Remembering 9/11: A uniquely global experience

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A sign honoring “Our Utah Fallen” stands at the front of the 9/11 Sandy Healing Field in Sandy, Utah. The Healing Field honors those lost to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and provides a peaceful place for visitors to remember and reflect. (Sydni Merrill)

Utahns raised flags and gathered in remembrance to honor those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Just as former President George W. Bush described America’s response in 2001, Utah responded with its best in 2023 — to serve and remember.

Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature. And we responded with the best of America — with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.

Former President George W. Bush, in his “Address to the Nation” on Sept. 11, 2001

Local Lens

9/11 is now a service day, with Provo hosting a day of service fun run and a food and eyewear drive, with many more service events all around Utah.

“To honor the spirit of sacrifice made that day and the sacrifices that continue to be made by members of the armed forces and their families, we honor those heroes by uniting in service and volunteerism throughout our communities,” the Utah 9/11 Day of Service website said.

Married couple Charity and Mel Ortega live in Salt Lake City and visit the 9/11 Sandy Healing Field every year to pay respects to those who died on 9/11.

On 9/11 Mel Ortega was stationed in Afghanistan in the U.S. Army and Charity Ortega remembers sitting in class at Clearfield High School in Utah.

Mel and Charity Ortega describe where they were on Sept. 11, 2001. Charity Ortega pauses and gets emotional at 0:47.

“I lost a lot of friends over there on 9/11 and it’s just heartbreaking. And I just want to remember all the innocent people that got killed on this tragic day,” Mel Ortega said.

The Ortegas donate to the Healing Field every year. Last year, after sponsoring a flag, they were gifted one of the flags at the memorial. They plan on putting up at their own home.

“It’s amazing. It’s peaceful. You just come here and you feel peace,” Charity Ortega said.

According to the display’s website, “this solemn event provides visitors with the powerful sense of hope, healing and courage that we all experienced following the attacks.”

Two Utahns and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were killed in the terror attacks while on board the first plane that struck the World Trade Center, according to the Church. Mary Alice Wahlstrom and her daughter Carolyn Mayer-Beug were from Kaysville, Utah. Wahlstrom’s husband of 52 years described her as the “happiest lady you’ll meet,” according to archived congressional records.

Two members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brady Howell and Rhonda Rasmussen, were killed in the attacks while at work in the Pentagon when the hijacked aircraft collided with the building. Another member of the Church, Ivhan Luis Carpio, was killed while working on the 107th floor of One World Trade Center.

President Thomas S. Monson, then first counselor in the General Presidency, spoke at an interfaith gathering in Salt Lake City on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Amidst the fear, the sorrow, the pain, and the suffering, a mighty miracle occurred — a fusion of faith, even a pattern of prayer — as Americans turned not to dial 911 but rather dropped to their knees and looked heavenward to God for help,” President Monson said.

Global Responses

Following the attacks other faith and government leaders from around the world responded with condolences and support.

The 9/11: The Steel of American Resolve virtual exhibit documents responses America received.

“Calls from world leaders offering support came in within hours of the attacks, and gifts and messages of condolence from people around the world (especially schoolchildren) poured in the following days and weeks,” according to a slide in the exhibit.

Argentina and Canada declared a day of national mourning on Sept. 11, 2001. The U.S. Department of State reported in 2002, “East Asian nations were universal in their condemnation of the attacks, with most providing substantial direct support to the war on terrorism.”

On Sept. 24, 2001, Bush met with former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and expressed gratitude for Chretien’s immediate response.

“One of the first phone calls I received was from the Prime Minister, offering all his support and condolences to the United States and our citizens,” Bush said. “It was like getting a phone call from a brother.”

Artists in the U.S. and from around the world captured the harrowing events, preserving the moments for future generations.

The 9/11 Memorial in New York City, “a monument to human dignity, courage, and sacrifice,” honored all 2,977 who lost their lives with their names inscribed on the memorial.

A 9/11 memorial at the USU Botanical Center was completed in 2013 and honors the two victims from Kaysville and a third that was a graduate of USU.

Poets from around the world published creative works, capturing global perspectives on 9/11.

Wisława Szymborska, deceased Polish poet wrote “Photograph from September 11.” The poem, translated into English by Clare Cavangh and written within a year of Sept. 11, 2001, describes the horror experienced by onlookers as they witnessed dozens of people jump from the Twin Towers.

Other poems written within a year of 9/11 include “The Window, at the Moment of Flame” by Alicia Ostriker, an American and Jewish poet; “9/11 Poem from London” written by Michael Brett, currently the Head of English at the South London School; and “Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100” by Martín Espada, a Puerto Rican-American poet.

As artwork memorializes 9/11, the U.S. is still effected by the tragic events in 2001.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that significant physical and mental health conditions have emerged that are associated with exposure to the disaster,” New York City 9/11 Health reported.

“9/11: As Events Unfolded” documents the 9/11 events through the audio of first responders, air traffic controllers, dispatch personnel, airline employees, pilots, citizens and terrorists. The video was published in 2019. (Transportation Security Administration)

AP News reported that 9/11 FBI documents were declassified and released to the public in 2021. Studies regarding the effects of 9/11 have been published, including how “Pentagon reliance on contractors hurt US in 9/11 wars.”

Organizations have documented the various experiences and perspectives on that day, with photo galleries and compiled audio from first responders.

As Bush predicted in his “Address to the Nation,” 9/11 has not been forgotten, with its ripples being felt across the world.

“This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace,” Bush said. “America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

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