Remembering September 11th
By Barbara Heimlich
On Sunday morning while watching “Sunday Morning” I was shocked to hear that only 14 states taught students about the 9/11 Terror Attack. When asked about 9/11 they didn’t even know what it was.
This year, the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, has been especially difficult for those of us who lost a loved one on 9/11. Not only are we grappling with the Covid pandemic that has kept many of us isolated, but we were bombarded with updated information regarding 9/11.
For years, families of the victims of the September 11th attacks have pushed the federal government to reveal more information about any Saudi involvement in financing the attacks. In 2019, William P. Barr, then the attorney general under President Donald J. Trump, declared in a statement to a federal court that documents related to the attacks should stay classified to protect national security. The move stunned those of us still seeking answers.
As a candidate, President Biden pledged to “err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago.” In an executive order, the president instructed Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to publicly release the declassified documents over the next six months.
During the September 11th attacks in 2001, 2,977 people were killed, 19 hijackers committed murder–suicide, and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.
More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, including the United Kingdom (67 deaths), the Dominican Republic (47 deaths), India (41 deaths), Greece (39 deaths), South Korea (28 deaths), Canada (24 deaths), Japan (24 deaths), Colombia (18 deaths), Jamaica (16 deaths), Philippines (16 deaths), Mexico (15 deaths), Trinidad and Tobago (14 deaths), Ecuador (13 deaths), Australia (11 deaths), Germany (11 deaths), Italy (10 deaths), Bangladesh (6 deaths), Ireland (6 deaths), Pakistan (6 deaths), and Poland (6 deaths).
Of the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11th attacks, 412 were emergency workers in New York City who responded to the World Trade Center. This included:
• 343 firefighters (including a chaplain and two paramedics) of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY)
• 37 police officers of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department (PAPD);
• 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department (NYPD); and
• 8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services
• 3 New York State Court Officers
• 1 patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol
The victims ranged in age from two to 85 years. Approximately 75-80% of the victims were men. The attacks remain the deadliest terrorist act in world history.
Today there are still medical repressions affecting those heroic 9/11 First Responders who face a high cancer risk. It can take years, even decades, for cancers to develop. A study published in 2019 found that 9/11 first responders have an elevated risk of certain cancers, including a roughly 25% increased risk of prostate cancer, a doubling in the risk of thyroid cancer and a 41% increase in leukemia compared to the general population.
The medical director of the World Trade Center Health Program at Mount Sinai Hospital reported in 2018 that out of the approximately 10,000 first responders and others who were at Ground Zero and have developed cancer as a result, more than 2,000 have died due to 9/11 related illnesses.
So yes, the carnage continues, not only do I want answers about that day that resulted in the murder of a family member, but there are thousands of us who are looking for details.
Connecticut lost 161 residents that day. A stark reminder in the days following 9/11 were cars in Metro North parking lots gathering dust waiting for those who would never return.
And then there is the announcement that the Guantanamo trial of suspected 9/11 mastermind would resume. The case will be restarting with a new judge after a 17-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Selection of a military jury was slated to begin in January of this year, but now will not begin until 2022 at the earliest.
At contention by 9/11 families is that the “trial” is being conducted by the military. The Guantánamo military commissions office announced that victims’ family members would be permitted, on a lottery basis, to attend the Guantánamo legal hearings of those accused of planning the 9/11 attacks.
Not only does the lottery system inherently result in the granting of media attention to the select few who are chosen, and whose views are not necessarily representative of all victims’ families. Many 9/11 families do not believe these military commissions to be fair, in accordance with American values, or capable of achieving the justice that 9/11 family members and all Americans deserve.
We believe that a military tribunal is secretive and unconstitutional nature of these proceedings deprive us of the right to know the full truth about what happened on 9/11.
These prosecutions have been politically motivated from the start. No comfort or closure can come from military commissions that ignore the rule of law and stain America’s reputation at home and abroad.
The 20th Anniversary of September 11th has even changed how we honor our loved ones. Going to Ground Zero for commemoration ceremonies has always exposed us to “deniers” demonstrating outside our entrance, but this year we have been issued warnings, and new guidelines to go to Ground Zero.
So yes, this 20-year anniversary has been painful. It is personal for our family. Do I remember?
I remember what a beautiful day that Tuesday morning was, especially the blue sky with not a cloud. Then my boss called – are you watching the Today show? A plane from Boston has just hit the World Trade Center.
And my life changed forever.
First call was to my son in Ohio, as my daughter-in-law Mary was due to fly out of Boston that morning to go home to Columbus. She was safe.
Second call was from my daughter who worked at an AT&T call center to let me know she was OK (even though she was outside due to a bomb threat) and that my son-in-laws flight (as all flights) had been cancelled.
I stood in my living room, rooted in front of the TV watching the horror; I watched the second plane hit, I watched people jumping from windows to escape the fires,
I watched the towers fall, I watched people running for their lives, I watched first responders rush into the buildings. When I saw FDNY members rushing in I called to find out where my nephew, a NY fireman was – he ran in, and was and is safe.
Third call: my daughter calling me to tell me that Richie was missing. That he had an 8 a.m. meeting at Cantor Fitzgerald and his wife had not heard from him.
By 10 p.m. that night I was combing the lists of survivors that had been taken to hospitals, looking for Richie’s name. I was searching for any information that might give us information on his whereabouts.
That was day 1.
The following days (weeks) are a blurry of random memories.
• Fighter jets streaming over Long Beach
• Being able to see the smoke from the Towers on Long Beach
• Family members combing the streets with photos of Richie hoping against hope that someone had seen him.
• Volunteering at Teamsters Local 1150 on Garfield Avenue to help them collect and sort donations.
• Sending those teamster drivers headed for Ground Zero with flyers on Richie.
• Waves of anxiety attacks, which eventually lead to me having to seek therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. (FYI which manifests every anniversary of 9/11)
• A funeral that had hundreds of mourners, almost unbearable pain.
On September 11th Bill and Maureen Bosco lost a son.
Bill Bosco (my son-in-law) and his siblings lost a brother.
Tracie lost a husband.
Abby and Richie lost their father.
All of us: aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, friends, grandparents lost a precious soul that we loved to the terrorists.
Is there anything “good” that came from this horrible tragedy?
Community: through community volunteering I met and developed a friendship with Sean Haubert. Sean and his father, a now retired fireman, were among the first responders who went to Ground Zero to look for survivors.
Voices Center for Resilience, formerly known as Voices of September 11th, that was formed to provide long-term support for the 9/11 community, while sharing their nearly two decades of expertise to assist those impacted by other tragedies in the United States and abroad. They were there for Sandy Hook; they were there for Stoneman Douglas High School; and they have been there for us providing: resources, programs, education, and mental health care to communities impacted by subsequent tragedies in the United States and abroad.
VOICES is a non-profit organization that assists communities in preparing for and recovering from traumatic events and provides long-term support and resources that promote mental health care and wellness for victims’ families, responders and survivors. Voices was founded by Mary and Frank Fetchet, who lost their son Brad on September 11th.
And lastly, this week two more victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center have been identified by the New York City medical examiner’s office, who have vowed to identify everyone lost that day. Just days before the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the tragedy, Dorothy Morgan of Hempstead, N.Y., becomes the 1,646th victim to be identified through ongoing DNA analysis of unidentified remains recovered from the World Trade Center site, where 2,753 lives were lost. The second person — and the 1,647th victim — is a man whose name is being withheld at his family’s request.
So No – I will Never Forget!