American response to 9/11: Heroes and villains

A makeshift memorial stands March 10, 2002, at a site overlooking the field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.

 In the movies, the American response to 9/11 would be clear-cut:
Determined, but with the best possible motives.  There was, indeed, a
lot of heroism. Inevitably, though, some Americans let their country
down.

The heroes

Some of the biggest heroes of Sept. 11, 2001, are average Americans who jumped into the fray without hesitation.

“Like everybody else that morning, I saw the attack on the television,” said politician-come-EMT and volunteer firefighter Gene Stilp of Middle Paxton, Pa. “I used to live in New York, so I felt moved to go there. I spent that first weekend helping out and looking for remains.”

Many service members continue to quietly risk their lives on a daily basis in the name of protecting the country, even 10 years later.

“The number one reason I joined military is they attacked us on our home soil in two separate locations. We were short on soldiers at the time and we were about to go into war, so it was my duty to contribute,” said U.S. Army Capt. Zak Waity, 32, who enlisted in May of 2002 and has since completed two tours in Iraq.

He said that many of his fellow soldiers joined due to the attacks, with even retired veterans returning to the fray to contribute their service and knowledge.

“9/11 still has effects because we’re still involved in that conflict. That day is what led to the war,” Waity said. “It’s present every day for people in the military.”

“The 10th anniversary brings to light why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. It acts as a reminder to why you wear a uniform every day,” he continued. “It’s a reminder to civilians why military personnel do what they do, and police and firefighters as well.”

Navy SEALs Team 6

A team of 40 CIA-led Navy SEALs, 24 on the ground, successfully completed an operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the early morning of May 2, 2011.

They were part of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, previously called “Team Six.”

Todd Beamer and other passengers of Flight 93

Beamer realized terrorists intended to use Flight 93 as a weapon through covert cell phone calls.
He told the phone operator that some of the plane’s passengers were planning to “jump on” the hijackers and fly the plane into the ground to avoid further damage.

Beamer’s last audible words were, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.”

The villains

Perhaps nothing is more villainous than taking advantage of the patriotic goodwill and temporary sense of unity forged in the attacks’ aftermath.

9/11 survivor charities have been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks due to an Associated Press report alleging that many misappropriated funds.

Founded in 2005 to build a Garden of Forgiveness at Ground Zero, West Village nonprofit Sacred City raised $200,000 with nary a green patch to show for it.

Manhattan-based Urban Life Ministries amassed over $4 million for families of victims and first responders, but could only account for a fraction of its earnings in tax documents.

Sources close to the New York Attorney General say the office is conducting a broad review of such organizations to ensure that they are registered with the Charities Bureau in compliance with state law.

“Attorney General Schneiderman takes issues involving charities and nonprofit abuse very seriously and encourages anyone with information about such matters to immediately contact our office,” said spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua.

Anwar al-Awlaki, 40
Born in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Senior talent recruiter,  planner and trainer for al-Qaeda.
Islamic lecturer and spiritual leader whose sermons were attended by three 9/11 hijackers and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Times Square bomb plotter Faisal Shahzad also cited him as an inspiration.
First U.S. citizen ever placed on CIA target list.
Believed to be hiding in Yemen.

John Walker Lindh, 30
Born in Washington, D.C., and converted to Islam in 1997.
Studied in Yemen and Pakistan.
Traveled to Afghanistan to fight with Taliban forces against the American     military.
Captured as an enemy combatant during the the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.
Serving a 20-year prison sentence in connection with his participation in Afghanistan’s Taliban    army.


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