DemDaily: 9/11: Remembrance and Retrospect

September 11, 2023

It has been 22 years since a group of al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes and, in a coordinated plan, carried out the deadliest act of terrorism in human history.

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 people were murdered that day and more than 6,000 injured. The Trade Center attack remains the single most fatal incident in US history for firefighters and law enforcement officers with, respectively, 343 and 71 of their ranks killed in the buildings or on the ground. 55 military personnel died at the Pentagon.

While a new generation of Americans learn 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 2,996 ground zero victims, 40% of which have still not been identified.

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 was killed, suffered physical harm or who have since been diagnosed with a related illness as a result of the September 11th attacks.

The VCF, which is administered under the Department of Justice, is available to first responders, recovery and cleanup workers and volunteers, as well as people who lived, worked, or went to school in the exposure zone. It is funded through the year 2092.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act), signed into law in 2011 by President Barack Obama, created The World Trade Center Health Program, which provides treatment services and medical benefits to first responders, volunteers, and survivors. The Act, reauthorized in 2015, extends medical benefits to affected individuals through 2090.

As of June 30, 2023, 125,494 people were enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Program, 6314 of whom have died. Researchers have identified more than 60 types of cancer and two dozen other conditions linked to Ground Zero exposures. A victim of a 9/11-related illness dies every 2 to 3 days.

The Threat Within
The 22nd anniversary of 9/11 comes as our nation is suffering the repercussions of its own homegrown terrorism.

Since the Spring of 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has almost tripled its domestic terrorism caseload.

Three and half months after the January 6, 2021 violent attack on the US Capitol by far-right extremists, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas testified that "Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat to our country today."

An August, 2022 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey found that, 21 years after 9/11, 82% of Americans were more concerned about internal threats versus external (17%), including violent extremist groups.

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.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: CDC, 9/11 Memorial, AP, White House, WTC Health Program, 9/11 VCF, Mount Sinai, Scientific America, US Congress

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