A day that changed America

General Motors officials were moving slowly in developing a new car to replace the Chevrolet Cavalier and the Mahoning Valley was getting a bit nervous. Jim Tressel won his debut game as coach of the Ohio State University Buckeyes, beating the Akron Zips, 28-14. The rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd played to 13,000 enthusiastic fans in Brookfield.
Such were the stories that captured headlines Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, 2001, in The Vindicator.
No one at the Lordstown plant, at OSU or at a rock concert at Yankee Lake had any idea that within a matter of hours, life as we knew it in the United States would change.
But change it did. First, with a sense of shock when the news went out that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Centers at 8:46 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. Eighteen minutes later, it became clear that the first crash was not an accident and was not an isolated event after another plane crashed into the second tower. The Pentagon was hit at 9:37 a.m. and United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pa., at 10:03 after passengers, who had learned about the World Trade Center crashes through cell phone calls, charged the cockpit to take control away from the hijackers or die trying.
Within hours, The Vindicator hit the streets with an EXTRA edition that showed a picture of the first Trade Center in flames as a plane approached the second tower. Later editions pictured the collapse of the towers.
Estimating the toll
An editorial in those editions said that it was too early to even estimate the toll, but that it would include, at least in the short term, the American way of life. The editorial also said that "other democratic nations that value their way of life should see this attack on American soil for what it is, an attack on freedom-loving nations and open societies everywhere"
There was shock, confusion and a ration of disbelief in the early days after Sept. 11. Some early estimates of the death toll ran as high as 50,000. Even a week later, the estimate was 5,000.
We now know that the toll that day at the World Trade Centers was 2,749, including the passengers and crew on the two planes but not the hijackers.
But today, on the fifth anniversary of the attack on America, we also know that others -- primarily safety forces -- have died of lung diseases from breathing debris-filled air that day. Untold others will die prematurely and painfully in years to come.
And while we knew on Sept. 11 that what we were seeing was an act of war, few would have guessed that five years later American forces would be bogged down in a war in Iraq and that the man who was identified almost immediately as the mastermind behind the attack, Osama bin Laden, would have avoided justice.
Lives, dollars and freedom
We are now seeing the enormous costs to America, not just in lives lost that day, but in military lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq and in hundreds of billions of dollars spent for those wars and for increased domestic security.
Americans have come to accept guards armed with assault weapons in airports and subways, cameras keeping watch over streets and buildings, and a redefinition of what's constitutional -- and even if it isn't constitutional, what's tolerable -- in the name of protecting us from another 9/11.
This is a day to mourn those innocent victims of terrorists five years ago, to rededicate ourselves to seeing that those who conspired to attack America are brought to justice and to remind ourselves that we must not let fear change the very nature of the free society that we took for granted Sept. 10, 2001.

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