Today is exactly 21 years since the terrorist enemy attacked our homeland and toppled the 2 World Trade Center Towers, initially taking 2,997 American lives.

Other precious lives were taken when another plane was purposefully crashed into The Pentagon and still more lives were lost when brave American heroes (on United Airlines Flight 93) gave their lives by bringing down another plane in an open field in Shanksville, Western Pennsylvania.

It was September 11, 2001 and seemed like a normal late summer Tuesday.

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I was live on-the-air. I went to the 9:00 a.m. hour CBS national news break. At the time, we were the only CBS affiliate in the state of New Jersey.

The news report said that a small plane has struck one of the World Trade Center towers.

My mind wandered. I thought that perhaps a small, sightseeing plane had a mechanical failure and crashed into the World Trade Center by accident.

Harry Hurley
Harry Hurley
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It was only minutes later that we learned that it was a commercial airplane. Initially, we had no way to know that it was an act of terrorism.

It was an American Airlines plane, Flight 11 that had crashed into the World Trade Center North Tower at 8:46 a.m.

Again, the initial reaction was that somehow through mechanical failure or pilot error, a disaster had happened.

We were a much simpler nation then. We just couldn’t imagine that bad guys would be willing to go this far.

A short while later, a second commercial airplane crashed into the second World Trade center south tower.

There was no doubt at this point. America was under terrorist attack and I said so on-the-air in real time.

The terrorist enemy specifically chose airplanes named “American” and “United.” They also selected the date September 11th (911) so that we will never forget what they did to America.

Next, we learned about another commercial airplane crashing into The Pentagon.

It gave you the immediate impression that there would still be more …a feeling of when will it stop? How many more planes were hijacked for kamikaze missions?

Then, word arrived about yet another plane that had crashed into a field in western Pennsylvania (Shanksville).

We next learned that this particular plane had taken off late and the passengers found out about the other planes crashing into the 2 World Trade Center towers and The Pentagon.

This gave them an advantage that no other passengers on the previous three planes had. They knew that this was no ordinary hijacking.

The Terrorists intention was to use American named airplanes, filled with jet fuel as weapons of war.

These brave passengers broke into the cockpit and took the plane down, arguably saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives.

We will never know for sure, but it has always been my firm belief that this plane was heading to either the US Capitol Building or to The White House.

It was a surreal experience to broadcast while these unprecedented terrorist attacks were taking place in real time.

It was the worst terrorist attack in American history, as 19 terrorist /hijackers took approximately 3,000 lives on 9-11-01.

Many thousands more have died over the past 21 years from mesothelioma and other forms of cancers and illnesses from the toxic fumes.

Although the pain was unbearable for the affected families and the nation to bear … it was extraordinary to witness how united the American people had become on September 11, 2001.

Family, friends and even strangers came closer together. As a nation, we were able to put all differences aside.

We have not been united ever since then. It’s been exactly 21 years and this was the last time that America was a united nation.

Millions of Americans proudly flew the flag at home and in their cars. People were nicer to one another. Small, petty differences just didn’t matter.

We really were one nation. President George W. Bush had a 91 percent approval rating shortly after September 11, 2001.

This was not because he had done everything right. Rather, it was because the American people had decided to stick together, much like the American people rallied behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.

Of course, our moment of being a united nation would not last. It was soon followed by America becoming a bitterly divided 50-50 nation ever since.

The world also rallied around The United States of America.

For example, on September 13, 2001, Queen Elizabeth, II directed her formal Guard to play the United States National Anthem, as tears of Britains flowed for the American people.

It was a grand gesture that had broken 600 years of tradition in The United Kingdom.

As a child, Queen Elizabeth had lived through and well remembered the Nazi bombings.

Another dangerous condition is developing in America. As September 11, 2001 travels further away in the rear view mirror, people are forgetting what happened 21 years ago today.

Remember, 12 terrorists plotted and planned the 911 attacks right here in America, learning how to fly right from an American flight school.

This is why for 20 consecutive years, during the 9:00 a.m. hour, we replay our September 11, 2001 “Hurley in the Morning” program, while the terrorist attacks were taking place in real time.

In our small way, we want to help keep what happened on this horrific day fresh in mind and not let it become a fading memory.

Many family members could not reach one another as cellular telephones has stopped working and carrier service became inundated.

We could not reach our oldest daughter, Kristin who was then a freshman at The College of New Jersey. Schools we’re closed. Our financial hub was also hit and the Stock Market actually was forced to close for several days as the technical infrastructure had to be be rebuilt after also being hit by the terrorist enemy.

The terrorist enemy had purposefully struck American symbols of power, in New York City, then recognized as the greatest city in the world.

The terrorist enemy has been trying every day for 21 years to successfully attack America, again. The daily threat is real.

We must not let our guard down, or, something like this … or worse, will happen, again.

An entire generation turns 21 years old today. Many with little or no memory of what occurred on this date.

We must relearn and remember the many difficult lessons of September 11, 2001.

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