These Vital Facts About The Sept. 11 Attacks Should Never Be Forgotten

Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Monday marks the 16th anniversary of 9/11, reminding Americans as well as many around the world of the tragic loss of life that took place on this day. As the United States endures the anniversary of this day, many are reflecting back on 9/11 and remembering facts and stories that they may have forgotten in the years since.

On September 11, 2001, 2,996 people died — this number includes the 2,977 victims and the 19 men who committed the attacks — and over 6,000 people were injured in several coordinated terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The victims perished as hijacked commercial flights were intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center Buildings in New York City and the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C. Others died aboard United Flight 93, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers attempted to overtake the aircraft from the hijackers. More perished as the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, killing those in and near the buildings as well as first responders.

While almost everyone knows the story of 9/11, as years go by and younger generations grow further removed from the tragedy, it is important to remind others of what exactly happened that day and in its aftermath. Commemorating the anniversary of 9/11 serves as a means of both honoring the victims and heroes of the day and of attempting to ensure that something like this tragic act of terrorism never happens again.

The Myriad Ways 9/11 Changed The U.S. Forever

In addition to the profound and tragic loss of life resulting from the 9/11 attacks, the day forever changed American society and security. For example, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the U.S. declared a "war on terrorism" that resulted in the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan. The War on Terror also still profoundly impacts many aspects of U.S policy decisions.

Moreover, the public's experience of flying in American aircrafts and/or to and from the U.S. were also forever changed post-9/11. Airport security screening became vastly enhanced: all airport gates were closed to non-ticketed passengers, and cockpit doors were locked and outfitted with increased security features in the wake of the tragedy.

9/11 Was Deadly For First Responders

In addition to those who lost their lives aboard aircraft and in the buildings targeted by the hijacked planes, many first responders also tragically died trying to rescue and assist individuals in the Twin Towers and to put out fires after the planes struck the buildings. The day was incredibly deadly for these brave first responders, with 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers perishing as a result of the attacks.

September 11 Was Unprecedented

The September 11 terrorist attacks were the worst-ever on U.S. soil as a result of the profound loss of life resulting from the hijacked airline crashes and building destruction. Followed by the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, it also marks one of the deadliest foreign attacks on the mainland United States (notably, though, Pearl Harbor was an attack by another country, while 9/11 constituted an attack by a "stateless" terror group).

There Were Many, Many Heroes That Day

There were many selfless acts of heroism on 9/11 and in the days that followed. The passengers on United Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, bravely attempted to re-take their hijacked plane and likely prevented the plane from hitting its intended target — reportedly the U.S. Capitol or the White House. Moreover, several flight attendants, including Amy Sweeney and Betty Ong, reportedly had the wherewithal to provide crucial information to help the FBI identify the terrorists as al-Qaeda, even as their plane was being hijacked.

Moreover, countless first responders as well as members of the public risked their lives to help others following the attacks. For example, according to Business Insider, one man who ultimately perished on that day, Rick Rescorla, was credited with saving 2,700 lives.

A former war hero, Rescorla was working as the head of corporate security for Morgan Stanley when the planes hit. Witnesses report that Rescorla led thousands to safety through one of the WTC stairwells, reportedly singing "God Bless America" to calm people as they evacuated. Rescorla was reportedly last seen headed back up the stairs in the South Tower to find anyone who had not yet evacuated and, tragically, is assumed to have perished when the tower collapsed. Sadly, his body was never located.

Many Faced (And Are Continuing To Face) Ill Health For Years

As a result of exposure to toxic dust and other carcinogens following the collapse of the Twin Towers, many 9/11 survivors, especially first responders, have faced extensive health issues in the wake of the tragedy.

As The Guardian reported last year, over 1,000 people have died thus far as a result of exposure to toxic debris in Manhattan after 9/11 — and 37,000 more are officially recognized as sick. Moreover, the publication noted that within four years, those who die from debris exposure could exceed the number of people killed on the day of the attacks.

Thousands Of Children Lost A Parent

Many, many families lost loved ones on 9/11, something incredibly hard for anyone to endure, including children who lost their parents. As The Independent reported, over 3,000 children under the age of 18 lost their parents in 9/11. The average age of these children at the time of the attacks was 9 years old, though some children were not even born when their fathers died in the attack — over 100 pregnant women lost their unborn child's father in the attacks.

There Are Three 9/11 Memorials

There are three memorials to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11:

  • the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, which is located at Ground Zero of the World Trade Center site
  • the Flight 93 National Memorial, located two miles north of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United 93 crashed
  • the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Virginia

The anniversary of September 11 certainly reminds Americans and many around the world of the tragedies experienced on that day — and how the events of that day continue to affect the lives of many. It is perpetually important to honor the memories of those who were lost and to support surviving friends, family members, and fellow Americans.