by Rose Laoutaris
On September 11th, 2001, the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, crashed two planes into the World Trade Center, another plane into the Pentagon, and another in Pennsylvania, killing 2,977 people. This was one of the worst days in American history, and if it had not been for the many heroes, both first responders and normal citizens who risked their lives to save others, it would have been worse. It is so important to remember these heroes who sacrificed their lives for others, so here are the stories of five heroes from that day.
Benjamin Clark was a 39-year-old chef and former Marine working at the World Trade Center on September 11th. He was cooking for the Fiduciary Trust Company on the ninety-sixth floor when the plane hit the South Tower. He could have gotten out himself and lived, but he saved hundreds of lives by calling for people to leave the building after the first plane hit the North Tower and running back up the stairs and double-checking to make sure everyone left. Clark died while trying to save a woman in a wheelchair.
Clark was just one ordinary person, but he and others like him, sacrificed their lives in order to save hundreds of others.
Ramon Suarez was a member of the New York Police Department (NYPD) working in the Lower East Side on September 11th when he heard that a plane hit the North Tower. He immediately called a cab and ran into the tower to try to save people. The first time he ran in, he found a woman with asthma who had run down forty-nine flights of stairs and helped carry her to safety.
He then ran up the tower a second time and found a pregnant woman, Jyoti Vyas, and successfully helped her escape. Because of his bravery, she lived and had her baby two months later.
Suarez then ran back up the North Tower a third time in attempt to save more people, but sadly, did not make it out alive.
Because of his bravery, President George W. Bush awarded him with the NYPD Medal of Honor and the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor. Not only did Suarez save two women and a child on September 11th, but he also inspired his daughter, Jillian Suarez, to follow in his footsteps and join the NYPD as well. She said, “I want to be able to help others the way he did.”
Rick Rescorla was the Director of Security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and after surviving the 1993 car bomb attack on the World Trade Center, he predicted that terrorists would attack the building again by air. Because of this, he ran drills every three months where thousands of employees, covering 40 floors of the South Tower.
After the first plane hit the North Tower, Rescorla ignored the announcement to stay in his office and started evacuating all 2,700 employees at Morgan Stanley which saved all but thirteen of them. He refused to leave the building until every employee evacuated and was last seen going back into the tower to make sure he did not leave anyone behind but unfortunately never made it out before the tower collapsed.
Rescorla was awarded with the Above & Beyond Citizen Medal on March 25, 2009 for saving thousands of lives and for his bravery on September 11th.
Welles Crowther was a 24-year-old equities trader for Sandler O’Neill & Partners on floor 104 of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. Ever since he was a young boy, he carried around a red bandana, and this was later used to identify him when a New York Times article described him as “a mysterious man… with a red handkerchief.”
On the day of the attack, Crowther helped lead others who were still living on the seventy-eighth floor down the only staircase still functioning on that floor down to the sixty-first floor where firefighters led them to functioning elevators. Crowther could have left with the group and survived, but instead, he went back up the stairs to the seventy-eighth floor to help guide others down several times.
Welles made it down to the ground level of the South Tower but unfortunately did not make it out before it collapsed. He saved at least ten people.
Crowther’s parents created a trust fund, The Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, which awards high school students with similar character to their son and supports other non-profits that help young people.
Tom Rinaldi, a reporter for ESPN and ABC, wrote a New York Times bestseller, The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy, which tells the story of Welles Crowther.
Moria Smith was an officer in the NYPD on September 11th where she was the first officer to report the first plane crash. When she arrived at the World Trade Center, she helped people evacuate through the underground concourse. Then, after the second plane crashed into the South Tower, she helped people escape from there.
Smith not only had to help people escape the building, but she also needed to move people out in an orderly fashion and calm people down. Martin Glynn, a survivor from the South Tower, said that Smith “insulated the evacuees from the awareness of the dangerous situation they were in, with the result that everything [proceeded] smoothly.”
Smith refused to leave the building until she helped everyone she could find escape, but she unfortunately died in the South Tower. Alone, she saved hundreds of lives.
As Clare Boothe Luce once said, “Courage is the ladder on which all other virtues mount,” and all five of these individuals showed great courage on September 11th, sacrificing their lives to save others. They are true American heroes, and it is important that we remember their stories.
Rose Laoutaris is a 2018 Fall Fellow.
Note: This is a short video clip of NBC Today Show hosts’ reaction as they witnessed the second plane crash into the Twin Towers: