Twenty years ago today, American Airlines Flight 11, with 87 people onboard, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Centre in New York. Little over 17 minutes later, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, with 65 people onboard crashed into the South Tower.
Within the next couple of hours, the Pentagon was also attacked, a fourth plane, United 93, crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought back against their hijackers and by the end of the day, almost 3,000 people had lost their lives.
The history of 9/11 is familiar to all of us. Many of us either watched it live on TV or have grown up in a world where it has been the subject of films, documentaries and millions of news and opinion articles. But since that day in 2001, all of us have lived with the consequences of the actions of 19 men and those who inspired them to perform the greatest act of terrorism the world has ever seen.
Now, 20 years on, people look not to remember those who committed the attacks, but those who died, the husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers who went to work or boarded a plane and never came home.
We also remember the men and women of the emergency services who responded to the attacks in New York. Paramedics, Police Officers, Fire Fighters, some of whom died when the towers collapsed and others who are still dying today because of illnesses caused by the toxic dust which swept Manhattan. These people, who were promised support for medical bills only got them finally secured in 2019 after an impassioned plea from American TV presenter Jon Stewart who, in a speech you can see below, shamed Congress for its failure to act accordingly and to unite around those who ran into the towers when others ran for their lives.
September 11 2001 will, rightly, go down in history as one of the very days we can point into a calendar and say that changed the world. But 20 years later, we have a generation who have grown up with it being taught as history, there is a generation who fought, and ultimately lost, the Afghan War because of it and in the coming decades there will be a generation where no one will be able to say they watched it happen live. That is why, 20 years since that sunny East Coast skyline was spoiled by black smoke, we should remember the courage of the first responders, the strength of the families of victims who died in the towers, in the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, and also the people of New York who stood defiantly in the face of terror.