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Sept. 11, 2001: Six years later

By Lance Cpl. Laura A. Mapes | | September 20, 2007


Initially I was annoyed. Why did I have to be up before 6 a.m.? I didn’t have to be at school for another two hours. My mother sent my younger sister into my room to wake me up. She was mumbling about something. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was the house on fire? Had something happened to my sister?

After being practically dragged to my mother’s room where the television was, I watched the events unfold.

The first plane had hit just minutes before my sister had awoken me, and the whole nation was in shock.

I watched as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South tower with over 20,000 gallons of fuel on board.

After the second plane hit at 6:03 a.m. (Arizona time), I knew that the nation had been attacked.

I continued to watch the horrific events as I was getting dressed to go to school. About 30 minutes after the second plane hit, the Pentagon was struck. American Airlines Flight 77 had struck the nation’s center of defense.

How could this happen? We are Americans … things like this don’t happen in the “Land of the Free.”

I protested going to school that day because there were more important things than 8th grade algebra currently going on. At school, none of the 500 students did much work, if any.

Every television, in every classroom around the school campus was tuned into the same channel. There were no morning announcements, the only thing we did was recite the pledge of allegiance and take an extra long moment of silence.

It was a few minutes to 10 a.m. and we watched helplessly as the South tower fell, and clouds of dust and pulverized matter coated the city. About a half hour later the North tower fell.

It was devastating to watch this happen. People were throwing themselves out of the building and plunging to their deaths to avoid the collapse.

Then a fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

CBS initially reported that the plane went down at the presidential retreat, Camp David, Maryland. Camp David is over 70 miles away from Shanksville, the actual site of impact.

Needless to say a lot of confusion and misinformation circulated that day.

Later that week President George W. Bush gave a speech that gave me goose bumps, and I will never for get what he said.

“I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

After school I arrived home where I found my parents huddled around the television still watching the news. Before we ate dinner that night we said grace, praying for all of the victims of these attacks and for their families.

At 5:20 p.m. World Trade Center 7 fell continuing the drama. World Trade Center 7 is a lesser known aspect of the attacks. It toppled because of the debris from the other two towers.

America was traumatized by the terrorist attacks against the United States on the morning of September 11, 2001.

The images of the New York skyline billowing smoke, a ruined corner of the Pentagon smoldering, and a crater in a small Pennsylvanian field, were forever ingrained in our nation’s memory.

During the following weeks President Bush launched a War on Terrorism. This would bring the U.S. troops into Afghanistan and in the following years Iraq, as well as other parts of the world.

I was in the 8th grade when the attack happened. I knew almost immediately after that I wanted to help. I was very angry, and I’m sure that the rest of America felt the same as I did.

Even at the age of 12 I knew I wanted to make a difference. So I started looking into the military. I felt the only way I could make a direct change was to join America’s armed forces.

While my friends went to college, I chose another route. I chose to protect their freedoms and their rights.

Patriotism in America was soaring in the following months. The nation seemed to come together.

I’m sure there were murmurs of conspiracy and the legitimacy of our president’s motives even then, but I don’t remember them as loudly as I do today.

Some people believe we are still in Iraq today because the Bush Administration has instilled in the American people a fear that if we pull out of the Middle East we risk another attack like Sept. 11, 2001.

I believe much like myself, many Americans still feel the same amount of patriotism and still support our operations in Iraq.

After talking to my recruiter I realized that even six years after Sept. 11, the tragic events that took place that day are still affecting people’s decision to join the military.

I am confident that Americans will not forget, and will continue to serve this beautiful nation.

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