When the call came, they answered it

The south tower collapses as smoke billows from both towers of the World Trade Center, in New York, on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. In one of the most horrifying attacks ever against the United States, terrorists crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in a deadly series of blows that brought down the twin 110-story towers. 

Two decades later, we still walk in the shadows of the towers.

Twenty years after 9/11, we still grapple with the loss, the fury and the fallout over the attacks on American soil.

Planned and executed by 19 terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda, the attacks on that warm and clear Tuesday killed 2,977 in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight Flight 93 crashed after passengers fought back against the terrorists.

At 8:45 a.m., American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 with 20,000 pounds of jet fuel, flew into the north tower of the World Trade Center complex at the southern tip of Manhattan. The immediate question was whether it was a flight gone horribly wrong or something far more insidious.

The question was answered 18 minutes later, at 9:03 a.m., when United Airlines Flight 175, another Boeing 767, slammed into the south tower and both towers came down in flames, smoke and dust.

At 9:45 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, hit the Pentagon.

At 10:10 a.m., Flight 93, another Boeing 757, crashed in Shanksville.

In 85 terrifying minutes, the United States had been breached and the American military carried the response to Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is estimated that, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, 181,510 enlisted in active military service and 72,908 signed up for enlisted reserve units.

That is only part of the story. For many, including three high school students from Gloucester and another who now calls Gloucester home, the call to service would have to wait.

When the call came, they answered it, willingly and unblinkingly.

When the call came, they went to war.

And when they came home, they found other ways to serve their nation and their communities. Here are their stories. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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