Shattered Skylines and Scattered Steel

A 9/11 Memorial Instagram image of the American Flag flying over Ground Zero. (By Andrea Booher)

By DYLAN LU with contributions by HANNAH NIEDERRITER – Student contributors

On a bright September morning, the nation awoke. The quiet streets became bustling with thousands of feet hitting the hard pavement as people traveled to their workplace or school, as if it were an ordinary day. That’s because it was, at least until 8:45 a.m.

At that moment, a Boeing 767 sliced through the first tower like a hot knife through the heart strings of the American people.

This tragedy killed over one hundred people instantly. At first, media reported a small plane hitting the  tower, just an accident, but just 15 minutes later, another Boeing 767 inserted itself into the south tower immolating itself and several hundred more people in a burst of orange flame, a haunting image that is burned into the minds of many people that viewed the vicious act in person and on television.

Mothers, fathers, spouses, and even children witnessed the event that took the lives of 2,194 people, some of which could’ve been one of the people dearest to them. In addition, 412 rescue workers were killed by falling debris and other residual effects of the impact and collapse, discounting the hundreds more who later died by cancer caused by asbestos put into the air.

After watching Flight 175 crash into the south tower, many began to weep for their loved ones or others, but just as they began to breathe again, the Pentagon, home of the nation’s armed forces, was struck by another plane, a Boeing 757, 45 minutes after the collision of Flight 175 into the south tower.

This attack left 189 more dead but some feared even this wasn’t the end. They would be correct. At 10:10 a.m., an additional Boeing 757 crashed into Shanksville, Pennsylvania, causing the deaths of 44 more people. The target of this plane is unknown, but it is speculated to have been the White House or even a nuclear power plant.

The dead weren’t the only victims, seeing as a total of 2,977 people were wrenched from their loved ones in this tragedy, causing families to fall apart and communities to suffer. The survivors did not live on unscathed either. Many suffered severe burns or PTSD that will last for the rest of their lives.

The men who perpetrated these acts belonged to an Islamic terrorist organization called Al Qaeda, formed by Osama Bin-Laden. They opposed western civilization and wanted to strike back at the United States for their involvement in the Middle East, even though every other fundamentalist Islamic state condemned their means of getting back at the United States.

The World Trade Center was a symbol of power and wealth in one of the most recognizable cities in the world, New York, making it the perfect target to shatter the perception of invulnerability of the United States.

This attack has been the deadliest and most costly terrorist attack in the known history of the U.S. The last time an attack from a foreign entity hit this close to home was the Pearl Harbor bombing of 1941, which prompted then president Franklin Delano Roosevelt to say that Dec. 7, 1941, was “a date that would live in infamy,” for the same reason that many of us feel chills when we hear the date Sept. 11, 2001.

This tragedy may have aimed to tear us apart as a nation, but it, in fact, did the opposite. The people of the United States of America disregarded their differences and took up arms regardless of what color, religion, ideology, or other beliefs they had. Despite being one of the most diverse nations in the entire world, we all united together under one heroic cause. The people of this country worked in cooperation to advance security and aid the future of America, taking note of the horrendous act that passed in order to learn from it. No matter what may try to divide us, we are and will always be Americans who band together in the face of adversity.


Dylan Lu and Hannah Niederriter are students at Cranberry High School and members of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications group.