9/11: A day to remember for America


Photos by Emma Grace Lehmann

Framed picture at the RDU airport with names of firefighters who died on 9/11

Every year on Sept. 11, Athens Drive High School takes a moment of silence to remember the event that shook our nation’s core. 17 years ago, four commercial air planes were hijacked by Islamic terrorists in an attempt to carry out the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.

At 8:46 a.m., American airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (WTC) in New York City. At 9:03 a.m., United airlines flight 175 crashed into the neighboring building, the south tower of the WTC. 34 minutes later, flight 77 crashed into the western facade of the Pentagon in Washington DC. The fourth flight was hijacked and upon realizing this, the passengers attempted to retake the plane which resulted in crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania. In just a matter of two hours, nearly 3,000 people died and our nation’s security, trust, and humanity was altered permanently.

The New York Fire Department (FDNY) sent 214 unites, 112 engines, and 58 ladder trucks to the WTC within seconds of the attack. Firefighters raced through falling debris and fire as they rushed up the collapsing buildings to evacuate and stop the fires. 343 firefighters died that day and spent their last moments attempting to save the people stuck inside the building.

“I believe that these heinous attacks on our nation and innocent people, brought us closer as a people and a nation and the response of the FDNY was their finest hour, in spite of their tragic loss.”  said John T. McGrath, Fire Chief at the Raleigh Fire Department.

McGrath served at the Philadelphia Fire Department for 32 years and retired as the Operations Chief before he moved to North Carolina in 2006. He held the ranking of  Deputy Commissioner at the time of the terrorists attacks.

“I remember getting called out of a meeting by my Director of Communications and informed that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I proceeded to the dispatch center where there was alive television feed of the burning tower. While observing the live feed, I witnessed the second plane hitting the other tower. I quickly realized that this was no accident. When the buildings collapsed, we knew from experience that hundreds had just perished,” said McGrath.

McGrath is also associated with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. This foundation develops programs to honor the firefighters who have passed away and to assist their families and coworkers.

There were endless amounts of organizations and groups created after 9/11, including Peaceful Tomorrows led by David Potorti and other people he met during a walk for peace in 2001. This group has a website that shares the story of many other families who have relative or friends who died on 9/11.

“We applied for funding, created a website, and shared our message with hundreds of other groups, even a group called ‘Veterans for Peace’,” said Potorti.

Potorti also edited a book which was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. The book contains essays, poems, songs, and art pieces related to the tragic event.

“I edited a book called ‘September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows: Turning our Grief into Action for Peace,’ which was translated into Japanese, Italian and Spanish. I got perspective from visiting other countries and seeing how they had been affected by terrorism and war,” said Potorti.

Despite the evil acts demonstrated Sept. 11, our nation has grown closer and has worked hard to ensure our safety. This day is remembered for the many deaths and heart breaks, but also  for the endless acts of kindness and love.

“I believe we should never forget the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Violence only begets more violence. The persons who perpetrated these murders are evil and we should not condemn the nations where they were from. We must always remember, that in spite of our goodwill, there are people in this world who wish us ill will, and we should be ever vigilant and protective of our citizens,” said McGrath.