Tony Benetatos, now an FDNY lieutenant, was a first-year “probie” with Ladder 1, the closest station to the World Trade Center and the subject of a French film makers’ documentary on the days leading up to 9/11. The crew had been out recording on the streets of New York when they captured the iconic video of American Airlines Flight 11 as it hit World Trade Center North Tower.
Brothers Jules and Gédéon Naudet and FDNY firefighter James Hanlon kept their cameras running, even as United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the South Tower.
Most of the historical video from ground zero came from their cameras as events unfolded in real time.
They filmed the firefighters flinch as sickeningly loud bangs echoed through their command post in the North Tower foyer, knowing that each one represented a loss of life. As one firefighter put it, “Think of how bad it must have been up there when jumping seemed the better option.”
“Up there,” was the firefighters’ destination. Many didn’t make it out alive. In fact, by the end of the day, over 2,000 people and 343 first responders had perished. Sadly, more succumbed later to cancers and other maladies from that day.
As Tony Benetatos said, “That day we learned just how evil evil can be.”
Almost simultaneously, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon, while United Airlines Flight 93, also hijacked, was kept from causing more damage when brave passengers overpowered the hijackers, ultimately crashing the plane in Shanksville, Pa., far from its objective.
Twenty years later, while we remember the many lives lost by those ruthless attacks on that cloudless day, we must also remember the survivors. In New York, the two 110-story buildings filled with people collapsed into dust, nary a recognizable piece of office equipment to be found. Despite the carnage, we should not forget how, thanks to the quick action of incredibly brave first responders, over 20,000 people made it out alive.
Much has changed in the last twenty years. Law enforcement and first responders are much better prepared to keep this from ever happening again and to be better equipped to respond if it does, but at what cost? Wars continue to be fought, terrorism continues, and many personal liberties once taken for granted have been lost, not just in America but worldwide. Much of the discontent that led to the attacks has not been solved, either.
But life goes on.
World Trade Center One, also referred to as the Freedom Tower, proudly stands over ground zero. Opened in 2014, the building is 104 stories and 1776 feet tall, the tallest building in the USA.
In New York City, the fear of another terrorist event happening was replaced by defiance, and now both are mostly forgotten while people go about their daily business much the same as before. That can only be a good thing, although it is important to remember this historic event.
And remember we did: twenty years ago, when for many the world was changed forever, we ran the following on our front page. On this, the 20th anniversary of the tragic event, we feel the sentiments still hold true today:
The Pattaya Mail staff, as well as everyone we have been in contact with, are deeply saddened, shocked and horrified by the brutal, sub-human attacks reigned down upon America on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the victims and their families.
There are no words we could convey that would soften the horror. We can only wish it never happened, that it was a nightmare we will wake from, but the tragic reality is that the world actually contains people so mentally warped they are willing to sacrifice their lives to create mass destruction and steal away so many others’ lives in the twisted belief that others might feel their pain.
With the grief so unbearable, the pain so deep, the reality so horrifying, the emotion of vengeance is of course understandable. We, too, believe the perpetrators of such heinous acts, not only against America, but also against innocent victims throughout the world, should be stopped and brought to justice.
But we also ask that this feeling of vengeance not be painted with a broad brush. The perpetrators of such acts of violence are, thankfully, only a minute minority of the world’s population, tiny and isolated even within their own stated ethnic and religious affiliations. Senseless acts of vigilante violence based solely upon ethnicity or religious belief is ludicrous. Love thy brother. Together we will get through this and see in a new tomorrow.
Freedom will prevail.