The events of September 11, 2001, in the United States are simply called 9/11.
On that bright, clear morning 17 years ago, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four large passenger airplanes to use as missiles of war. All four planes were flying across the country to California with a full tank of fuel.
None of them made it.
Flight 11 was the first to take off. It did so in Boston, Massachusetts, at 7:59 in the morning.
Forty-seven minutes later, it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
Flight 175 also took off from Boston and crashed into the South Tower minutes after Flight 11.
In Washington D.C., Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon after takeoff.
Twenty-six minutes later, Flight 93 crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania.
By 10:03 that morning, the Al-Qaeda planes operation had caused severe destruction. All airline traffic had stopped in the United States. By the end of the day, 2,996 people lost their lives.
The crash sites are memorialized in New York and Washington, D.C. The Flight 93 Memorial in the rural hills near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, is a national park. It was used to mine surface coal until 1995.
The Flight 93 Memorial Visitor Center tells the story of the events on Flight 93.
The plane took off with 37 passengers -- including the four hijackers -- as well as seven crew members. As it flew west toward Cleveland, Ohio, the hijackers broke into the cockpit and injured the pilot and first officer.
An air traffic controller in Cleveland heard the shouts.
The hijackers had gained control of the plane. They tried to announce to the passengers that there was a bomb on the plane and that they were returning to the airport. But they mistakenly made that announcement to the air traffic control center instead.
The plane then turned around in the skies over Cleveland. Investigators later found evidence that the plane was going toward Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The passengers and crew members were forced to the back of the plane by the hijackers.
With in-flight and mobile phones, passengers began calling officials and family members. In all, 37 calls were made. Through those calls, the passengers and crew learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They understood that their plane was also on a suicide mission.
Crew member CeeCee Lyles called her husband with a message.
Hi, baby. I’m, baby, you have to listen to me carefully. I’m on a plane that’s been hijacked. I just want to tell you I love you. Please tell my children that I love them very much. There’s three guys, they’ve hijacked the plane. I’m trying to be calm, we’re turned around and I heard that there’s planes that’s been flown into the World Trade Center. I hope to be able to see your face again, baby. I love you, bye.
In the back of the plane, the passengers and crew members discussed the situation. They took a vote and decided to act.
They decided to fight back.
They ran into the cockpit to stop the hijackers. The plane went off its path over rural Pennsylvania. It rocked back and forth and rolled over.
Moments later, at 906 kilometers an hour, it crashed into an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The force of the crash created a huge crater about 4 and a half meters deep and nine meters across.
If the plane had kept its speed and flight path, it would have arrived in Washington, D.C. in less than 20 minutes.
Next to the Visitor Center, the memorial has a walking path. The path is built to look like Flight 93’s own unplanned flight path. The path lets visitors look down into the crash site.
It is a quiet and reflective place. Here, visitors learn that about 1,000 people from more than 70 agencies worked day and night to collect and examine evidence and personal belongings.
After the evidence was gathered, the soil was returned to the land. Grass and wildflowers were planted in what is now sacred ground.
Visitors walk through tree groves on the way to the Memorial Plaza. There are 40 groves of 40 hemlock trees. The number 40 is meaningful. It represents the number of passengers and crew members on Flight 93.
On the far end of the plaza is the Wall of Names. It is a simple white wall that contains 40 pieces of marble. Each marble has the name of a passenger or crew member.
The memorial was finally completed on Sunday with the opening of the Tower of Voices. It is a 28-meter-tall musical instrument of 40 wind chimes. Each chime produces an individual sound. The music it creates is a reminder of the struggle and bravery of the 40 people who brought down Flight 93 in an empty, rural field. Their actions helped save many lives.
I’m Dorothy Gundy.
Dorothy Gundy reported on this story and produced the video for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
bright - adj. filled with light
surface – n. the upper layer of an area of land or water
cockpit – n. the area in an airplane where the pilot sits
rocked – v. to move something back and forth or from side to side
crater – n. a large round hole in the ground made by something falling from the sky
reflective – adj. thinking carefully about something
sacred – adj. highly valued and important: deserving great respect
grove - n. a small group of trees
marble – n. a stone that is often polished and used in buildings and statues
wind chimes – n. a collection of objects made from metal, glass, etc. that hang together from strings and touch each other to make a musical sound when they are blown by the wind