I was only 10 on September 11, 2001, but I still remember it as if it was yesterday. My fifth grade class sat glued to the radio as we listened to the devastation in New York. Even as a child, I could feel the fear, heartbreak, and confusion on the news. As an adult, I can still feel these terrors, but I also feel the pride, humility, and gratitude towards the true heroes of that day and for America, as a whole, as it rose together and stronger from the ashes.
1. Benjamin Clark
Benjamin Clark was a chef for the people at the Fiduciary Trust Company in the South Tower, but will always be remembered as a hero. He was at work early, preparing meals, which made him one of the bravest first responders. He saved hundreds of lives, making sure that everyone in his department, as well as the entire 96th floor, exited to safety. On his way down, he stopped on the 78th floor to assist a woman in a wheelchair. Tragically, he never made it out.
2. Welles Crowther
Welles worked for Sandler O’Neill and Partners on the 104th floor of the South Tower as an equities trader. When the plane hit, Crother not only made it out of the building, but he saved 18 lives that day, entering and exiting the building at least 3 times, helping trapped victims. He ultimately perished on his fourth trip in, when the building collapsed into the lobby.
3. Tom Burnett
Tom was the COO and vice president of Thoratec Corporation, a medical service supply company. He was one of the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93. When the flight was taken over, he called his wife, Deena, who alerted him to the attacks on the Trade Towers. Burnett, and a few other passengers and crew members, decided to gain control of the plane, but ultimately perished when the plane crashed into a Pennsylvania field, saving countless lives by derailing the plane’s destructive path.
4. The climbers that paid tribute to the fallen firefighters
Many heroes of 9/11 were not physically present for the terrorist attack that killed 343 firefighters that responded to the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. Before they died, the firefighters climbed 110 stories. Last year, fire departments nationwide held an event in their honor: they put on the full 60-pound gear and attempted the 110-story climb, braving the physical challenges in honor of their fallen comrades, making them heroes in their own right.
5. Pat Tillman
Before 9/11, Pat Tillman was already a hero: an American football hero. Inspired by the bravery of others, Tillman left his professional football career and enlisted in the US Army. He joined the Army Rangers and served several tours of duty. Tragically, Pat Tillman died as a result of friendly fire on May 28, 2004. He has received many, well-deserved, awards including the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal. The Arizona Cardinals retired his number, 40, and ASU did the same with 42, his number when he played for the Sun Devils. A bronze statue was raised in his honor in 2006.
6. Salty and Roselle
Salty and Roselle are two of many of 9/11’s four-legged heroes. These two guide dogs were with their blind owners in the World Trade Center, where they successfully guided them out of the burning towers. They were awarded the coveted Dicken Medal and Roselle went on to be posthumously named the American Hero Dog of the Year in 2011.
7. LeRoy Homer, Jr.
According to his family, LeRoy’s dream was always to become a pilot. When four al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked his plane. After learning about the crashes at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Homer, along with other crew members and passengers (including Tom Burnett), organized a takeover. During the struggle, the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA. LeRoy Homer, Jr. lived his dream of being a pilot and died as a national hero.
8. These heroic search dogs
The search and rescue teams included almost 100 loyal dogs that scoured Ground Zero for survivors. Of those dogs, these are the last living heroes. Moxie, Tara, Kasier, Bretagne, Guiness, Merlyn, Red, Abigail, Tuff, and Hoke were among the many that saved countless lives and brought closure to many families as a result of their hard-working noses. At a Remembrance Ceremony a few years after the attacks, a fireman recognized Bretagne and they had an incredibly touching reunion. Read more about these furry finders here.
9. The Boaters
September 11, 2001 and the following days marked one of the largest sea evacuations in history. A fleet of civilian and Coast Guard vessels voluntarily navigated to the lower Manhattan seawall to help evacuate nearly 500,000 people.
10. Rick Rescorla
Rick Rescorla was a British and American hero long before 9/11, but his actions that day were nothing short of courageous. As a young man, he enlisted in the British Military and later joined the American Army and served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars when he retired as a Colonel in 1990. On September 11, 2001, Rescorla was 62-years-old and was dying of terminal bone marrow cancer. While working on the 44th floor of the World Trade Center Tower 1, he helped evacuate 2,700 of his co-workers in the Moran Stanley Dean Witter Headquarters before he perished on the 10th floor when the building collapsed.
11. Officer Moira Smith
Officer Smith was the first policewoman to die in the 9/11 attacks. She was rescuing civilians in the second tower when it collapsed. This wasn’t Officer Smith’s first act of true heroism, she saved several people during the 1991 Union Square subway crash. 9/11 was, sadly, her last. She was honored with the Distinguished Duty Medal for the dozens of lives she saved.