Roy Exum: More Memories of 9/11

Monday, September 9, 2019
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

As we near the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks on the United States, it dawns on me that the students now in our elementary and secondary schools were not born when the greatest tragedy in the lives of almost 300 million Americans took place. A group of 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four airplanes that belonged to United and American Air Lines and on a tranquil Tuesday morning in 2001, turned the four into mass weapons of destruction. It was the only time the United States had ever been attacked on its own soil. 

On Sunday I shared the story of an American woman who flew a kamikaze-like mission, ready to give her life on the most fateful day for other Americans.

Today I want to explain the terrorist mission itself, and I have a couple of other readings I keep in my files before we bow our heads this Wednesday and give thanks to God Almighty.

In a complex series of events, intricate planning by the most evil of minds, and a stark reminder of why you should kill any poisonous snake before it becomes grown, 18 years ago on September 11, a cell of Satan’s henchmen had penetrated the United States and wrecked a terroristic havoc never before known in the entire history of the world. It is believed that 19 al-Qaeda highly-trained agents – not one of which you will ever meet in heaven – infiltrated our shores and in just one day, killed 3,000 of us, wounded another 6,000, and – having no idea of our patriots’ pride or legendary resiliency -- breathed a renewal of deep and compassionate love between the American people.

The plan, and what an admittedly masterful dandy it was, called four of our largest passenger planes to be overcome by evil and hijacked in the wanton murder of thousands of completely innocent people. Two of the huge planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan of New York City. The complex featured twin towers that were 110 stories tall (1,368 feet) and on a normal workday both had offices where an estimated 50,000 people worked. 

Here is how it happened:

* -- American Airlines (AA)  Flight 11 left Boston at 7:59 a.m. that morning en route to Los Angeles. There were 11 crew and 76 passengers, not including five of the terrorists. The plane was quickly hijacked, steered to New York, and slammed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m.

* -- United Flight 175 left Boston for Los Angeles at 8:14 a.m. There were a crew of nine, and 51 passengers aboard, not including five more hijackers. Both planes, Boeing 767s, were heavy with fuel for the transcontinental flights. The United plane was also quickly diverted by its terrorists, and crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., the plan hoping the two Twin Towers to be as close to one another for greater devastation.

* -- The third plane, a Boeing 757, departed Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport at 8:20 a.m. AA Flight 77 carried a crew of six and 53 passengers, as well as 5 more terrorists. The hijacking took apparently took longer, but at 9:37 a.m. the jetliner was crashed into the western side of the Pentagon in Washington (Arlington County, Va.). 

* -- The fourth plane, United Flight 93, flew out of Newark (NJ) at 8:42 a.m. but it is believed word of the attack was now sat the top of urgent news broadcasts. After learning through phone calls that Flights 11, 77, and 175 had been crashed into buildings that morning, the passengers on the plane were alerted by cell phones. Four guys quickly huddled and let it be known they were going to take back the plane. There had already been some deaths aboard in the hijacking, believed to include pilots, flight attendants and probably a passenger. 

Flight 93's target was believed to have been the Capitol, this strengthened by the confession of one organizer for the terrorist some years later. Flight 93's cockpit voice recorder revealed crew and passengers tried to seize control of the plane from the hijackers after learning through phone calls that Flights 11, 77, and 175 had been crashed into buildings that morning. Todd Beamer, a passenger aboard, tried to call his wife on the AirPhone but it was routed to GTE phone operator Lisa D. Jefferson. 

Beamer told Jefferson that the group was planning to "jump on" the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground before the hijackers' plan could be followed through. Beamer recited the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm with Jefferson, prompting others to join in. Beamer requested of Jefferson, "If I don't make it, please call my family and let them know how much I love them." After this, Jefferson heard muffled voices and Beamer answering, "Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll." 

“Let’s roll!” became immortalized during the entire United States’ response. When the hijackers acknowledged they had little chance against the enraged passengers, this  about 65 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, it is believed the hijackers then scuttled Flight 93. The airplane plummeted into a nosedive with the yoke turned hard to the right. The airplane rolled upside down, and one of the hijackers began shouting the takbir. Among the continued sounds of the passenger counterattack, the aircraft picked up speed, whooshing and shrieking were picked up on the recorder, and the hijackers inside the cockpit are heard yelling "No!" over the sound of breaking glass. The final spoken words on the recorder were a calm voice in English instructing, "Pull it up." The plane then crashed into an empty field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania, about 20 minutes' flying time from Washington, D.C.

Within an hour and 42 minutes after the initial attack, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris and the resulting fires caused a partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures. Property damage was declared at $10 billion and now, 18 years later, is still unfinished.

* * *


By Peter Ferrara, Professor of Law at George Mason University, writing in “The National Review,” September 2001.

NOTE: Around the time of 9/11, someone in Pakistan had published (in a newspaper) an offer of a reward to anyone who "killed an American"... any American. So, to let everyone know what an American is (so they'd know one when they found one), Peter Ferrara wrote this classic editorial message, which is absolutely true, according to the website, It has been printed many times since then (including in since it first appeared in National Review magazine shortly after the Attack on America in September, 2001. When it first appeared, Dr. Ferrara is an associate law professor at the George Mason University School of Law.


An American is English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American may also be Canadian, Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, or Arab, or Pakistani or Afghan. "

An American may also be a Comanche, Cherokee, Osage, Blackfoot, Navaho, Apache, Seminole or one of the many other tribes known as Native Americans.

An American is Christian, or he could be Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, there are more Muslims in America than in Afghanistan. The only difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses.

An American is also free to believe in no religion. For that he will answer only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.

An American lives in the most prosperous land in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes the God given right of each person to the pursuit of happiness.

An American is generous. Americans have helped out just about every other nation in the world in their time of need, never asking a thing in return.

When Afghanistan was over-run by the Soviet Army 20 years ago, Americans came with arms and supplies to enable their people to win back their country!

As of the morning of September 11, Americans had given more than any other nation to the poor in Afghanistan. Americans welcome the best of everything... the best products, the best books, the best music, the best food, the best services. But they also welcome the least.

The national symbol of America, “The Statue of Liberty,” welcomes your tired and your poor, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores, the homeless, tempest tossed. These in fact are the people who built America.

Some of them were working in the Twin Towers the morning of September 11, 2001, earning a better life for their families. It's been told that the World Trade Center victims were from at least 30 different countries, cultures, and first languages, including those that aided and abetted the terrorists.

So, you can try to kill an American if you must. Hitler did. So did General Tojo, and Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung, and other blood-thirsty tyrants in the world. But, in doing so you would just be killing yourself. Because Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.

Look around you. You may find more Americans in your land than you thought were there. One day they will rise up and overthrow the old, ignorant, tired tyrants that trouble too many lands. Then those lands, too, will join the community of free and prosperous nations. And America will welcome them!

God bless our wonderful nation … and pass this around the World!

* * * 


[NOTE: With the stench of stale smoke and fallen ash still in the air, an email from a U.S. Navy sailor at sea off the coast of England became one of the classic writings in September of 2001. The email was written to the sailor’s father but upon request to the source, neither the author nor his father was identified:]

We are somewhere out to sea, still with little direction as to what our next priority is.  We have spent every day since the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and trying to make the best of our time. Being isolated as we are, I don't think we appreciate the full scope of what is happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects. About two hours ago we got a call from the LUTJENS (D185), a German warship that was moored ahead of us on the pier in England. While in port, the CHURCHILL and the LUTJENS got together for a sports day/cookout on our fantail, and we made some pretty good friends.  

Now at sea. (the Lutjens command) called over requesting to ‘Pass Close Up’ say good-bye. The Captain told the crew to come topside to wish them farewell. As they were making their approach, our Conning Officer announced through her binoculars that they were flying an American flag. As they came even closer, we saw that it was flying at half-mast. They had made a sign to display on the side that read, "We Stand By You".  

The entire crew of the German ship were manning the rails, saluting, in their dress blues. More than a few of us fought to retain our composure as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and we cut our salutes. It was probably the most powerful thing I have seen in my entire life. 

The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew. It's amazing to think that only a half-century ago things were quite different. And to see the unity being demonstrated throughout the world makes us all proud to be out here doing our job. After the ship pulled away the Officer of the Deck turned to me and said, “I'm staying Navy." I’ll write more as I know when I’ll be home. I love you guys …

* * *

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough.” – Frank Crane.

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