18 years ago today started as a regular Thursday morning. People were getting ready for work, personally, I was getting ready to attend my first day of kindergarten. However, shortly after it became one of the darkest days in the history of the United States. Terrorists hijacked four planes and were ready to inflict maximum damage to their targets. One of the planes crashed into the western facade of the Pentagon, another plane crashed in a field when the passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers, the last two flew into the Twin Towers in New York City. From 9/11 341 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers, 37 Port Authority police officers, three court officers, two EMS workers, and thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives.
In America, we are not defined by our tragedies, we always seem to be defined by our resilience, how we rebuild after our disasters. But how did 9/11 change the way we approach resilience in America? The short answer seems to be that it changed a lot but also not at all, but it takes more to see how. We see many researchers talk about how community impact is a key component to resilience, without that, who knows where New York City would be today. The interesting thing we saw from 9/11 was more than just the New York community coming together, but New York was embraced by the entire country and even the world. We saw a similar response after the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, we don’t let the hate and fear consume us, we come together to rebuild.
But what has changed in resilience planning? A major change has been how physical infrastructure is designed. The Twin Towers were designed in 1962 by architect Minoru Yamasaki. Back then, Yamasaki was not designing the Twin Towers to be resilient to a terrorist attack, why would anything think of that? It isn’t thought of until it happens, and when Kenneth Lewis started to design the One World Trade Center, he had terrorist attacks on his mind. His goal wasn’t to let terrorism win in this design though, he wanted to implement beauty into it as well, and he did. We see a beautiful and resilient One World Trade Center that can withstand car bombings as well as a plane flying into it. The Twin Towers collapsed on themselves because of the weight, but the One World Trade Center has beams and columns welded and bolted together so that the weight would be distributed so if any two columns fail, the rest can pick up the slack. However, Lewis insisted that these are not what define the tower, “it’s iconic, but not because it looks like a bunker,” he says. “It’s iconic because it’s a beautiful building.”
After time infrastructure is repaired, but there continues to be mental and emotional scars. How do we recover from that? That day we saw the true heroism of first responders, people who gave their lives and went above and beyond the call of duty. We rebuild as a community the only way we can, together. This year we were tested again because of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Congress was taking its time to pass the bill to continue to fund it. Again, we came together in the wake of the tragedy to make sure our heroes from that day are able to recover from the injuries sustained from that day.
We can continue going through examples of how resilience has been affected after 9/11, we can list tons of examples but these two seem to show the examples of how it has changed but also how it stayed the same. Resilience will continue to change with the times, technology advances and we find more ways to change and improve resilience. However, we still approach disaster and resilience in a similar way, together. When America sees disaster and fear right in front of us, we don’t let it get us down, we look towards tomorrow, we put aside our differences and work together to rebuild. As President Obama said, “Americans will never give into fear,” and I’ll add to that, we never give into fear, we always look for hope.