorist attack on our country. I turned on the TV in my classroom and we all anxiously watched the news. I don’t remember much of what I told the students, but there wasn’t a lot of talking. I think we were all just completely shocked at what we were seeing.”

Later on that day, the Twin Towers, one of the most prominent symbols of the NYC skyline and the economic power of the United States, collapsed with toxic fumes permeating the streets of Manhattan. 

As the dust settled on Ground Zero, the scope of the tragedy became evident. In all, almost 3,000 people died on 9/11 and countless more in NYC continue to suffer from the secondary effects due to the clouds of smoke created by the collapse. 

I turned on the TV in my classroom and we all anxiously watched the news. I don’t remember much of what I told the students, but there wasn’t a lot of talking.”

— Michael Vezzali-Pascual '88, English teacher

9/11 was such a tragic and eye opening day for everyone,” Kaya Manglona ’23 stated. “For students and schools in particular I think we just had to become more aware of our surroundings and more prepared for situations similar to what happened on 9/11.”

She continued,  “Another thing I realized is that growing up, in elementary school, we would talk about 9/11 and have prayer services for those who were hurt on that day; but I never realized the severity of the event. It wasn’t until middle school where I actually came to an understanding that it was a huge deal.”  

Vezzali-Pascual added, “It was such an awful day in our country’s history as we all now well know. It changed the way we thought about safety everywhere in our lives, even at Riordan and even until this day.” 

Newspapers from that fateful day tell the tragic story many will never forget. (Noah David ’22)

Before the day ended, Bush wrote in his journal, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today…We think it’s Osama bin Laden.”

As an immediate response to the attacks, then-President Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, at the time run by the Taliban who created a safe haven for Al-Qaeda terrorists and launched the War of Terror. 

In 2011, then-President Obama informed the nation that Bin Laden, the evil mastermind behind 9/11, was killed. As the war dragged on, former President Trump struck a deal with the Taliban for a full American troop withdrawal by May 1. President Biden later pushed the deadline back to September 11 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, but later set a new deadline of August 31.  

And now, 20 years later, after countless American lives lost in Afghanistan and the Taliban retaking Kabul, the United States completed its rocky evacuation from Afghanistan as the last C-17 plane departed from Kabul International Airport on August 30 local date, carrying the hopes of millions of Afghans eager for a new life in America, but shattering dreams of others who were not able to board one of the evacuation planes. 

Social Science teacher Jackie Grealish reflected, “In 2001, the US entered seeking answers and to prevent another tragedy. But political, economic, military, and social climates of the US and other countries change drastically over 20 years because of thousands of geopolitical decisions.”

It’s hard to have a definitive answer as to the merit of the war. . . . but we could only hypothesize what might have happened if politicians made different choices. ”

— Jackie Grealish, Social Science teacher

She added, “It’s hard to have a definitive answer as to the merit of the war. There were good and bad things that came out of the US’s involvement, but we could only hypothesize what might have happened if politicians made different choices.” 

Regardless, America’s longest war had come to an end. And it had all started two decades ago.

 

September 11, 2001. 

 

September 11, 2021. 

 

20 years later. 

 

A day the United States will never forget.