20 years ago, the world changed forever. The attacks of September 11th took the lives of thousands and forever altered the lives of millions all over the world. Today, we honor the victims and the heroes of the tragedy.
Remembering The Morning Of September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, Mike Cortes was a young firefighter in New York City. A recent graduate of the fire academy, he joined the New York City Fire Department just months prior. Remarkably, Mike wasn’t on duty that morning even though he’d been previously scheduled to work. The day before, Mike had switched shifts with a buddy.
First Hearing The News
Mike learned of the first plane’s impact just like most of us, while watching TV. He was on the phone with his father when the second plane struck and it was then clear, America was under attack.
Undoubtedly in shock, his instincts and training kicked in. While the general population ran for safety, Mike and hundreds of other first responders bravely ran towards the unknown in the hopes of saving as many people as possible. The events about to unfold were, seemingly, impossible. No one could have predicted what would happen next.
Searching For Survivors
Mike, alongside hundreds of first responders and community members, dug through debris in search of survivors. He described the scene as a pile of “junkyard wreckage about eight stories tall.” There were steel beams twisted like ribbon. Destruction and devastation were everywhere. For hours, days, and weeks, they dug in hopes of finding anyone who had become trapped when the towers fell. There was still hope they would find survivors. It’s a horrific scene forever burned into the memories of those who were there that day and everyone who watched, in horror, from all corners of the world.
Together In Unity
The events of September 11, 2001, changed the world. Nothing is the same as before and the devastation will forever impact our nation. But, Mike hopes that by sharing his experience, you’ll cling to the humanity he experienced in the days following the attacks.
Mike recalls that it didn’t matter who you were or what you looked like; all people joined together in unity. A universal desire for community overpowered all else. We came together as a nation in an almost indescribable way. We found a common ground as individuals and embraced the importance of a deeper unity. Mike urges us to remember that unity. He implores us to be as one, to support each other, to embrace each other, and to live in light and love rather than anger and hatred. Mike show’s us the power of healing and growing from trauma.
Most of us remember where we were on September 11, 2001. There’s no denying that day and those that followed have changed us. Today we remember the lives lost. But we honor those lives by celebrating their legacies and loving one another.
Mike urges us to remember that unity.
He implores us to be as one, to support each other, to embrace each other, and to live in light and love rather than anger and hatred. Mike show’s us the power of healing and growing from trauma.
Resources Mentioned in Mike’s Interview:
Remembering and honoring Jimmy Pappageorge, the friend who lost his life after switch shifts with Mike. Click here to read about this American Hero.