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Kaitlin Pollack

On September 11th, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 took off from Boston’s Logan International Airport. Onboard were 92 passengers, including five  hijackers affiliated with the militant Islamist group al-Qaeda. Less than an hour later, at approximately 8:46 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, killing everyone on the flight along with many others inside the building. Then, at 10:28 a.m. the building collapsed, killing hundreds of more people. 

Along with Flight 11, there were three other hijacked planes as part of this devastating attack: United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93. Firefighters, policemen, EMTs, and paramedics all reported to the scenes of the tragic attacks in hopes of finding survivors. Rescue teams spent the rest of the next couple of days searching for survivors and bodies -- many of which were never found.

It has now been 20 years from that infamous day that we now refer to as 9/11, a day that we all gather together in solidarity and commemorate the 2,606 lives that were taken. When reflecting on this day, it becomes very apparent how much the country has changed since. From the wars that we invested money in, to how people were treated, these attacks had a significant effect on our world today. 

Apart from the attacks being utterly devastating, the aftermath only added to the disaster. People nearby the attacks or in the twin towers that were not killed were likely to suffer from injuries and various lung diseases. Many first responders on the scene of the twin towers were diagnosed with various cancers and diseases caused by the smoke and fumes they inhaled at the scene, according to the CDC. 

First responder Adrienne Walsh recalled the events of September 11 in an interview with the 9/11 Memorial Museum. She was off duty that morning but went to help at the scene of the attack when she witnessed the North Tower collapse. “You could see Manhattan and then not see Manhattan, and all of a sudden I looked up and there was just this explosion of confetti in the air. And I thought that was the strangest sight I had ever seen because, you know, confetti,” Walsh described after seeing the tower set ablaze. A few moments later a huge cloud of dust appeared, and Walsh broke into a run. She describes how she didn’t think she would make it out alive, and when she miraculously emerged from the debris, she was surrounded by dead bodies.

Walsh was interviewed with a series of other survivors, first responders, and family members of those who were killed that day. In these interviews, people recall their own experience along with its physical and psychological effects. While holding back tears, Harry Ong Jr. shared the story of  his sister who was a flight attendant on Flight 11. Ong Jr. spoke about how his father was left heartbroken after the death of his daughter and cried himself to sleep while coping with the trauma.

September 11th, 2001 was a traumatic and horrifying day for all of America. The events of 9/11 affected every American, not just those present at the attacks. It never occurred to many that America could be a target for a terror attack. 

In the aftermath of 9/11, Muslims in America were severely affected. The attacks led to increased Islamophobia in America. Following the 9/11 attacks, many people criticized Islam as a whole for teaching destruction and terrorism, ignoring the fact that the hijackers were extreme fundamentalists. In fact, people were quick to criticize anyone who even looked Muslim, no matter  if they were actually affiliated with the religion. An FBI report from 2002 explains, “The FBI’s annual hate crimes report found that incidents targeting people, institutions and businesses identified with the Islamic faith increased from 28 in 2000 to 481 in 2001 --  a jump of 1,600 percent. Muslims previously had been among the least-targeted religious groups.” Even to this day anti-Muslim hate crimes are still five times more common than before 9/11. People were left distraught after the 9/11 attacks, prompting  them to look for a scapegoat. However, this did not fix anything; instead, when people should have been preaching love and tolerance, they caused more hatred, turning Mulims into a target of hate. 

With the rise of Islamophobia, many Muslims recalled their own experiences and how they were targeted. Zainab Chaudry told the Huffington Post that for two weeks after 9/11 she did not wear her hijab out of fear for her safety. During that period, she even began to question her faith and being associated with the religion. Chaudry later regained confidence as a Muslim, but she realized that in the future she would face many difficult conversations and be held accountable for others’ actions, even if she wasn’t involved. 

Similarly, Tahra Goraya shared her first interaction with Islamophobia. When she stopped her car at an intersection, a couple started cursing at her and told her to “go home.” At the time Goraya was very angry; she couldn’t come to terms with that horrible action. “I wanted to yell back that I was home; this is home,” she explained.

Unfortunately, these are only a few of the many hateful attacks towards Muslims that have occurred since 9/11. For many, the slander is a commonality that they often must endure, causing them to be isolated from others. America -- a place that they were familiar and comfortable with -- changed in a way that was unrecognizable.

The reaction to 9/11 was so strong that former President Bush sent troops to Afghanistan almost immediately after the attacks to “win the war against terrorism,” and troops were there for two decades after the attack. The goal was to help prevent Afghanistan from becoming a center for militant groups like al-Qaeda. While there, the US prioritized fighting against Taliban forces. During the 20 years that troops have been in Afghanistan, a total of around 1.9 - 3 million US citizens have served in Afghanistan. Of those troops, 2,400 have died, over 1.8 million veterans of the war in Afghanistan have some form of a disability, and the US has invested $2 trillion into the war. 

President Biden has ordered the withdrawal of all troops by April 2022. While this decision has been met with much controversy, Biden defended it by saying there would be no good time to withdraw troops, but staying there longer would only result in more American casualties. However, the withdrawal has led to the Taliban regaining power in Afghanistan, spiking even further controversy.  

While this tragic event was 20 years ago, America has yet to forget it. The effects of 9/11 have rippled throughout America for decades. We remember the war that it resulted in, and the casualties we faced as an effect. We honor and commemorate those who risked their lives to try and save those who were victims of the attack, and we remember the 2,606 lives that we lost on that day, along with the thousands of others that were cut short due to war or illness. 

Works Cited: 

Anderson, Curt. “FBI: Hate Crimes Vs. Muslims Rise.” APnews, 25 Nov. 2002, 

Brooklier, Nicolas. “Washington State University.” Law and Justice in Real Time Islamophobia The Stereotyping and Prejudice Towards Muslims Since 911 Comments, 17 Dec. 2015, 

Carter, Joe, and Sharon James. “9 Things You Should Know about the 9/11 Attack Aftermath.” The Gospel Coalition, 10 Sept. 2013, 

Ingraham, Christopher. “Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Are Still Five Times More Common Today than before 9/11.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Apr. 2019, 

Mullen, Matt. “September 11 Attacks.”, A&E Television Networks, 17 Feb. 2010, 

O'Connor, Lydia. “How 9/11 Changed These Muslim Americans' Lives Forever.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 12 Sept. 2016, 

Onion, Amanda. “9/11 Timeline.”, A&E Television Networks, 21 June 2011, 

“U.S. Veterans & Military Families.” The Costs of War, 2021, 

Wise, Alana. “Biden Calls for Unity in His Address Commemorating the Sept. 11 Attacks Anniversary.” NPR, NPR, 10 Sept. 2021, 

Wolf, Zachary  B. “Afghanistan: Why the US Is There, Why It's Leaving, What Will Happen When It's Gone.” CNN, Cable News Network, 15 Apr. 2021,,the%20rise%20of%20ISIS%20there.%20More%20Videos%20. 

Elgueta, Adriana. “Why Did the US Leave Afghanistan?” The US Sun, The US Sun, 17 Aug. 2021, 

Parkinson, Edward. “Honoring First Responders on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.” U.S. Department of Commerce, 10 Sept. 2021, 

“Health Risks Associated with 9/11 and the WTC Disaster ...” WTC Health Program,

The Long Standing Effects of 9/11: Academics
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