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Listen to the Delaware mix of
Sheryl Crow's "Safe & Sound" 1st anniv tribute (mp3)
Darryl Worley "Have You Forgotten" - Tribute mix (mp3)
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|Tuesday, September 11, 2001 started out like any other day in Slower Lower Delaware.
One of our local police departments was honoring National 9-11 Day with an open house so that residents could find out just what the police did --
take some of the mystery away.
Just before 9 the phone rang and it was a friend telling me to check the wire - that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Check I did and I, and my co-workers, were dumbfounded. Then the second plane crashed and we all looked at each other in horror. And when the 3rd plane plowed into the Pentagon followed by another crashing in western ennsylvania - we knew this was a deliberate act.
For several hours - phones were pretty much a lost cause. No state government offices were accessible, Dover Air Force Base was unreachable and the only way to reach anyone was by personal home and cell phones and pagers. So glad I'm a packrat and save all this information, but even then a lot of calls were met with "all circuits are busy."
As the morning dragged on, the horror of what happened began to intensify - one and then the second of the towers of the World Trade Center disintegrated into a huge pile of rubble, and emergency crews in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania searched frantically for any survivors. It was inconceivable, but 4 huge jumbo jets had been turned into flying bombs, taken control of by a handful of Arab hijackers saying they had bombs and armed with box cutters. Those planes were flown into both towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into a field in Pennsylvania. It's said that last one may have been headed for the White House, but passengers on the plane tried to overwhelm the hijackers. Those passengers - and many others who used cell and plane phones to call authorities and relatives before they were all killed - were the bravest of the brave.
There was no credit taken for these horrible events, but President George W. Bush and other federal officials pinned these atrocities on Osama bin Laden - the same man who was credited as the master-mind behind the bombing of the World Trade Center several years before and the bombing of two of our embassies in Africa. Since the 11th bin Laden has been holed up in Afghanistan, where he has been protected and harbored by the Taliban government, which has refused to turn the terrorist over to the U.S. government.
Here at home, as the terror attacks unfolded, the state government went into action. Governor Ruth Ann Minner announced that schools would be dismissed and state offices would be closed until things became more stable and to see if another shoe dropped. Delawareans were glued to television and radio to find out the latest of what was happening at the 3 sites that had been attacked as well as at home. Many people were of the opinion that Dover Air Force Base could be a target - and the base itself was on high alert - with only people with military ID allowed on base - and all vehicles being searched.
The death toll and number of missing, especially in New York climbed as the day went on - and many of the missing were not people who had been in the twin towers, but rescue personnel from the New York City Police and Fire Departments who had responded to what was now being called 'ground zero.' Prayer services and candlelight vigils were held at every church and place of worship, convention center, and any other place people could gather. Bishop Michael Saltarelli of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington planned a prayer service for later in the week to give anyone in the state the chance to attend.
What could we do - how could we help? Those were questions asked by Delawareans as they besieged area blood banks wanting to donate blood. Collections of relief supplies and clothes and food were taken throughout the state. People wanted to do anything they could - just to feel useful, but many others were at a loss - how could such a thing happen here in the United States of America?
Military installations in the First State were on alert, police patrols were stepped up, all airports were closed and nothing was in the sky but birds. Flags were flying at half staff and the day after the attacks the state government reopened and children returned to school. Grief counseling was available for anyone needing it - either from medical personnel - or the clergy. Other people reacted in other ways. People of Arab or Indian decent were plagued with harassing phone calls and suddenly everyone was a suspect. Several school districts were plagued with bomb threats for a couple of days - but even those died down quickly as Delawareans waited to see what would happen next.
Slowly life began to return to some sense of normalcy, but life would never be the same as it was before 8:48am on September 11. When the FAA allowed air traffic to resume - it was suddenly odd to see planes in the sky again. The skies had been so quiet and so blue during the grounding. Now seeing a plane in the sky - the jet stream behind it - made you look....and look again to make sure that plane kept its course. It makes you think that some of Art Bell's theories on contrails might not be so far-fetched!
Days went by and many wondered if the U.S. was turning tail and not going to fight back for the thousands that were killed. The remains of those who died in the Pentagon attack began arriving at Dover Air Force Base - which has the largest military mortuary in the country. Still, there was no retaliation for the attacks. People were upset that our government had not set out immediately to find Osama bin Laden and the others in the terrorist network and arrest or kill them. Military action from the U.S. began just short of the one month anniversary of the terror attacks.
These terrorist attacks are not the first to come to American soil. There was another attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 - also by Arab terrorists, and of course, the Oklahoma City bombing. This was though, the most horrible in the fact that over six thousand people were killed, the skyline of New York City forever altered and the economic center of the country brought to a temporary halt. Our feeling of security has been shaken and our own mortality brought to the front of our collective consciousness. The world as we knew it changed in a matter of hours - yet in many ways - for most of us, life goes on as it did before September 11.
There is something very noticeable that has come to the forefront - and that is the rededication of the American Spirit. Patriotism that has been hidden away through the years came flooding out with flags flying everywhere - on buildings, cars and homes. Patriotic songs have filled the airwaves - both on television and radio. No longer is our patriotism relegated to July 4th or Veterans Day and Memorial Day. The terror attacks brought fear into our lives - it doesn't just happen "over there" any longer - but also has bolstered the American people to join together and unify with a common cause. It's even brought about a bipartisan spirit not seen in decades in the federal government.
Americans are standing together and have joined the fight against terrorism - whether it be through the military or just being resolute and standing firm in our beliefs. In unity there is strength and America will never forget, but America will endure.
THE AFTERMATH: Thirteen years, two months, and twenty-one days after launching airstrikes against Usama bin
Laden's Al Qaeda and their Taliban protectors following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
At the end of this year, as our Afghan partners assume responsibility for the security of their country, the
United States officially concludes Operation Enduring Freedom. Our combat mission in Afghanistan, which began
in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, will come to an end.
With the start of the new year we begin our follow-on mission, Operation Freedom's Sentinel, to help secure and
build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years. However this will not mean a complete departure of American
soldiers from Afghanistan, as the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force will transition to a supporting
role with 13,500 soldiers, almost 11,000 of them American, starting January 1, 2015.
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