By Joan C. Fudala
Everyone older than 25 surely remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 — the day America was attacked. Looking back at the day, weeks and months that followed, the changes in our lives have been both subtle and profound.
Let’s remember together — and never forget the sacrifices made:
ν As the year 2001 began, George W. Bush (the younger) was inaugurated January 20, Jane Dee Hull was governor of Arizona and Mary Manross was Scottsdale’s mayor. After closing in 1999, Los Arcos Mall on McDowell was razed for development for SkySong. In April, a home exploded in southern Scottsdale, killing a mother and two children inside; the suspected perpetrator is still at large. The city of Scottsdale celebrated its 50th anniversary of incorporation on June 25. The Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (now Experience Scottsdale) separated from the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce to become a stand-alone organization; it moved into the Scottsdale Galleria (former shopping center repurposed as a corporate office center). A microburst on July 14 wreaked havoc on the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park area.
ν On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, suicide terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York City (and bringing the 110-story twin towers crashing down), one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth — believed to be headed to the U.S. Capitol but diverted by its brave passengers — crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. More than 5,000 people died because of the four attacks. First responders continue to suffer health crises from exposure to emanations from the World Trade Center rubble.
ν Within hours of the attacks, all air traffic was grounded in the United States, stranding passengers and air freight for several days. In-bound passenger planes from Europe were diverted to Newfoundland, where residents mobilized to feed and house the stranded. Locally and nationally, even air ambulances and traffic-reporting flights were grounded.
ν The city of Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Jaycees hosted a candlelight vigil at Scottsdale Stadium on September13 to honor those killed and injured in the terrorist attacks and to demonstrate national unity. Hundreds of attendees signed huge “Our Hearts Are with You” condolence banners that were sent to New York’s mayor and that Mayor Manross delivered to the Pentagon. Vigil attendees donated nearly $1,500 for Red Cross disaster relief. Faith organizations also held prayer services throughout the week.
ν FBI investigations found that one of the hijackers, Hani Hanjour (who crashed a plane into the Pentagon), did some of his basic flight training at Scottsdale Airport in 1996 and 1997.
ν The terrorist attacks sent Scottsdale and the nation into an economic downturn. Operations at Scottsdale Airport were halted for several days. Tourism was significantly impacted for months, affecting not only the local hospitality industry but reducing the amount of bed and sales tax collected by Scottsdale. The New York-based stock market — headquartered in and near the World Trade Center — was closed for a few days following 9/11, and nervous investors caused a stock market plunge in the aftermath of the attacks. Many consumers put major purchases and relocations on hold.
ν Scottsdale and the nation demonstrated renewed patriotism. Immediately after the 9/11 news broke, U.S. flags began appearing everywhere — on homes, businesses, vehicles, as well as lapels and collars.
ν Many new security measures, especially at airports, were put into effect. Once flying resumed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, cars entering the parking garages were stopped for inspections of interiors and trunks. Curbside checking was halted for an extended period. Passengers and their luggage were handscreened and IDs checked. Knives and other cutting tools were banned from carry-on luggage (hard to believe they were once allowed). Only ticketed passengers were allowed to proceed through security checkpoints to the gate area (and families were stopped from greeting/seeing off loved ones at airport gate areas). Elsewhere, barriers, mazes, cordons, magnetometers, wanding, bag/purse checks, security cameras and other security measures began at government buildings, office complexes and events.
ν The U.S. border was restricted, impacting travel and trade at Arizona-Mexico entry points. Strict vehicle and ID checks created long wait times to legally cross the border.
ν Regrettably, anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment arose, and several incidents targeted Valley-area residents of Arab heritage.
ν On Sunday, October 7 — less than a month after 9/11 — the United States sent troops to Afghanistan to root out al-Qaida. Led by Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida was behind the U.S. attacks. Men and women patriotically joined the U.S. military to help this effort. One of the most prominent of the enlistees was Arizona Cardinal and former ASU football star Pat Tillman, who joined the Army and was later killed in Afghanistan.
ν Scottsdale and the Valley had a unifying bright spot amid the tears and fears generated by 9/11. The Arizona Diamondbacks, in only their fourth season of play, made it to the World Series, playing the New York Yankees. In a poignant scene, the D-backs visited the World Trade Center Ground Zero site to pay tribute to the recovery teams and the lives lost in the attacks. When the Diamondbacks won the series in the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game on November 4, all of Arizona celebrated a sweet victory.
ν Although eventually proven unrelated to the 9/11 attacks, several mailborne anthrax incidents in October 2001 impacted the Postal Service and further increased anxiety.
ν As families and friends gathered for Thanksgiving 2001 and entered the holiday season, a newfound sense of gratitude prevailed. A survey of Scottsdale-area caterers indicated that corporate and social holiday celebrations were scaled down and included more comfort foods.
ν New terms and phrases entered our post-9/11 vocabulary, including Ground Zero, The Pile, debris field, “Let’s Roll” (the last words heard from Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer as he rallied passengers to overcome the hijackers), “See something/say something,” safe rooms, disaster drills, jihad, threat level, war on terror, Patriot Act, TSA, Guantanamo/Gitmo and enhanced interrogation.
ν In the months and years following the 9/11 attacks we gained a new appreciation, even reverence, for first responders — firefighters, paramedics, police and others. We renewed respect for members of the military, too, rekindled from that generated after Desert Storm in 1991.
ν Eleven days after September 11, Tom Ridge was appointed the first director of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security. He and his staff coordinated and unified national homeland security efforts. In January 2009, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano became the third secretary of homeland security. By then it was a White House cabinet post.
ν President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in November 2001, creating the Transportation Security Agency. The act required federal officials to conduct baggage screening, expanded the federal air marshal service and required airlines to reinforce cockpit doors. After a December 2001 attempt to bring down an airliner with a bomb in a passenger’s shoe, the TSA required travelers remove their shoes before going through security checkpoints.
ν We’ve made so many changes to our pre-9/11 routines, especially to enhance security during travel and at large events. But we’ve also gained gadgets and infrastructure that continue to alter our world. Just think, at the time of September 11, 2001, we didn’t have iPhones, iPads/tablets, Facebook or Twitter, Zoom, Kindle/eBooks, the ability to stream movies and TV shows at home, proliferation of commercial and personal drones, Uber/Lyft and ride-share companies, fitness trackers, etc. We also didn’t have a completed Loop 101, SkySong, Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, Salt River Fields and the Talking Stick entertainment district, the Scottsdale Waterfront and Southbridge, HonorHealth Thompson Peak and the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, Mayo Medical School, numerous trailheads in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and so much more. Life goes on.
Despite 20 years, we remain a vigilant city and nation. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our routines even more than 9/11, the events of that momentous day two decades ago will reverberate in our hearts and minds for generations. ν