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18 years ago today, our nation and our way of life was savagely attacked by radical Islamic terrorists affiliated with a group known as Al Qaeda, masterminded and financed by Osama Bin Laden. The lives 2,977 of people were taken in an evil and horrifying act of terror.

The first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, struck the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. on a normally quiet Tuesday morning, when most people were just beginning their workday. The first responders were called to the scene as a blazing inferno trapped thousands of people at the top of the north tower.

The morning shows and news networks broadcasted the pictures of the burning tower to the whole world, right when a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the second tower at 9:03 a.m.

President George W. Bush was visiting Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, promoting his No Child Left Behind education proposal. He was observing a reading session with a group of schoolchildren when Chief of Staff Andrew Card walked in and whispered into his ear, “a second plane has hit a second tower, American is under attack.”

At 9:37 a.m., a third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed at 9:59 a.m. Passengers on United Flight 93, which had been hijacked, were on their phones talking with loved ones, learning about the events taking place on the ground, and decided to take action.

The passengers rushed the cockpit. Cockpit recorders were inconclusive on whether the passengers were successful in taking back control of the plane. In any event, they prevented the hijackers from reaching their target, which was most likely the White House or the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

United Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93, spoke the words that became the rallying cry for the nation in the days and months after. “Let’s roll.” The north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed at 10:28 a.m.

Americans went to bed on Monday evening and woke Tuesday morning to a changed world. The same way that today you might be thinking,” thank God that Donald Trump is President,” on September 11, 2001, most Americans were thinking and saying, “thank God that George W. Bush is President, and not Al Gore.”

The nation rallied and united like never before. Politicians from both sides of the aisle stood on the steps of the Capitol to sing “God bless America.” President Bush sported an approval rating of 90%, as Americans rallied and united around their President.

America came under attack on that Tuesday morning in 2001, in the worst attack on American soil in our history, exceeding even the previous surprise attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A group of radical Muslim terrorists espousing an ideology of world conquest and subjugation attacked us. We must be ever vigilant and watchful. We must never forget.

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