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9/11 Attacks Take Place, 2001

On This Day in Jewish History: September 11th, 2001

Today marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,977 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The victims operated every walk of life and represented 77 countries. These 4 intentional plane crashes took place on September 11, 2001 and forever changed the world as we know it.

Aboard Flight 11, the first to go down, was passenger Daniel Lewin, an Israeli-American mathematician, tech entrepreneur, and former Israeli Special Forces soldier.

Since he spoke Arabic and was sitting close to the hijackers, he attempted to reportedly fight back when the hijacking started the attack. Then, according to witnesses, he was stabbed to death by Satam al Suqami, one of the terrorists. This made him the first 9/11 fatality as reported by a distressed airline employee communicating with American Airlines on the ground using an in-flight phone at the time.

May his memory be a blessing and soul never forgotten.

In assessing the casualties of the September 11th attacks, the ages for those that died spanned the course of a lifetime and ranged from 2 in a half to 85 years old with an average age of 40. The attacks claimed the lives of 343 firefighters, 71 members of law enforcement and 8 paramedics. Some 2,606 civilians died in both towers that morning. They haven’t recovered the remains of all that died but have identified all their names, including the ones whose remains are missing. The number of people who have died from health complications due to 9/11 has surpassed the September 11th death toll. Following the attacks, New Yorker editor, David Remnick, made the executive decision that the next issue would carry no cartoons.

People were still allowed to submit, but all were told that, for this special issue which featured a cover by Art Spiegelman that he was forced to create quickly, no cartoons would be published. September 11th, 2001 shattered the invincibility of our world. It shook humanity to the core and united the country around a common enemy.

While we continue to discuss the best response, no one sensible disagrees about the people responsible or what they were after. They were after our freedom, lives, opportunities and sought to eliminate differences in our diverse world. We don’t need to look any further than the victims and the countries they came from to know that 9/11 taught New Yorkers and Americans everywhere that even the "safest country in the world" isn’t exempt from harm. I seldom enjoy discussing myself when writing about history. But as a lifelong New Yorker who was escorted out of his 1st grade class at P.S.41 on that fateful day underneath a spotless clear blue sky, September 11th serves as a strong and personal exception to the rule.

For me, the events of September 11th are etched into my memory and remain at the forefront of my mind on a daily basis. In my eyes, it has and continues to remain a local tragedy. But what I observed on that day was a city that came together and built itself up from the smoke and ashes that engulfed Lower Manhattan to the structure that stands today at 1,776 feet tall: One World Trade Center.

In 2011, the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z"l offered his thoughts in commemoration of the attacks’ 10th anniversary. In his remarks, he accessed the state of the West and its misplaced priorities:

"Whenever Me takes precedence over We, and pleasure today over viability tomorrow, a society is in trouble. If so, then the enemy is not radical Islam, it is us and our by now unsustainable self-indulgence. The West has expended much energy and courage fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq abroad and defeating terror at home. It has spent far less, if any, in renewing its own morality and the institutions — families, communities, ethical codes, standards in public life — where it is created and sustained. But if I am right, this is the West’s greatest weakness in the eyes of its enemies as well as its friends. The only way to save the world is to begin with ourselves. Our burden after 9/11 is to renew the moral disciplines of freedom. Some say it can’t be done. They are wrong: it can and must. Surely we owe the dead no less."

Aside from the 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan, the 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem, Israel is the only memorial for 9/11 that lists all of the victim’s names. The Jewish People, particularly our brothers and sisters in Israel are no strangers to terror. Wherever a Jew has found peace in every generation, well before Israel's re-establishment, and to this day, there have been forces of "sudden terror".

Yet, we have always shifted to putting our faith in a Higher Power, our families, communities, ethics, mutual understanding, and love. אַל תִּירָא מִפַּחַד פִּתְאם וּמִשּׁאַת רְשָׁעִים כִּי תָבא עֻצוּ עֵצָה וְתֻפָר. דַּבְּרוּ דָבָר וְלא יָקוּם. כִּי עִמָּנוּ אֵל: וְעַד זִקְנָה אֲנִי הוּא. וְעַד שיבָה אֲנִי אֶסְבּל. אֲנִי עָשיתִי וַאֲנִי אֶשּא וַאֲנִי אֶסְבּל וַאֲמַלֵּט:

"Be not afraid of sudden terror, neither of the destructi​on of the wicked, when it comes.

Take counsel together,​ and it shall be brought to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand; for God is with us.

Even to old age I am the same, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; I will carry, and will deliver." For the sake of each other, for the sake of humanity.

May the memories of those slain today forever be a blessing and their souls never forgotten. (Proverbs​ 3:25, Isaiah 8:10, Isaiah) 46:4

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