The year 2021 marks 20 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States of America that shook the world. These attacks, which targeted the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a third unknown location, resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and affected nearly every member of the world family. As we remember 9/11 two decades later—including the lives lost, the sacrifices made, the selflessness shown, and the heroism that unified the world in a time of unbelievable tragedy—we stop to say thank you.
Thank you to the brave first responders, many of whom gave their lives to save victims of the attacks. Thank you to the families, friends, and loved ones who helped those who needed it most. Thank you to those whose hearts were drawn so close in empathy to everyone who was suffering and in need. We remember you.
To help share goodness in spite of tragedy, we have compiled some ideas to help us and others remember 9/11. Sharing the stories that give us hope can bring joy and comfort.
Remembering Those We Lost on 9/11
Although the exact number of lives lost in the September 11 attacks is not conclusively known, the official number is 2,977. Additionally, over 6,000 victims were injured. More than 78 countries lost citizens to the attacks, and memorials have been constructed worldwide in honor of the fallen.
Remembering tragedy can be painful; in some ways, it can make the loss feel as raw as the first day you felt it. However, there can be healing and strength found in reflection. Celebrating the lives of loved ones, recalling fond memories with them, and recording your experiences with them ensures that their legacy is never forgotten.
Remembering the Heroes of 9/11
Hundreds of people, first responders and ordinary citizens alike, put others before themselves to rescue those who were injured and trapped after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Each of these selfless individuals gave of themselves with no regard for their own safety; some reentered the structurally unsound World Trade Center towers over and over again in their attempts to rescue as many people as possible.
One man, Rick Rescorla, is credited with saving thousands of lives by organizing the evacuation of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Thanks to his actions, over 2,700 people were able to escape.
Members of Flight 93 gave their lives when they fought to regain control of their plane. Though the target of the intended attack is unknown, there is no doubt that the bravery and sacrifice of those on Flight 93 saved numerous innocent lives.
Remembering How the World Came Together
Shock, horror, and sorrow resounded as the world struggled to grasp why and how the tragedy of 9/11 took place—however, so did love. As the United States grieved, other nations wept with them in touching demonstrations of support and solidarity.
In France, locals opened their homes to passengers who were stranded when the United States airspace closed after the attacks. Several other countries offered their airspaces and airports to house diverted planes.
Cities and towns across Canada took in passengers from grounded planes until the United States airspace reopened. One of these towns, Gander, Newfoundland, saw its population nearly double with the influx of planes. The community donated food, clothing, and shelter to the “plane people” until they were able to return home.
At Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II broke protocol—something that had never happened before —and had the United States’ national anthem play at the changing of the guard ceremony. In Germany, 200,000 citizens held a memorial service to show their love and sympathy.
The Maasai tribe in Kenya didn’t hear what had happened until months later. However, they still gave what they could to the United States: 14 cows, considered to be incredibly valued and sacred, as a gift to “wipe the tears of the American people.”
Ways to Remember 9/11
There is no one right way to commemorate or remember 9/11. Perhaps take a moment of quiet reflection. If you haven’t already, write in your journal your memories of the day. If you were born after 9/11 or are too young to have memories of it, ask an older relative, friend, or neighbor what they remember and how they felt about what they were experiencing at the time.
If you want to do more, perhaps do what those who first witnessed the tragedy did: find ways to serve others. Look for volunteer opportunities in your community or start your own project. Reaching out in service to others within your spheres of influence helps build bonds and extend kindness. Both can provide much-needed healing for the giver and the receiver.
We hope you find inspiration as you discover your own family story and help share your story with future generations.
With our deepest love and kindness,
The FamilySearch family