DemDaily: 20 Years Later: Past and Prologue

September 10, 2021

It has been 20 years since a group of al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes and, in a coordinated plan, carried out the worst terrorist attack in United States history.

The Twin Towers fall 9/11 (AFP)

The Attack
At 8:46am on September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight #11 was forced to crash into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City's lower Manhattan.

17 minutes later, at 9:03am, United Airlines Flight #175 crashed into the South Tower, resulting in the collapse of both 110-story buildings within an hour and forty-two minute period.

24 minutes later, at 9:37am, a third plane, American Airlines Flight #77, crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, leading to a partial collapse of the building's west side.

The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight #93, believed to have been headed for the US Capitol, crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03am, after its passengers bravely sacrificed their lives to thwart the hijackers.

Nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered that day and more than 6,000 injured. The Trade Center attack remains the single deadliest incident in US history for firefighters and law enforcement officers with, respectively344 and 71 of their ranks killed in the buildings or on the ground. 55 military personnel died at the Pentagon.

Flight #727 crashed into the Pentagon

While a new generation of Americans learns about the devastating assault on our country every September 11th, those of us living during the attack will forever remember where we were at the time and the reality that pierced our way of life and the seemingly safe bubble of our homeland.

The Victims
For the families of responders and victims who subsequently died from toxic exposure, and the thousands of those who continue to suffer long-term health effects, the assault is still very real.

Medical examiners still work daily to match the remains of the 2,753 ground zero victims, 40% of which have still not been identified.

Every 2.7 days a victim of a 9/11-related illness dies.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the 9/11 attack, was captured and killed under the direction of President Barack Obama May 2, 2011 (AFP)

Following the 2001 attack, the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) was created to provide compensation for any individual (or a personal representative of a deceased individual) who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the September 11th attacks.

The original VCF operated from 2001-2004 but was reactivated under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act), which President Barack Obama signed into law on January 2, 2011.

The Zadroga Act also created The World Trade Center Health Program, which provides treatment services and medical benefits to first responders, volunteers, and survivors. The Act was reauthorized in 2015 to extend medical benefits to affected individuals through 2090.

More than 112,000 people, a fraction of the estimated 410,000 responders and survivors eligible, are enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program from every state in the country. Researchers have identified more than 60 types of cancer and two dozen other conditions linked to Ground Zero exposures. As of today, at least 4,627 individuals enrolled in the WTC Health Program have died.

Comedian Jon Stewart has been a fierce VCF advocate. His moving 2019 testimony (click)

On July 29, 2019, the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act was signed into law authorizing funding of the VCF through the year 2092.

The Threat Within
The 20th anniversary of 9/11 comes as our nation is still reeling from its homegrown domestic terrorist attack January 6, 2021 on the US Capitol.

An August 12-16, 2021 Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey found that 65% of Americans are extremely concerned or very concerned about extremist groups based inside the US, compared to 50% of Americans who said the same of extremist groups based outside of the United States.

Each September 11th is a painful reminder of those we lost, but also of the way Americans came together and triumphed in spirit over those who attempted to divide us. It is a lesson in history, we hope, that continues to teach.

"I have spoken to many World Trade Center responders and am struck by one enduring theme: despite the medical and other consequences of the exposure, they say they would respond again in a heartbeat." - Moshe Shapiro, Mount Sinai 9/11 Research Scientist

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Sources: WTC Health Program, VCF, Mount Sinai, Scientific America, US Congress

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