By Alyssa Schnugg
For many Americans, just saying the date, Sept. 11, regardless of the reason, causes them to pause or catch their breath. For a brief second, we are thrown back 20 years and we remember.
We remember the horror. We remember the fear. We remember the uncertainty.
But we also remember the spirit of togetherness felt by the entire United States and around the world in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
Almost 3,000 people died that day when 19 members of al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes – flying two planes into the Twin Towers and one plane into the Pentagon. A third plane, believed to be headed to the White House, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston, bound for Los Angeles, crashed into the World Trade Center’s North Tower, between the 93rd and 99th floors.
As television news crews began to report on the crash, it was unclear what caused the plane to hit the tower. Some speculated a mechanical failure. Americans started to gather around televisions.
At 9:03 a.m., it became all too clear what was happening. United Airlines Flight 175, also headed from Boston to L.A., crashed into the World Trade Center’s South Tower, between the 77th and 85th floors.
- Scottye C Lee: Admissions clinic teaching students. A dental student came in the clinic and said, “Dr. Lee. A plane just hit one of the WTC buildings!” I laughed and asked what the joke was. Deadly serious, he said, “I’m not joking.” I sent him to the student lounge and told him to keep watching. You know the rest. All too quickly, he came back with more news. The world changed for all of us that awful day. #neverforget
- Kevin Chung: I was in NYC for a business meeting with The New York Times. I flew in the night before from Boston. I was in mid town and actually saw the first plane fly by. I thought it was a small plane at first and when I heard it crashed into the Trade Center I thought it was an accident. The whole day was surreal seeing droves of people walking up mid town covered in soot and ash. I stayed in Manhattan that night since it was locked down. The whole day was surreal and leaving on a train to Boston the next day with the smoke rising from nyc is an image I’ll never forget.
- Mary Brite Sellers: I had gotten off work from the ER and was at the gym and the TV was on and they were showing pictures of the first tower after being hit. At first I thought it was some movie but after watching a video few minutes I knew it was real. Went home, couldn’t sleep , kept watching the news and we were put on alert that night in the ER. I’ve never been more in shock.
- Charlotte Ewseychik: Teaching elementary students. Notified by administration. We were all crying as we watched the second plane hit. Immediately, parents began to pick up the kids. No one knew what could happen. Lots of hugs.
- Brittany Holiman Langston: I was in 7th grade Mississippi History. We turned the tv on to watch something on the roll around TVs and it went to channel 3 to play our movie and we saw the second tower get hit. Even though I was young and didn’t fully understand I knew something awful had happened and was instantly terrified.
- James: Clifton: I was in Bosnia on deployment. We had just returned from the base that the National Guard unit from Oxford was being assigned for the deployment. Our operations sergeant major had bought a tv from a guy who was shipping home. We got it tuned in to pick up Armed Forces Network as they were talking about the first plane and showing video. We were asking each other how this could happen and then saw the second plane hit. We were out the door, strapping on body armor, and drawing full load of ammo in the next few minutes.
The terror didn’t stop in New York City, however. At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, bound from the Washington area to L.A., crashed into the western side of the Pentagon. Four minutes later, United Flight 93, headed to San Francisco from Newark, New Jersey, crashed into an empty field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
At 9:59 a.m., the South Tower collapsed and about 30 minutes later, the North Tower also collapsed.
Cammi Burdiez was working in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. She was coming out of the subway on her way to work when she an explosion coming from the World Trade Center. She later learned it was the second plane hitting the tower.
“I walked toward my workplace, which was a block or so away,” she told Hottytoddy.com. “When I got there, me and a bunch of my co-workers were trying to grasp what was happening – so much confusion as you can imagine. A colleague was directing us to leave the area. That was the last time most of us saw him. They found his remains in one of the towers a couple of months later in the rubble.”
Burdiez said every year since, on Sept. 11, she thinks about where she was, what she was doing and what she saw.
“Then I think about the associate I lost that day,” she said. “Today, I’ll take a moment to cry by myself like every year, and all day, I’ll be thinking about it, no matter how hard I try not to.”
For nine months afterward, workers searched Ground Zero for the remains of those lost that day. Of those who died, 343 were firefighters, 72 were police officers and 55 were military personnel.
In the two decades since 9/11, the number of deaths among survivors and responders who spent months inhaling the noxious dust, chemicals, fumes and fibers from the debris has continued to increase. Researchers have identified more than 60 types of cancer and about two dozen other conditions that are linked to Ground Zero exposures. As of today, at least 4,627 responders and survivors enrolled in the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program have died; however, not all those deaths can be attributed to conditions linked to Ground Zero exposures, according to the CDC.
On Friday, Gov. Tate Reeves signed Executive Order 1559 proclaiming September 11, 2021, as “Patriot Day and a Day of Prayer and Remembrance” in Mississippi to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks. The executive order also requires that all flags of the United States of America and the State of Mississippi be flown at half-staff on all buildings and grounds of the State of Mississippi and all areas of its jurisdiction beginning at sunrise until sunset on September 11, 2021.
“Twenty years ago, our Nation was devastated by the worst terrorist attacks in its history,” Reeves said. “Mississippi will never forget the innocent victims lost, and those who rose from the ashes of heartbreak to aid in rescue and recovery efforts and to defend the United States both here and abroad.”
Earlier this week, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Winchester and Taylor Grocery Catering honored local first responders by providing a free lunch and the Oxford Police Department held a Night Out for First Responders, providing dinner, fun and family activities.
The University of Mississippi will honor its military veteran students, faculty and alumni with a series of events designed to recognize members of the armed services in the Ole Miss family.
The military appreciation football game between the Rebels and the Austin Peay Governors will kick off at 6:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
- Helmets: The Ole Miss football team will break out its patriotic-themed helmets for the game against Austin Peay. The Rebels have made it a tradition to play one game a season in helmets that honor service members.
- The Field: The Ole Miss logo at midfield will be painted red, white and blue, paying tribute to those who keep our country safe. Additionally, the 13-yard hashmark will be painted black in honor of the 13 fallen soldiers in Afghanistan.
- Pregame: Prior to kickoff, local first responders will be recognized by Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, and fans will be asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims and first responders. Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Generald Wilson will honor America with the singing of our National Anthem, concluding with a Black Hawk helicopter flyover from Company A, 1-185th Aviation Regiment, MS Army National Guard.
- In-Game: Notable alumni and service members will be recognized during the game, including veteran Brian Moganson, the Ole Miss Student Veteran Association leadership team and Lt. Col Dex Landreth, Squadron Commander with the Cape Canaveral Space Force. Halftime will also feature a special tribute to our nation’s military by The Pride of the South marching band.
- Postgame: To conclude the night and salute the nation, a fireworks show will take place following the game.