Reference Entry

September 11.

Michelle S. Hite

in Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780195167795
September 11.

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Four flights departing from various cities along the eastern United States en route to Los Angeles and San Francisco were hijacked and tragically steered off course on the morning of 11 September 2001. At 8:46 a.m. American Airlines flight 11 was the first plane to crash into the World Trade Center in New York City, killing its eighty-one passengers, nine flight attendants, captain, and first officer. The next plane to crash was United Airlines flight 175. It struck the World Trade Center's South Tower at 9:03 a.m., killing its fifty-six passengers, seven flight attendants, captain, and first officer. Shortly after that, at 9:37 a.m., American Airlines flight 77, carrying fifty-eight passengers, four flight attendants, a pilot, and a copilot, crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. At 10:02 a.m. United Airlines flight 93, which included thirty-seven passengers, five flight attendants, a captain, and a first officer, crashed in an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It is widely believed that this plane, after being taken over by hijackers, was destined for a crash at an important site in Washington, D.C., but instead a passenger revolt aborted the effort.Of the 2,617 death certificates filed for the total number of victims of the World Trade Center attacks, 207, nearly 8 percent, were identified as black. Among those African Americans killed were several crew members of United Flight 93. LeRoy W. Hunter Jr. was cocaptain of the flight and received numerous posthumous citations for his bravery in resisting the terrorists. Wanda Anita Green and Cee Cee Ross-Lyles were both flight attendants with Hunter. As the flight was being taken over, Ross-Lyles placed a final telephone call from the airplane confirming her love to her husband. Additional losses include firefighters like Andre G. Fletcher of Rescue Company 5 in Staten Island, who died after rushing into the World Trade Center; Laurence C. Able, a bond analyst, and Wendy L. Small, a secretary, both of whom worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, located on the 101st floor of Tower 1; and Sharon A. Carver, a civilian worker employed at the Pentagon.On 15 September the U.S. Congress approved a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those associated with the attacks. Although the measure passed unanimously in the Senate, there was a single dissenting vote in the House. That vote belonged to the California Democratic representative Barbara Lee, an African American woman. Lee's vote reflected the belief that more debate was needed before consenting to an attack and perpetuating a cycle of violence. Lee maintains, however, that her vote was not calculated and was instead a vote of conscience. Because many viewed Lee's position as un-American, she subsequently became the target of death threats.On the artistic front the New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka wrote a poem entitled “Somebody Blew Up America” that the Anti-Defamation League cited as anti-Semitic. Baraka vigorously refuted this claim as slanderous and defended the intellectual import of his poem in challenging the nation's critical sluggishness. In defense of the importance of extending the nation's discussions about September 11 and its aftermath, the Nation sponsored a dialogue in 2004 between two prominent African Americans, the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison and the renowned Princeton professor Cornel West, to invigorate and enrich the way the United States might process its current grief. Together the two artfully framed the nation's crisis through discussions of race and art. Morrison's only published poem, “The Dead of September 11 (2001),” explores how limited the national imagination and the concept of the nation are for coming to terms with the enormity of the losses of that fateful day.

Reference Entry.  695 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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