It’s been 17 years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. Enough time for a child to be born and now be entering their senior year in high school. While that’s enough time for memories to fade, the images of that day remain vivid for most people and they can tell you where they were when they learned of the attacks.
The numbers from that day are still staggering. Four planes crashed, two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth near Shanksville, Pa., when passengers tried to retake the aircraft.
There were 2,996 people killed, including the 19 hijackers, and more than 6,000 injured. The four planes involved claimed 265 people including the terrorists. At the World Trade Center and surrounding area there were 2,606 deaths and 125 died at the Pentagon. Most the victims were civilians, but 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers were killed at the trade center; another law enforcement officer died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field near Shanksville. There were 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon.
The deaths didn’t end that day. Medical authorities estimate that 1,140 people who worked, lived or studied in Lower Manhattan when the attacks occurred have been diagnosed with cancer because of exposure to toxins at Ground Zero. Reportedly, more than 1,400 9/11 rescue workers who came to the scene after the attacks have since died.
Two native North Dakotans perished at the World Trade Center. Ann Nicole Nelson, a Stanley native, was working for the Cantor Fitzgerald investment firm on the 104th floor of the north tower when the planes crashed. James Halvorson, a 1963 graduate of Devils Lake High School, also died at the twin towers.
Life changed in the U.S. on Sept. 11 and it hasn’t been the same since. We went to war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. We are still fighting in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism looms worldwide.
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When the first National Guard members were called to service, North Dakotans gave them a big sendoff. Guard members took a bus convoy to the Bismarck airport as people lined the streets to wish them well. It was common practice in the early years of the conflict to have farewell and welcome home events. They are still held, but don’t attract as much attention as in the past.
North Dakota lost its first National Guard member in Iraq in 2003. Jon Fettig, 30, Dickinson, was the first state Guard member lost in battle since the Korean War. He was killed when attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at the truck he was driving. In all, North Dakota has lost 26 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan since military operations began.
According to icasualties.org, 4,543 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since 2003 and 2,416 killed in Afghanistan since 2001. The U.S. has continued to pay a price since the 2001 attacks.
On Tuesday, Americans will mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and North Dakotans will take time to remember.
The 2018 North Dakota 9/11 Memorial Climb will be held at the Capitol to honor New York firefighters who died at the World Trade Center. Participants will climb the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center at the Capitol.
For those who can’t participate in any event on Tuesday they should consider taking a moment of silence to reflect on our losses in 2001 and the continued sacrifices by Americans and others since then. That day changed how we live. While we may not feel as safe as we did then, it created a national resolve to move forward stronger than ever before.