It has been 18 long years since Flights 11 and 175 struck the North and South towers of the World Trade Center, and Flight 77 struck the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
Much of the country has changed since, particularly in terms of National Security, which remains a constant area of focus and a driver of political agendas. In remembrance of the infamous date, La Vida Latina took time to speak with people who can vividly recall the events that took place that Tuesday morning.
United by fear
Dhruv Singh, 37, had just begun his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan. As the child of Indian immigrants, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and their aftermath continue to affect his life.
“I was living in Michigan at the time, in Ann Arbor,” Singh said. “Ann Arbor is a college town, so it is more liberal than the rest of southern Michigan, but I did feel the effects of 9/11 for sure. Especially when I would go out with friends who also looked like me. It’s funny, but when I was alone, people would mostly leave me alone, but when there was a group of us - and we were from all over, India, Pakistan, Iraq - we would hear all kinds of racial epithets.”
Though confrontations did occur - and “sadly still do” - Singh said that he has learned to manage his temper and “be the bigger man” in the face of unbridled racism.
“It never turned to violence for me,” he said. “For one, I’m not a violent person, but for another, it only would have made things so much worse. Can you imagine a group of four or five brown people defending themselves against white men in a public setting in the aftermath of 9/11? Within seconds we would have been thrown under an angry mob.”
“It’s sad to think that the last time this country was truly united, was in its fear of people that looked like me.”
Terror strikes anywhere
Mackay Stephens, 38, was in the midst of her undergraduate studies at Colorado State University on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
“I remember I woke up early that morning to go run. When I got back to my place, I walked in and my roommate was drinking coffee and staring at the TV stunned,” said Stephens of Flight 11, which struck the North Tower at 6:46 am MST. “All I saw was the smoking tower and I asked what was going on. She turned and said, ‘I think we’re under attack.’ It was really unbelievable. Just a few minutes after she said that, the second plane hit. I can still remember that so vividly. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that much dread before.”
Amos Villalobos, 44, had just arrived at his office in Arlington, Texas when Flight 11 struck. He was not aware of the tragedy at hand.
“I didn’t see the first plane strike, but as I was getting coffee a colleague of mine flipped on the TV - in our office we basically had the options of CNN, FOX(News) or ESPN and it just happened to be on CNN when he turned it on. I just remember the newscasters fumbling over what was happening. At first it seemed like a tragic accident, until the other tower was struck…then you knew it was so much worse.”
When asked what sticks out in his mind regarding the attacks, Ames, who was 25 at the time, said it was the realization that national security could no longer be taken for granted.
“When the towers fell, that was just…to see it live like that and know that there were still hundreds of people trapped inside and hundreds more trying to rescue them, it was just too much,” he said. “I really couldn’t believe it. It was that moment when you kind of realize, ‘terror can strike anywhere, even here.’ Up until that day, I thought we were invincible.”