September 11, 2001: a day of tragedy, heartbreak, and mourning, but also a day of strength, patriotism, and heroism. On this infamous date, terrorists hijacked four American planes. They had three suspected targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the US Capitol.
At 8:46 am, American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Just 16 minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 collided with the South Tower. More than 200 miles away in Washington, DC, at 9:37 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
At 9:59 am, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed - just 56 minutes after being struck by the plane. At 10:03 am, in rural Somerset County, PA, United Airlines Flight 93 plummeted into a field. This was the only plane to not reach its target. Finally, at 10:28 am, the North Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.
In total, 2,996 people perished on 9/11. Among these souls were people who fought back against the terrorists, put others' lives above their own, and courageously cared for survivors. While each person (and canine) on this list deserves to be recognized, vote up the stories you think are truly representative of an American hero.
- 11,106 VOTES
Flight Attendant Betty Ong Was The First Person To Notify The Authorities Of The Attack
Betty Ong's now-historic phone call offers one of the clearest pictures we have of the chaos on one of the hijacked planes, as well as an example of the bravery of those on board.
Ong was a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11, the first of the four hijacked planes to crash. Hidden in the back of the plane, Ong was the first person to tell the outside world of the terrorist plot.
Ong called an American Airlines reservations specialist from the rear phone, then calmly explained that two of her colleagues had been stabbed, and that she believed Mace had been sprayed in the air because she couldn't breathe.
Ong gave officials invaluable information about the identities of the terrorists - including their seat numbers - to her liaison. Throughout the rest of the flight, Ong updated the American Airlines emergency operations center on the situation.
Tragically, communications were lost at 8:46 am, when the plane collided with the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
- 21,037 VOTES
Equities Trader Welles Crowther, 'The Man In The Red Bandana,' Saved 18 People Before The South Tower Collapsed With Him Inside
Welles Crowther was a 24-year-old equities trader, and also a trained firefighter. When United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower, he was working on the 104th floor.
Crowther remained calm and found a fire extinguisher, then used it to put out fires. He handed the extinguisher to a nearby woman, ordering her to spray a path down the stairs as he carried an injured woman on his back. He also led a group down to the 61st floor, then turned around to help more people escape.
Crowther was ultimately found next to a group of New York City firefighters.
Crowther lovingly became known as 'The Man in the Red Bandana" to the survivors, as he covered his face in a red bandana that he always carried in his jacket pocket. Had he not thrown on that bandana, his parents wouldn't have ever learned of their son's heroic last deeds.
- 3915 VOTES
Pablo Ortiz, A Construction Worker, Saved 50 People Before Perishing Himself
Pablo Ortiz was working as the construction superintendent with the Port Authority when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower.
Working just below the impact site on the 88th floor, Ortiz led three of his colleagues upstairs to start breaking down doors and moving debris to allow the trapped workers to get out.
Ortiz's experience as a Navy Seal helped him remain steady in an impossibly nerve-racking situation, and he and his colleagues are credited with helping 50 people safely escape.
Tragically, Ortiz was still in the tower when it collapsed at 10:28 am.
- 41,164 VOTES
US Marine Jason Thomas Rescued Two Police Officers From Rubble - But Was Unidentified For Years
Sgt. Jason Thomas was dropping his daughter off at his mother's house in Long Island, NY, when he heard about the plane crashes. Thomas grabbed his Marine uniform and sped toward Manhattan.
As he fought his way through the rubble and thick smoke and ash, he ran into another ex-Marine, Staff Sgt. David Karnes. The two teamed up to try and find survivors.
For hours the men scoured the debris, shouting and hoping to hear the responses of survivors. Finally, at dusk, they heard a cry. Two Port Authority police officers, Will Jimeno and Sgt. John McLoughlin, were trapped under 20 feet of debris. Thanks to Thomas and Karnes's discovery of the policemen, they were able to be safely extracted after many hours in the pit.
Thomas didn't stay around for any fanfare though. Even though he came to Ground Zero every day for two and a half weeks to help in any way he could, it wasn't until 2006 that the world finally learned the identity of the brave Marine who saved the lives of two police officers on that fateful September day.
- 5796 VOTES
Sister Cynthia Mahoney Counseled People At Ground Zero For Six Months - Which Likely Caused Her Demise
Sister Cynthia Mahoney had just moved to New York when September 11 took place. Having emergency medical training, Mahoney jumped into action on that day, hopping into an ambulance and offering her services.
Every day for six months following, Mahoney would go to Ground Zero and provide counseling to the many people who felt lost after the attacks. She also blessed the remains of those who did not survive the attack.
While she was proud to be able to help in any way she could, she said, "What I've seen has been challenging, but what will stay with me forever is the smell. It is like nothing I have ever experienced."
Mahoney passed in 2006 from lung disease, which she believed was directly linked to her time at Ground Zero breathing in the toxic fumes. As of 2018, nearly 10,000 people who were at Ground Zero have been diagnosed with cancer, and more than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to illnesses caused by the toxic dust that emanated from the area.
- 61,347 VOTES
Rick Rescorla, A Morgan Stanley Employee, Guided 2,700 People To Safety - But Did Not Survive
Rick Rescorla was director of security for the Morgan Stanley financial services firm at the World Trade Center on 9/11. He was 62 years old and dying of terminal bone cancer.
At 8:46 am, Rescorla was on the 44th floor of the South Tower when he watched the North Tower burn. His training from his time serving in the Vietnam War came flooding back, and he ignored announcements from the public address system telling people to stay at their desks.
Instead, Rescorla started evacuating mass numbers of Morgan Stanley employees. While directing them down the stairwell, he sang Cornish songs from his youth, just like he did in Vietnam, to boost morale.
Rescorla was last seen on the 10th floor, heading back up to to find more people, when the building collapsed with him inside.
Covering a span of 22 floors, Rescorla helped evacuate 2,700 people - a testament to how much impact one man's life can have.